Monday, August 23, 2021

How to Prepare for a Conference, Festival, or Convention as a Vendor

One of the most rewarding things an author can do is get out and meet fans. Going to live events, talking to readers, and selling books—it’s a lot of fun. But it’s also a lot of work before-during-after. Here is a checklist to help you get the most out of an event without a ton of stress.

Selecting your venues:

  • First item to consider is cost. Beware high-cost as well as no-cost gigs. (They are no cost for a reason – often no buyers, either.) Make sure it fits your budget.
  • Factor out your time (which is valuable) and ask about the projected attendance.
  • Estimate the time frame and travel time. Is it far enough away you’ll need a hotel? Is it several days long which also might mean a hotel? Hotels are not cheap, especially those in a downtown area.
  • Who else is attending? Do they have some big names that will draw in the crowds?

What will you need to take? What might you need to purchase or order in advance? Here are some items for your list-
  • Money
  • Credit card reader
  • Books
  • Bookmarks
  • Business cards
  • Pens
  • List of books & prices and how many you are taking
  • Display items – tablecloth, book stands, posters, banners, props, etc. Your own table
Make a detailed checklist so when you pack the day before, you don’t forget anything. And remember to take water and food – keep your costs down. If you’re staying in a hotel, you’ll need all your personal traveling items, too. It’s also best if you have a friend along, both to relieve you for a moment and for moral support.


  • When you reach your table/booth/spot, mentally plan the best way to set up your area.
  • Make sure your books are easily visible and place bookmarks on the table.
  • Arrange posters and banners so they get the most visibility.
  • Make sure it’s easy for you to get to the reader side of the table.
  • Network with other vendors/authors before the event – it will lead to new friends and more opportunities.

Time to sell:
  • Number one – smile. (Even if you are stuck in a mask because the smile will reflect in your eyes.) Say hello to anyone who makes eye contact.
  • Engage people. Comment on what they are wearing. If you can get them talking, this breaks down a wall as you come off as friendly rather than someone just trying to sell something.
  • When you get a reader, don’t overwhelm them. Find out what that person reads and point them to 2-3 books. Tell them about them, and if one perks interest, hand them the back of the book so they can read the synopsis.
  • If there’s any interest, give that person a bookmark. He or she will never remember you or your book without it!
  • If they buy a book, offer to sign it and slip in a bookmark for another book. Ask to take their picture!
  • There will be lulls. Just keep smiling! Use those times to network with others at the event.

Once you’ve packed and arrived back home, you’ll probably count your money first. Then you can calculate the time spent at the event versus the money you made. If it was worth your while, you can do it again. If not, cross it off your list and chalk it up as a marketing event.

Not every event will be a winner. Nor is the goal just to sell a ton of books. If you’ve handed out bookmarks and networked with others, you’ve planted seeds for the future. You’ve done your marketing and it will lead to more sales. Now, go get 'em!

Monday, August 16, 2021

Dear Debut Author - You Are Not a Failure

You’ve published your first book, and it was not the success you hoped it would be.

It’s ok.

You are not a failure.

Right now you may be looking at other authors in your genre who published books around the same time as yours, and asking yourself, “What did they do that I didn’t do? What do they have that I don’t have? Why them and not me?”

You may be gritting your teeth in certain social situations right now, evading certain questions, forcing a smile or an answer that feels insufficient. You may be glued to your screen, hitting page “refresh”, sweating over the latest numbers or reviews. You may feel very, very tired.

I’ve been working in book publicity for over a decade. And I’m here to tell you: You are not a failure. Here’s why.

Publishing was always going to be harder than you thought. And that’s ok.

You never know what it’s really like to publish a book—specifically, your book—until you do it. Now you’ve done it, and now you know. The publishing industry is mercurial, outdated and changing constantly; this was the reality long before you and your book came along. Looking back, there are probably some things you would have done differently, if you’d known better. But you’ve never known more about publishing your book than you know right now. In spite of everything, you still published that book, and learned a ton along the way. Hold on to what you’ve learned—you’re going to use it.

If there was a one-size-fits-all path to publishing success, every book would be a bestseller.

It’s a truth universally unacknowledged, from the boardroom of the most powerful publishing house to the IngramSpark or KDP account on your laptop: if anyone knew the foolproof recipe for literary stardom, then every book they touched would turn to gold. The truth of publishing success is much more complicated (and arbitrary) than your editor or publicist or favorite super-author would have you believe. Books tank—or succeed—against all expectations, all the time. Authors and publishers constantly make educated guesses on how to make the latter happen, with mixed results.

While we don’t know the entire recipe for success, two key ingredients stand out: the amount of money and time that are devoted to a book. If your debut was traditionally published, you may not have realized that the amount of money and time allocated to your book was pre-determined when it was assigned to an A-, B-, or C-list after acquisition (we could go into detail about why certain books are regulated to certain lists, but that’s a subject for another article). If you’re indie-published, you may have devoted a substantial amount of time and money to promoting your book, but perhaps you didn’t have the publicity savviness to reach the audience you wanted.

Trying to achieve a certain benchmark of success is like trying to cook while blindfolded in an unfamiliar kitchen: Certain steps can be taken, familiar strategies adopted and best guesses made—and results will vary.

The sales aren’t as bad as you think.

But you have no idea what my sales are! you say. Well, it doesn’t actually matter what the number is—the sales aren’t as bad as you think. If your sales are high—say 1,000 copies per week with a good traditional publisher—you may still not crack a bestseller list, even though you’re doing well! If your sales are low or nonexistent, your published book has a better chance of making it in front of readers now than your unpublished manuscript ever did. The market is incredibly saturated and competitive, making “good” sales benchmarks an elusive target. Your publisher or editor may “expect” certain figures, but—as established above—even they don’t have the magic to “make it happen” (and they’ve been in the business for a long time). Any sales are “good” sales, and (in spite of what some may tell you), the opportunity for book sales doesn’t have an expiration date. You’re building your readership brick by brick.

Your first book won’t make or break you. Your work ethic will.

Your debut is the foundation upon which to build your author brand, and for the vast majority of writers, building an author brand takes years. Now is the time to put the lessons you’ve learned to good use. Continue to write books. Hone your craft. Prove that you will keep investing in growing your platform and reaching out to new readers. You are now smarter and savvier about publishing than you’ve ever been. Ensure your current strategies—and future books—reflect that.

Love your debut book—and let it go.

Congratulations: you did the thing. And regardless of how excited or disappointed you feel about your publishing journey, no one can take the victory of publishing a book away from you. Now it’s time to think about what’s coming next. Maybe it’s the next book. Maybe it’s a renewed promotional strategy based on your newly-acquired publishing experience. Hopefully, it’s both. Your debut will not define your writing future—only you can do that.

Books Forward President Marissa DeCuir

Monday, August 9, 2021

Do You Want to Confidently Imagine Your Ideal Reader?


It’s easier than you think.

Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay 

The Insecure Writers Support Group. I love that name so much. 

Because as writers, we’re all insecure. Books are central to our lives and we value what they mean to us. Our favorite authors and stories have shaped our thoughts, comforted, challenged, and entertained us. 

This is our calling. To create work that causes our readers to soar with delight and sob with empathy. And to read the last words with a sigh of satisfaction.

What if that’s what we mean to do... but we fail our readers? How dare we think we can join that esteemed company of not only published but well-loved authors? 

I don’t think there’s ever been a truly creative person who didn’t face self-doubt. But those of you who succeed, meaning produce creative work and release it into the world, use that doubt to motivate yourself.

How do you become this version of a successful author?

  • You push yourselves to never stop learning and practicing. 

  • Associate with people who are both dedicated to their craft and even more proficient than you are.

  • Develop your author brand and platform.

  • Develop a picture of your ideal reader and know what they want to read.

  • Find out where this reader hangs out and how to catch their attention.

Some tips on discovering your readers.

  • Approach the process with an open mind. 

It’s easy to assume our readers are just like ourselves. That may be true—but we could also be the outlier.

  • If you’ve already published books and gotten reviews, what can you learn from your existing readers?

Don’t include your friends or family in your research. But do look at your reviews by other readers on Goodreads and Amazon. Look at your followers’ profiles on social media. What can you determine about age, gender, interests, and where they live?

The power of Google.

Never discount the obvious. If you write urban fantasy, for instance, just ask the search engine “Who is the typical reader of urban fantasy? Or who reads fantasy?”

In answer to my query, I found some fascinating resources: 

The last article asked readers what attracted them to the science fiction and fantasy genre. The most popular answers included escapism and creativity, but also offered these insights.

“Imaginative fiction offers a temporary escape from the mundane. It’s a safe and exciting escape from reality. Yet, oddly enough, upon my return to said reality, the very best fantasy and science fiction help me see the real world’s past, present, and even its future, from a different angle.”

“Exploration of worlds different from ours (with magic, etc) and extraordinary, fantastical experiences through characters who share a common humanity with ours.”

Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay 

 Start developing a character profile or Reader Persona.

Barbara Hale is 66 and lives in a suburb of St. Paul, MN. She retired after 35 years as a high school science teacher. She’s married and has four grandchildren. Barbara loves fantasy and the imaginative worlds she can visit and leave her worries about pandemics and climate change behind. 

Barbara reads two or three books a week on her tablet and counts on Goodreads and Amazon reviews to suggest new authors. One of her biggest challenges is running out of engrossing books.

She’s active on Facebook and Instagram. It might surprise you that her grandkids got her hooked on TikTok where she follows #sciencefiction #fantasybooks #urbanfantasy.

As you discover more details about your typical or ideal reader, continue developing the character’s backstory just like you would for a character in your novel. It’s fun!

If I was talking to Reader Barbara, I’d be thinking about her need for referrals for new authors and her love of imaginary worlds when I think about how to reach out to her in blog posts or social media. 

For more detailed information, you can read my article Know What Your Audience Wants With Quality Market Research

I hope these ideas encourage you to think about who your reader is, what their needs are, and how you can more effectively communicate with them.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

#IWSG DAY - August 2021

 Insecure Writer’s Support Group—A database resource site and support group for writers and authors. Featuring weekly guests and tips, a monthly blogfest gathering, a Facebook group, a book club, and thousands of links–all to benefit writers! #IWSG

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer help and guidance. It’s a safe-haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer—aim for a dozen new people each time—and return comments. This group is all about connecting!
Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post. And please be sure your avatar links back to your blog!  
Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.  


Guidelines and rules:

Word count: 5000-6000

Genre: Sweet Romance

Attention Participates: 
Overall, your story should be clean of offensive material, including profanity, vulgarity, excessive violence, or sexually explicit or suggestive scenes.

Elements in your story should focus on romance, not on sex, which should be kept “behind closed doors.”

The overall plot should lead to a positive and uplifting outcome, also known as "happily ever after." 
Absolutely no erotica or pornography.

Theme: First Love

Submissions accepted: May 7 - September 1, 2021

How to enter: Send your polished, formatted (double-spaced, no footers or headers), previously unpublished story as a Word file to admin @ before the deadline passes. Please include your full contact details, your social links, and if you are part of the Blogging, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter IWSG group. You must belong to at least one aspect of the IWSG to enter. Content must be PG rated or lower. 

August 4 optional question - What is your favorite writing craft book? Think of a book that every time you read it you learn something or you are inspired to write or try the new technique. And why?

The awesome co-hosts for the August 4 posting of the IWSG are PK Hrezo, Cathrina Constantine, PJ Colando, Kim Lajevardi, and Sandra Cox! 


What I've Learned From My 100words100days Challenge

The challenge is straightforward - write 100 words minimum over 100 days.
The 100 words can be for any project you're currently working on. How difficult can that be? Right? 
The main thing is that you write at least 100 new words, every day.

I've tried this challenge twice and completed it once. It's not always smooth sailing, especially when you get close to the end. 

Today is day 35, so I still have a long way to go. 

Here are some thoughts I want to share: 

1. 100wordsX100days is an excellent way to keep impostor syndrome in check!

2. It has helped me to discover my writing style: I feel energized and am productive when faced with the prospect of writing in short bursts.

3. It helps tap into creativity by approaching each session in a different manner.

4. It confirms that when it comes to writing, there is no one-size-fits-all and no one correct way in which to approach writing.

5. From day to day, you never know what will happen and some days you may find it’s a tight squeeze – but 100 words is a 100 words!

6. I'm terrified at the thought of doing a 30 day NaNoWriMo challenge. I much prefer the 100X100 challenge. The thought of a 80,000 word draft in one month scares me. 

Have you done NaNoWriMo? Do you think I should try it - at least once?

Happy IWSG Day!