Yesterday, we attended the annual Portland Book Festival at the Portland Museum of Art. It’s been on our list of all-things-book-related that we want to do for quite some time and we were glad to cross it off the list. (Also on the list, visiting Steven King’s house in Maine once it opens as a museum and writer’s retreat.) We did not attend any workshops or talks this time but we haven’t ruled that out for a future visit. The book tents were the main attraction and we wasted no time in getting inside. They proved to be a study in both what to do and what not to do when marketing one’s books and literary services to actual humans standing in front of your table.
Here are a few things that worked for us as readers (as you can see from our photo above, Anne’s youngest son found a couple of books that peaked his interest). Bookmarks and business cards were a great way for us to take information with us when we weren’t quite ready to commit to a sale. It was also a way for us to escape from particularly aggressive sales tactics that we encountered at a few tables. Clear, concise descriptions of the books on offer. We found the authors who led with their book’s genre and then a brief plot synopsis (and we mean very brief) to be a good hook. That allowed us to pick up books that fit our parameters and read their jacket synopsis as needed. “Do you like science fiction? This book might interest you.”
We also encountered a few things that kept us from buying and/or desperately looking for a way to escape. One that springs immediately to mind, we stopped at a table with two gentlemen seated behind a display of books. The books looked mildly interesting with local places named in the titles and the appropriate cover photos. The pitch, “You should check these books out. They’re great! I wrote them.” Friend chimes in, “I’ve read them all and I can tell you they are really good books! And I read a lot.” “I’m a local author.” This continued for a few minutes and we have to tell you, we still don’t know what those books were about. A quick, “this one is a coming of age tale…this one is a murder mystery…this one is a collection of stories about small-town life…” anything along those lines that would let us know what we were looking at would have helped immensely. The other no-no we encountered was the publishing services hard-sell. I get it, Brad, you need to get the word out about your indie-author publishing package. However, a business card and a sheet with a listing of your services and pricing would have been way more effective in getting the word out than the captive audience-car salesman pitch that we were subjected to. There aren’t too many people out there ready to commit to $1500 worth of publishing services based on your five minute pitch. Short, sweet, and to-the-point is the way to go.
We really enjoyed our visit to the Book Festival and as an added bonus, after our tent visit, we hit up a few of the galleries in the Portland Art Museum. We pretty much had the place to ourselves and it was a great way to end our day. We are definitely planning on attending next year although we do plan on saving ourselves some heartache by picking up the entrance bracelets a few days before the actual event. The line to get in was three blocks long but the event organizers and volunteers did a good job of keeping it moving.
And finally, a quick update on our new policy of negative writing reinforcement. So far, so good, with both Anne and Nancy managing to knock out a few chapters. We hope you all are having a great weekend.
Anne, Nancy, and Eric