Faire Booth Preparations

I mentioned recently that my application for a booth at the local Renaissance Faire was approved. This weekend, I planned to go shopping for additional items for an outdoor booth dressed in the necessary theme. I hoped to have ninety percent of the materials and do a test run in the backyard. I would take some pictures of how amazing it looked and share them with you to bask in the glory of my creative use of limited funds. 

As you can imagine, little of my shopping today went according to plan. The canopies we have are too big—my booth space is only 5×5—and none of the stores we stopped at had any options smaller than 8×8 or a 7.5-foot circle. Looking for decoration accents was also a bust. The craft stores were too DIY for my skill/time, while Party City’s merchandise was too modern. 

Fortunately, our most important stop of the day paid off and made the shopping headache worth it. Looking into suggestions for decorating a Ren Faire booth, there were many recommendations to use old sheets to wrap modern supports to make them look more like a medieval cloth tent. 

We went to Goodwill to search the linens, picking up a number of sheets to cover the tent, table, and chairs. I plan to use our twine to tie it all to the supports for that billowy tent feel. On a pass through the decorations, we also found another picture stand and a wood box to replace some of the more modern items we used at my first book signing in February. 

This was the table at my first signing. I will use most of this again in August.

The rest will need to wait for delivery, as it had to be ordered online instead. I should have most of it before the end of the month to do a trial run. In addition to the tent, I ordered more sealing wax for more wax seals, some cute butterfly hair clips for potential giveaways with books, and some bookmark charms shaped like swords and other old weapons. Along with the advertising flag I ordered, I think my booth is going to look marvelous, and most of the supplies can be used again in the future!

Books at the Faire

I have seen a lot of advice on how many books to bring to events like this, and it still feels like I am stumbling in the dark. Some say 20 per 1,000 attendees at the event (I’m not sure if this is for each book or total), which would mean about 600 for this event for me. Another person recommended 50-100 of each book for a two-day event, depending on size. This would put me at about 400 books for this two-weekend event. I have decided to order 250 more of my first book, which will give me around 280 available. I’m debating between 150-200 of the second book, which I hope will arrive before the first weekend. The books will not go bad, so hopefully, my guesses will not be a massive overspend. 

As for my second book, it has been with the editor for a couple of weeks now. This one is about 30k words longer than the first, so it is taking a bit more time. She expects to have it back to me by next weekend. Over this next week, I want to finalize the cover, frontmatter, and backmatter so it is all ready to upload to quickly order a proof copy. If that first proof looks good, then I will have about six weeks for a large order to be printed and shipped in advance of the event. 

This also means the book is likely to be released ahead of schedule! I need the paperback to be live to order author copies on KDP (yes, I know there are other options). Sign up to follow my blog here or for my newsletter on the homepage to hear when Hidden Sanctuary officially goes live. 

As a final note today, thank you to all the new readers leaving reviews for Hidden Memory. I am now up to 16 ratings/reviews! Reviews are amazingly important to new authors, and I appreciate all of you for taking the time. 

Have another great weekend!

My First Book Signing

One of my goals for 2022 was to do at least one book signing this year. Whether that was the Rennaisance Faire for which I applied, a local convention I somehow managed to get into, or partnering with a local bookstore for a spot for a couple of hours, I was going to make something happen. I thought it would take most of the year to reach this point. With a little luck and a lot of initiative, my first ever book signing event happened yesterday evening. 

Preparation

Much of my preparation was researching what other authors’ booths have looked like and finding the stories they have shared about what works well and advice for other authors (like me!). I also had to adapt to my budget, which is minimal at the moment. Here are some of the key items along with some of my takeaways: 

  • Books: The general information I found was 50-100 of each book for one (day) event. 
    • This was a smaller event, and I am still unknown. I brought 50 and did not come close to selling out. 
  • Signage: Big, eyecatching, genre-specific. 
    • I got an 11×17 foam board of an image I created using my cover art and review quotes. It worked well for the space given to me. 
    • I might add a cloth banner to go on the table cloth and hang down in front. 
    • I will add a picture of me to the foam board when I upgrade to a larger version. Many people were surprised I was the author…which surprised me, so lesson learned. 
  • Giveaways: have some, and have something that includes your author info on it. 
    • Fairy wings are my logo, so I had butterfly stickers for the kids and some simple bookmarks with a cover image on one side and my logo and info on the back with a QR code for my ebook link. 
    • The wax seals were also a draw. I sold those 2 for $1 and gave one for free with each book sale. They are more supply- and labor-intensive, so I decided not to give them away for free. 
  • Booth buddy/transportation: recommend having a booth buddy and hand cart if possible. 
    • Books are heavy, so are tables and chairs and all the other stuff you will bring. I borrowed my dad’s collapsable hand cart.
    • My husband came with me as my buddy. He is better with people than I am, so he helped me get started with the whole “interaction” thing. He also covered for breaks and completed purchases while I signed the books. 
    • My niece also came as my cashier. Taking notes on my sales and helping make change. She stuck out the entire four hours too!

Check out this cute frog my niece made for me!

Meeker Street Nerd Party

The event itself is still pretty new and growing. I think it started with only one or two businesses on Meeker Street in Kent, WA doing a “nerd party” for their patrons who love fantasy, sci-fi, retro, comics, and other great nerdy things. It has grown to include most businesses on the street with special guests, exhibits, and events. There was cosplay, legos, trivia, artists, authors, and a couple of power rangers (actresses) doing autographs and photos!

While my niece was with me at my table, my nephew checked it out and enjoyed himself. It had pretty good traffic for most of the evening, and people had fun dressing up and participating, as well as patronizing the various businesses. I hope I can attend again and build a partnership with the bookstore. 

Execution

Now you are asking, “If you didn’t get close to selling out, how did you do?”

“Pretty good, I think,” is my answer. 

My guess and target for sales were two, so my bar was relatively low for this first event. I exceeded my target by a fair percentage, selling two in about seventy minutes, with my best hour coming in the middle. I appreciate all the support for local artists from the people stopping by my booth and others!

I practiced my stump speech the two days leading up to the event, so I only stumbled over it a little instead of constantly and stayed out in front of my table nearly the entire time. I consider that a victory in itself with my people-nerves. 

Me with wings on and holding some of the little cakes from the participating bakery. Thanks for sharing them with me, family!

The experience and learnings were also invaluable. I’ve done it once; next time won’t be so scary. I also know what I need to work on: 

  1. Push for sales more. It is not “pushy” to tell them that I’m offering to sign any books they purchase at the event. That is, in fact, a great way to let them know they are talking to the author. 
  2. Push the newsletter sign-up. I forgot to do this too often, and those contacts are important. I need to offer this to every person who seems even remotely interested. 
  3. Put my card/bookmark in each book I sell. I started doing this later in the day. It is a great way to get my website and other such info into the hands of people who will hopefully be enjoying my book soon and might consider following me at a later date. 

My Favorite Part

It happened early into the evening with my first sale of the day. A young lady with her family stopped to talk with me, and my book was in her genre. She was interested in the book and got so excited to find out I was the author and would sign it for her. I ended up suggesting we get a picture together because this enthusiasm means so much to me. I wanted the picture as much as they did, if not more. I’m never sure about preferences for me using names; I will call her “B” here. 

Hi, B! I hope you enjoy the book!

ARCs and Promotion

Social Media

I’m about to show how much of a social media novice I am with this next revelation, but here it goes. Do you want to know an important piece of social media exposure? The answer is hashtags. You need to include hashtags in your Twitter and Instagram posts so that more people see them when they look at or search on said hashtags. Most of you presumably already knew this, but I have never been a great social media user. My Space was “the thing” to have when I was in high school, and I never had an account. Self-promotion and sharing are not natural for me, and I am finding out new things every day. 

One (helpful) social media tip I will share from the Facebook author groups I am part of is: be cautious of the people who contact you to promote your work. When I started using hashtags related to my book, I immediately received a handful of messages asking me to follow this and DM to “promote” through them. Someone even reached out with an offer to review my book on their account. 

All of this sounded great. I’m trying to get the word out about my work and get it noticed on social media. All they wanted was $20 here or $40 there. Simple. Right?

The more I look into this, the sketchier it appears. Many of the promotion Instagrammers have followers and likes inflated by bots, and when you ask about their returns and guaranteed clicks, they get dodgy. In some cases, I have heard, they threaten to bomb your book with 1-star reviews if you don’t end up promoting with them. I am now hiding all promote or DM comments on Instagram to try to limit or prevent these.

On the reviewer side, you have to be very careful about not doing paid reviews. There are some editorial reviews where this is allowed, but this can get you banned from Amazon. They frown heavily on paid reviews, so before you pay anyone, make sure that you know exactly what they are offering, and you read all the fine print for Amazon and other distributors and sites you are on. Fortunately, I did not agree to pay anyone. 

ARC Readers

This is a good segway into the concept of ARC readers and how they are different than paid reviews. First, you should never pay ARC readers. That is how it becomes a paid review rather than an honest review. ARC stands for Advanced Review Copy, and is a copy of your book that you provide, for free, in advance of the release date so that reviewers can read and post their reviews in advance of or on the date a book releases. You often “provide the book for free in exchange for an honest review.” 

What this means could be a myriad of different interpretations. I have heard some authors become upset if someone who receives an ARC does not finish the book or post a review. I have done some ARC reads and reviews myself for some of the groups I am on, and I prefer the Readers Favorite approach: 

“We only post 4- and 5-star reviews. If an author receives a poor review, we provide private constructive criticism to the author instead. We were the first book review company to not post negative reviews because we are in the business of helping authors, not hurting them.”

Readers’ Favorite Website

The groups I am part of are for indie authors like me, and my goal is to be supportive, not hurtful. I will reach out on 3-star reviews to see if the author wants me to post, but for 1- or 2-stars, I generally will not post those when something is below 50 total reviews. It is my philosophy and not something I push on my ARC readers. I give them a free copy for an honest review, so I need to be okay with their choices in this. It’s the “honest review” part; it means I’m not influencing them by payment or intimidation. What a reviewer posts, is what that individual thought of the book. 

Some helpful tips and resources for ACR readers: 

ARCs are important because almost everyone looks at the star rating before they look at the description. You want as many (hopefully good) reviews posted on or around the day of release as possible. The number of reviews also matters. I can’t remember the exact numbers, but I think it is below 20 reviews readers dismiss even a good rating, and Amazon does not start promoting books outside of paid advertising until a book has around 50 reviews. So, the next time you enjoy that book you just read, take a minute to rate it for the author to give them some applause for that artistic performance.

Invitation to Action

This week I sent out my first invitation to ARC readers with their copy of Hidden Memory, and I am now going to make an offer to my early blog followers. I know some are friends and family who have already or are planning to buy the book if only to support me. I love and appreciate that support. 

If you would like an ARC copy of Hidden Memory free in exchange for an honest review, I invite you to comment below, sign up via this form, or reach out to me. You will be signed up for the newsletter to receive emails from me, but I can then send that digital copy out to you. You don’t need to follow my philosophy above, but I would ask you to reread the book description to make sure it sounds like something you would enjoy before signing up. 

Whether you sign up or not, I thank you all for your support and engagement throughout this year. Less than four weeks to go!

Available for Preorder!

My book officially drops onto e-readers in just over ten weeks and is available for preorder now! I hit the submit button on Amazon this morning and was so nervous that something would go wrong. They say it can take up to 72 hours before it is live for preorder, so I was bracing for a long wait. I can’t even tell you how much I have been grinning since getting the notification that it went through just fine, but you can probably imagine. 

Before I delve into some publication sharing, I want to say thank you to everyone who helped me get this far. The interest and support of family and friends helped me push past the fear and imposter syndrome and make it to this stage. The professional support for artists, editors, and readers is crucial to realizing a vision. I tried to name all of the direct contributors in the back of the book, and I know I missed some of you. Please consider this for you as well as the additional thanks I’m sure to write when the book is published and available. 

Hitting Submit

I know there are some fellow authors following me or looking in on these, so I also want to share some of the steps I have been taking recently to get to this point. While I am not going to say the Amazon publishing tools are perfect, I have found them all relatively easy to work with. A lot of these steps I set up and started playing around with a few months ago just in case I had any issues understanding what was happening. 

First, I set up a KDP account separate from my personal Amazon account. I’m not sure exactly what might happen if I mixed them, but I made sure they were separate just in case. One that was set up, I went to my “Bookshelf” and started setting up Hidden Memory in the tool as a draft. I wanted to see how it looked and what options there were. I’m still not sure about the categories I selected, but I can adjust those by contacting Amazon later, so those are not a deal-breaker for moving forward. (They could be critical to sales, so do not discount the importance of categories.)

I also decided to use the Kindle Create tool to turn my Word doc into an ebook format. There are pros and cons to this. I will probably use it again, but I will keep in mind the limitations. 

Pros: 

  • Following the instructions, it read and formatted the file well.
  • It includes tools for frontmatter and backmatter (see this blog post for great links) which were simple and useful.
  • It allows nice preview of the document in multiple formats. 

Cons: 

  • The KPF files are not able to be used on other tools. This is impactful because I plan on using BookFunnel for ARCs (post probably next week on this). 
    • The frontmatter/backmatter does not translate.

I shifted to Calibre for BookFunnel to create a mobi. KDP no longer accepts mobi files, so it is something to keep in mind.

Once my book was published, I was able to create my Amazon author page, and I also submitted for a Goodreads author page. The latter is still pending, so TBD on how that works. My next steps are a Bookbub author page, a BookFunnel account, and gathering ARC readers to submit early reviews. I plan on getting to some paid advertising next month or closer to the release date to generate some additional interest, but I have no idea what that looks like yet. There is always something more to learn and do.

I hope you are having a great weekend. Go Sounders! Go Mariners! 

A New Threat

Her body told her it was time for another break. They were demanded more and more frequently, and she suspected the beginning of a fever. She eased herself to the ground and off her cut and blistered feet, taking as much care as possible for her other bruises, breaks, and lacerations. When her rear finally touched the ground, she was breathing more heavily from the effort than from simply walking along. Once it was done though, and she lay still, her aches and pain became a pulsing numbness. 

Were it not for the healing ribs, she would have heaved out a sigh of relief, but she wondered if she was actually feeling better or worse. Moving up her body, she consciously worked to relax every muscle. Calves, then thighs. Tighten. Relax. Butt. Abs. Her efforts aborted at her shoulders. Every muscle tensed suddenly at a new noise coming from behind. Skin prickled as every hair stood on end. Something instinctual told her this sound was very bad. There were ticking, or clicking, noises along with what she would best describe as many scurrying legs. Her stalker hissed and growled at this new player. 

Perhaps my stalker found other prey? No, she is an ambush hunter. This hissing and growling is defensive posturing. With that thought, a more disturbing question arose. What would be attacking a natural predator? 

Whatever it was could not be good for her. Any doubt the cat was the one in trouble vanished with an eruption of yowling cries cut suddenly and sickeningly short. The cat was not well-fed and might not keep this new hunter – or hunters? – sated for long. This was the reason the forest was so barren. The thought washed over her with uncomfortable certainty. Fear and panic, so long held at bay, surged to the fore and held her paralyzed. 

The world froze with her. Nothing moved, nothing sounded in the woods as she held her breath, her eyes darting from shadow to shadow. The shuffling resumed and threw her fear up another level, but it also startled her into action. With teeth clenched against groans of pain, she pushed back to her feet and set off at a rapid pace. 

Sometime between fighting down the fear of her pursuers and the pain drilling into her deeper with every step, the sun finished its course through the sky. The chill settling in was simply another minor discomfort, but she could not continue in the complete darkness descending. It would be hours before the moon rose enough for her to travel safely, if she was able to continue at all. She found tears on her cheeks she had not even known she shed. Her body betraying the agony her mind denied. It lanced through her with the effort to lower herself into a resting position. Exhaustion, rather than relaxation pushed her drifting into blackness.