by Rox Burkey
I grew up using the library and for several years I supported a local library secondary program in local community in Texas. The library has always provided a way to explore, travel, Imagine, and learn with resources galore. It helped shape my deciding to be an author. The Internet has changed some of the use cases, however the library as an institution is still an invaluable resource for all ages.
Big conventions for technology, security, sales conferences, and fun have been a part of my adult life as both an attendee and a vendor. The ginormous ALA 2018, with 16,000 registered attendees and half of the New Orleans Convention Center, was not what I imagined or expected. However we learned that many attendees were representing other affiliated libraries and we even met a nice lady who was from her group of affiliates from Cairo Egypt! A little of the insight I learned might be useful for other authors considering this event in the future.
Booths at the event were of all sizes and shapes with various activities to capture the mindshare of the attendees. They included publishers, book signings, many authors, and giveaways. The size alone made known early on that you had 20-30 seconds with a participant before they moved on. Any thoughts that they might return to visit or claim a prize was foolish optimism. Too much too see, giveaways everywhere, and lots of fish in the sea of vendors of all sizes, shapes, and ideas.
First, the badges of every attendee are color banded. Knowing the meaning of the colors helps clarify who to focus efforts on in discussions. We had created a one-sheet with information on us, our stories, contact information, and some branding. It turned out that this item was key and upon reflection I wish we had brought more. A great elevator or 15 second why should I stop marketing message.
Second, the badge contained a QR code, but without the +/- $500 application fee the registered user information was not easily obtainable. This forced the discussion to be compelling enough to let the user write the information. We used a drawing, pulled every 30 minutes for a book and be on a subscription list as the hook. Only about 10% of the winners returned for their books. We also used a really great bookmark which Nathan at EBG247 designed that helped them retain the information on us even if they did not return.
Third, we took books expecting to sell some with the first in the series discounted to capture attention. We quickly realized that this was a marketing event not a sales event. We shifted into a marketer persona and held drawings for free books every half hour. Nobody left without a bookmark but we missed our chance of handing out free giveaways branded to our series. Additionally, most people signed up for the mailing list but really became enthusiastic when they learned they were speaking with the authors not just “booth babes”. Discussions and branding should be your motivation for shows like this. Your goal, like ours, should be to capture mindshare, which is get a book into their hands and hope after a read or review the mindshare would help them do a library recommendations to add our books to their collection. In this arena, like most arenas, it is a numbers game; out of every 1000 attendees you need to speak with 100 people and of that expect 10 or less to recall your pitch so your giveaways must define you and your product. With that we should have taken many books to giveaway to folks who had interest and not expected an immediate ROI with onsite sales.
Realistic Potential Value to a Texas Author
1-Great exposure to a different type of audience
2-Giveaway ebook cards with moo stickers rather than heavy books if asked.
3-Grab email addresses for personalized thank you notes
4-More one-sheet type of exposure because knowing about an author can help increase that mindshare
5-Track uptick on sales to libraries over 6-12 months.
6-Monitor your book website for visit upticks after the show to gage your giveaways, elevator pitches, and overall branding efforts.