A Lesson in Humility

The L.A. Book Festival

What I didn't expect was the large book tents offering thousands of deeply discounted books for $5 or less!

They were mostly remainders published in the last few years that publishers unloaded at a loss, and ARCs that found their way back to the resale market.

It's a great event from a buyers perspective.

Obviously, this made our books appear to be a premium.

By Sunday, most others were also discounting their books to $5 or even giving them away (I'm guessing they didn't want to pay the cost to ship the books back).

At first we thought we had a good location near the main stages that drew big names like Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Cheech, Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters), Clinton Kelly (The Chew). But perhaps those passing by were more focused on whatever was happening on the stage or getting a seat than than stopping at our booth.

It was also 89 degrees on Saturday which made it pretty difficult to stay out in the sun too long. Misters would have made our booth more inviting for sure!

I did notice a lot of people kept their distance from the booths which I was not surprised by because those who didn't were often pulled into an extended sale pitch from an author extremely passionate about their expertise. As I walked around, I avoided contact for the same reason.

Extracting themselves required them to be a little rude, like hanging up on a telemarketer and maybe even feeling a little bad rejecting the author who wrote the book they were being asked to buy.

In fact, I think some authors unknowingly try to guilt people into buying the book - none of us of course ;).

From what I could tell, the bookstores fared the best, followed by the Children's booths which seemed to have a lot of games to pull the kids in (whether or not they were selling a lot of books or not I am unsure).

There were plenty of big name authors there as well to draw away the crowd, and many had long lines of people waiting to get their books signed (whether or not they purchased them at the event). It would have been better to be situated near one of the entrances to the panel (which interestingly was pretty vacant of any booths).

Onto the humility of the experience for yours truly... I feel bad because I thought this would be a far more successful endeavor for all of us. It was a harsh reminder that I can be out of my element very quickly, especially given the fact the vast majority of my marketing efforts over the past 5+ years has been online and slanted toward digital products. It was also a cold reminder of how competitive the book market is.

It's all about finding your audience. The L.A. Book Festival was about as non-specific of a niche as you could get. Unless you are one of the featured authors who gets to be interviewed in front of crowd or are in the sweet spot of the children's books (I noticed the YA authors also did well), it's a tough event to sell any books at.

We would have probably sold more books if we had dropped off our boxes at one of the many discounted book sellers.

We did walk away with lot of creative ways to draw potential readers in if we ever decided to do this again... and I'm not saying I wouldn't. I'm certain if I do any public event, I will know more of what to expect and what to plan for to draw attention.

But I certainly would do things differently next time and definitely not bring 20 copies of every title.

The optimal word at an event that is free to get in, is to offer something 'free' as well - as I gathered that's what people were looking for.

Nobody feels worse about the poor results than I do. I know you guys look to me to make smart calls for your hard earned marketing dollar.

I do appreciate you taking part in the pilot and I know that the authors who did attend still enjoyed the event and felt it was worth it. But for those of you who didn't, I do sincerely apologize that we didn't at least sell a few books for you.

My best, Brian