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Book Fairs: The Do’s and Don’ts

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During these last days of the old year, equipped with brand new calendars, you might be sitting down to plan the marketing for your book(s) in 2014. Which Book Fairs or other Literary Events will you attend in the coming months to present your work?
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Carefully Check Out the Fair Organizer
Before you sign up and spend any money, let the organizers show you how they promote this book fair in detail. Don’t settle for general statements, such as: “We advertise everywhere in the area” or “Our clients post it all over the Internet and on Social Media”. Rather inquire and ask detailed questions:

  • How many shows did they previously organize and how was the outcome?
  • Which advertisements did they purchase for this upcoming book fair?
  • To which audience (in follower numbers) and how often do they announce it on Social Media?
  • Which articles did they prepare and where will it be published, and to how many readers?
  • What is the percentage of recurring exhibitors?
  • Can they give you names of exhibitors / authors you might contact about their experience?
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Make sure that organizing a book fair is not an attempt for this company to make a fast buck, but rather to promote authors and their books, considering that you have the cost of buying a table, transportation / parking costs, promoting, maybe accommodation and restaurant bills or even expenses to have a helper at your booth.
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These tips might help you to evaluate if it is worth to attend the book fair.  I visited lots of great organized and promoted exhibitions – but here is an example how the event organizers and even authors can spoil the experience for visitors:
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Can it Get Any Worse?
Last Fall I attended a Book Fair, organized by a large group of author-publishers. My expectations were pretty low, as I feared, it was not sufficiently advertised, such as in their earlier book events.  And it was in fact even worse…
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Barely Advertised:
Instead of writing articles about the show, listing the authors that were present and rave about their books – and distribute these articles at least through all the local papers for free – there was nothing publicized…. Not even on Google+ nor on Goodreads’ free event sites was this book fair advertised, which would have cost them not a dime.
Only one promotional article about one of the fair’s organizers was published, also not directly about the show, but rather about his achievements in writing a huge number of books (which averaged exactly 72 copies sold per title…).
The book fair was neither advertised at local online magazines nor in print (for a very low fee) in newspaper event pages. Even their own website did not show a proper invitation for the public – instead an announcement for members to purchase a table at the show.  Members were encouraged to send out tweets to the public to purchase a table!  Did they mean instead of visiting a book fair to rent their tables? A promotional disaster!
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Inconvenient Layout:
The book fair was set up on the second floor of a recreational facility. The room itself was very long and narrow, a wheel chair could barely roll through between the tables, without touching books and throwing them to the floor. I watched as visitors were polite and stepped back or sidewards to let wheel chairs pass. When looking at the books or purchase something, the people in wheelchairs felt embarrassed as they blocked inadvertenly the whole aisle.

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Self-Published-Looking Book Covers
Only two of about 150 books showed a professional cover – all others screamed: “self-published”. OK, some of the covers could work for a print book, potential customers in bookstores could read all the details on the front and back cover, but they were mostly available as e-books too, and I imagined them on Internet retailer sites, among many other books with professional covers displayed … where they would be difficult to read due to the small print.

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Lack of Displays
Most of the books were laid out flat on the tables and visitors had to lean over in order to read the title. There are so many inexpensive Acryl presentations available to show books upright!  Just visit a trade book fair, such as Book Expo NY, Frankfurt Book Fair and see how professional publishing houses present their books. Or get a video from these fairs on YouTube to see how a book presentation should look like.

Only one of the authors at the show had a background display – a real attention-grabber – showcasing the cover of one of his titles. It was one of these roll-out display posters that one can carry very easily, being not much bigger than a golf umbrella when dissembled Roll Up Banner Stand.
Other book exhibitors did not invest a single dollar in display and had in the best case a copy of their book cover or a 8×11′ black & white computer print-out “poster” with the book title on it, pinned to the wall behind them.

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No Credit Cards
Everybody knows how easy it is to spend money when you don’t have to pay with cash. I overheard several times that patrons said: “I have to leave it with this one book, as I don’t have enough cash with me”. Another said: “I just found out by chance about this book exhibition, but I don’t have any money with me”.
So, why not making it easy for customers and accept credit cards or any of the new ways of paying digitally? Nothing easier than this: use one of these “Square Cards” or bring your smart phone of iPad with you and let people pay, using their PayPal account – or even better, sending you the money by email / online banking (available at Canadian bank accounts, not sure if available in other countries) – right at your exhibition booth! Make it as easy as possible for people to buy your books!

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Approachable or Unfriendly?
For a couple of hours I watched authors how they approached potential patrons, at their book tables. I asked everyone of the authors, why they wrote this book (lots of memoirs there!), what’s the background of their novel, or how long it took them to write it, how they were promoting it. It was a mixed bag: Some where cheerful talking about their writing process, the background story etc., while others only asked which one of their books I wanted to buy, and when I was not taking out my purse right away, they turned around and talked with their neighbors. Wow, I was pretty astonished – and guess who’s books I bought?

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One Book Seller Stood Out
Her book, Kathleen’s Cariole Ride was available in print and digital form. She bundled both, similar to the book bundles that Amazon offers now.  And almost everyone of her print book customers bought a digital version too, which she offered for only $1 at a promotional price, either for themselves or as a gift. How she did it?  She brought two tools to the fair:  an iPad and a small poster. As soon as someone declared to buy the paperback, she pointed to her poster and showed them her Amazon page on her iPad.  When readers saw the official book price on Amazon and compared it to her offer at the book show, they could not resist to get the e-book too.
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Conclusion:
Why make all the effort to write and spend the money to publish a book?  I know that some of these authors at the book show had paid thousands of dollars to a Vanity book company to get their book(s) “published”.  Why then not invest a couple of dollars in presenting their work properly?
Again: Writing is an art – Publishing is a business! I hope these examples give you food for thought and encourage you to present your books professional at this year’s book shows. And a word to book show organizers: Don’t just fleece authors and sell tables, but offer them value in promoting the book event professionally. You can do it even for free, using all these new media possibilities out there!

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5 Helpful Tips: How to Format an e-Book

Margaret Kell Virany

Guest post by author Margaret Kell Virany
From Paperback to Kindle: Five Problems & Five Solutions
When I decided to publish my paperback book as a shorter Kindle with a new theme I had a lot to learn. Luckily, I found places to go to solve my problems, and I didn’t even go broke.

Problem # 1
I thought I could upload a PDF created in Open Office and it would be as good as using Microsoft Word. That was how I self-published my paperback in 2008 and, for all I knew, Amazon Digital Services had used the same PDF without doctoring it when they turned it into a Kindle book in 2010. I didn’t know I was on a wrong track.
Solution:  I consulted the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) website.  A PDF file contains hidden html formatting codes which are not accepted by the Kindle publishing platform unless converted. I had wasted time, for example, by using the tab bar and a variety of fonts, sizes and headings. KDP warns against using  tab-spacing, since it won’t convert to Kindle. I corrected that by setting  the ‘paragraph’ formatting to indent automatically, then deleted my manual tabs.

Problem #2
I downloaded a conversion program, Mobipocket, which didn’t work so I was stuck. KDP had said this would put my PDF into a Kindle-friendly format. However, it rejected my Internet Explorer 7. Should I buy a more expensive converter program? Was a new browser necessary?
Solution:  I clicked on ‘Community’ in the KDP page’s top menu and found out I wasn’t alone. Other authors were having similar, or worse problems than I had and were seeking or giving advice.

Problem #3
I had resisted getting a new word processor program
Solution: I spent $138.00 for a Microsoft Word10 program and installed it.  I saved my manuscript in it and created a picture file.

Problem #4
I still had no idea how to do the finishing touches
Solution:  I discovered jtbigtoad , a forum participant, was offering the best advice. He is experienced, goes into minute detail and keeps things simple. He explained how to put in the Table of Contents, links, page breaks, headings, etc.

Problem #5
Creating a good cover
Solution:  At Fiverr.com you can hire a graphic designer who will do a book cover for $5.00.  Mano, a true professional, did the cover for my book, Kathleen’s Cariole Ride.

Success
I uploaded the book with Jtbigtoad’s instructions in front of me, showing the commands that would appear on the computer screen and where to click. No converter was needed and the actual publishing took 25 seconds!

Margaret Kell Virany

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Writing a Book from Love Letters

By Margaret Kell Virany

I can’t give advice about falling in love, but I can tell you how to write a book that shows readers how it’s done. If someone’s old love letters fall into your hands, and you wish to write, look at them as coupons to be redeemed.

Take them to the store of your memory which is open 24/7, even while you sleep. Work at your computer every day during the hours when you are at your brightest.

The onionskin love letters I had were in two file folders, half in my mother’s handwriting and half in my father’s, 72 in all. I say “had”. After my book was done, they were burned by a beloved, trusted family member silently succumbing to Alzheimer’s.

1. Don’t ever think the letters can be published as is.

2. Sit down and be their first patient, receptive reader.

3. Open separate, numbered chapter files in your computer under “Love…”. The order of the letters is already chronological, so each chapter is a time span.

4. Consider what genre you are writing in – Nonfiction or Fiction? History or Personal Memoir? Biography or Autobiography? Confession? Love Story?
This is important. It gives your material a theme, a slant, an organizing principle, and eventual title.

5. Judge what’s most interesting in the letters and type quoted segments into the appropriate chapters. The continuity will come later, as you are inspired in your sleep.

6. Make a note of things to be checked or researched on the Internet, in photos, from surviving friends and family members. Find out more about well known people or events cited, unanswered questions, contradictions, intriguing assumptions, contrasts to today, etc.

7. Pin down the facts. Return to the drawing board. If you misconstrue one thing, your whole story will become skewed and false. Even a work of fiction must be convincing.

8. Start back at the beginning each day, always looking for a better word and making sure you keep up the pace. If your attention droops you are boring the reader and that’s the worst sin.

My personal memoir based on love letters is read around the globe, always to high praise. Its shorter companion has been as high as #77 in the Kindle store.

If I market it well it will stay a bestseller. The hard copy of the memoir sells like hotcakes at book fairs, malls and through word-of-mouth. Meeting readers is a source of my writer’s joy.

A Book of Kells, is free March 13-17 as a St. Patrick’s Day promo in the Kindle store. 

Kathleen’s Cariole Ride, is free in the Kindle store March 18-19
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Perils of e-Book Publishing


Our annual Christmas letter to family and old friends had big news wrapped inside the good wishes. “Ho, ho, ho, Margaret is entering the revolutionary post-Gutenberg world by publishing an e-book!”

Margaret Kell Virany

Margaret Kell Virany

They all knew my parents’ romantic story and had lavished praise on the print version. I couched this as a genuine seasonal message but must confess visions of five stars beside my title in the sales catalog were dancing on a hidden agenda inside my head!

My connections are not pushovers; they are mostly hardy, elderly folks, not intimidated by Amazons and they expect to get into heaven without a password. Still, I needed to line up reviewers even before my book was published so I made a polite suggestion and gave simple instructions on ‘how to submit a review to Amazon’ in a straightforward way.

Two months later my book is in the hands of 4,593 readers who likely made their final decision after they saw the 4+ star ratings. The Internet-savvy on my list (a niece, a second cousin-in-law once removed, a new friend and the 85-year old Wilderness Wanderer) immediately submitted five-star reviews.  Several octogenarian college friends, one of them almost blind, struggled or got help but managed to do me this favor.

  • R. called himself Accountant’s Vision, in case he made typos.
  • J-M invites her unemployed engineer son-in-law for breakfast every morning and is still hoping this will lead to a review-writing moment.
  • B. said she was glad she had friends who were keeping up with the Internet and thanked me for nudging her into the e-book era.
  • J. is so proud of her new skill she’s eager to do it again.

A Christmas letter requesting reviews may be a little out of order, but my friends who used it as a chance to update their brains found some joy.


Guest post by author Margaret Kell Virany
see her books at:
www.amazon.com/author/margaretvirany

or here:
www.margaretvirany.com

 

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Free Kindle e-Book Valentines Day

Author Margaret Kell Virany finds a romantic love story from the roaring Twenties buried in letters, journals, diaries and photos left to her by her parents. This love-story e-book with 12 authentic photos pins readers’ eyes to a spark of attraction ignited in World War I that develops into an eternal flame in the snowy expanses and frozen lakes of up North with Manitoba’s Cree people.

Kathleen's Cariole Ride

Kathleen's Cariole Ride

Get this fascinating e-book today, Valentines Day, for free – as a gift for a loved one or for your own enjoyment.

As a travel story it reveals the excitement of serving in action with the Canadian Navy in WWI, flying from London to Paris in 1917, crossing the Atlantic on steamships, canoeing up the fur trade route, and going on a winter trek in a cariole. This is the ancient, original toboggan aboriginals invented in the high Arctic to be pulled by dog teams. It was large and comfortable, to be used on special occasions or for special people. The French Canadians in the 19th century renamed it a cariole and sometimes pulled it by horses.

Another facet of the story is the account of life on a Swampy Cree reservation and the positive role of missionaries in that era.

The author’s parents were an unlikely pair. Kathleen Ward was a city councillor’s daughter from Portsmouth, England (pop. 190,000) and John Ambrose Campbell Kell  (Jack) was a farmer from Cookstown, Ontario, Canada (pop. 550 not counting the pigs, horses and cows). They met in 1917 when her father, a Sunday School teacher, invited some colonial servicemen home for tea.

Order for free at Amazon today only!

 

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Free Book: Love Story of a War Bride in Canada’s North

Perfect Valentine’s Gift – doesn’t make fat, doesn’t wither, doesn’t cost anything…

Kathleen’s Cariole Ride 

Kathleen, a courageous British women who made immense personal sacrifices, left everything behind – family, friends and way of life – to follow her husband in 1927, as (probably) the last war bride from WWI right into the Northern Canadian Wildernis to help evangelize the First Nation Indians.

War brides, moved thousands of miles away – usually to Canadian cities, villages and farms – joining their husband, a man they barely knew. Kathleen’s future husband, a minister, worked and lived on the extremely remote reservation of  Oxford House, Manitoba, in Canada’s northern wilderness, close to Hudson Bay.

After Margaret Kell Virany’s parents died, she found diaries, photographs and love letters that let us peek into a fascinating social history, describing challenges and details of pioneer life on this Northern reserve and struggle in a minister’s family.

Many touching stories and exciting details include canoe trips along the old fur trade route, generous native neighbors, a dangerous journey to the hospital in mid-winter on a horse drawn toboggan to deliver her baby, life-threatening forest fires and pre-television social life.

Get this amazing book here for FREE:
http://www.amazon.com/Kathleens-Cariole-Ride-ebook/dp/B006NFSYV8/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1329144788&sr=1-1

 

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