Whew. What a weekend I had attending the Orange County Children's Book Festival (OCCBF). First, I have the greatest family in the world. My mom and aunt flew out to help me prepare for the event and babysit Little Miss. (We may also have slipped in a little Game of Thrones marathon while they were here too.)
The OCCBF was my first festival as an exhibitor, so I had no idea what to expect. Thankfully, the coordinators were awesome (yay, Barry, Pat, & Robyn!) and I met some amazing other authors who shared tips of the trade with me.
In fact, I'm going to give some ideas I received and thought for any of you who might also be looking to write or exhibit someday! But first, a picture of our booth! :)
For the record, we originally had the Salted poster on the table with Salem's on the easel behind me. Any guesses why we ended up displaying only one?
The answer is wind. :/
A sudden gust and the table poster fell over and nearly decapitated a fellow exhibitor. Not the way this guy wanted to kick things off. Fortunately, Dani was awesome about the whole thing. She has a fantastic series, btw. Check it out here.
Next time, I'll have a big banner to hang like others wisely brought. Speaking of, I've mentioned before I'm constantly amazed at how welcoming the indie writing community has been, a point again proven by not one, but two writing families I met. The Lopez family of Fairy Fly Entertainment neighbored my booth and were both incredibly helpful and encouraging. Ditto that for Nara Duffie, who finished her first novel before her 11th birthday.
Right, so now you're ready for some tips/tricks I learned, eh?
Rock on. I have a few examples, but they almost all come down to this: Hustle.
Such a simple term, but man if you embody that do people respond. As Jack Nicholson says in The Departed, "No one gives it to ya...Ya have to take it."
Here's some instances of what I mean.
1) I was fortunate enough to present at the OCCBF. I showed up early, (don't I always), and found no one in attendance. Rather than wait and hope people arrived, I asked the coordinator if I could go outside and make a fool of myself to try and draw people in. (I'm sure those of you who know me well are completely shocked by this.) I went back outside and wandered around the area for a couple rounds, books held over my head, shouting about an upcoming presentation and where it would be.
I ended up with around 20-25 people in attendance, one of whom is an aspiring writer and had won Salem's Vengeance in a giveaway. How cool is that? :)
You have to hustle, peeps. If that means going out and feeling foolish with your wares over your head, shouting to the masses, then so be it. Odds are you didn't know anyone in that crowd anyway, right? Yes, you'll see some people shake their heads, but you'll also see more than a few laugh and crack some grins. I did.
2) I previously worked as a management consultant for six years and would visit organizations to speak with everyone from the lowest man on the totem pole to the CEO. My job was to learn what was important to each group/department, areas to be addressed, etc. Engagement was the keyword the company I worked for always focused on. Why? Because no company wants employees who just sit around waiting to be told what to do. You want self-starters. People who jump up and engage you.
If you're at a show like the one I attended, you have to be out of your seat and engaging people wandering by. Invite them in. Tell them about your book(s). Ask them what they like to read. They're not interested in buying? Fine, but have something for them to take home at least. The Lopez family beside my booth excelled at this! I stood beside the three of them all day, watching them engage anyone who stopped by to take home a signed illustration of their many book covers. Countless people responded.
I think that's one of the most important things I took away. Keep off your butt and interact with people. Some of you reading this might think that seems like common sense, (and you'd be right), but I was amazed at how many exhibitors didn't do this on my few walk arounds during the festival.
3) I already mentioned my mistake in having posters knocked down by wind. Here's another thing I learned - Don't unload all your books. Haha. I brought 200 to the festival and unloaded all of them in the morning. My thinking went that I couldn't sell books I didn't have on hand. Realistically, I could've left half of them in the car and carted them in later when/if needed. ;)
4) Talk with your fellow exhibitors. It's all about networking. Get out there and meet people, yo. There are some truly awesome individuals out there willing to give you their knowledge if you're willing to listen.
Author. Actor. Rascal.