I thought I’d write about the book fair while it is still fresh in my mind and on everyone else’s. And just as a disclaimer, this is a long post!
Now, for those who are not aware, the fair took place this weekend on Friday and Saturday. Eleven romance authors took part, each with a one hour slot to post their promo in and then another hour in which they could engage and also wind their promo down.
From an organizing background, everything went reasonably well. I did make contingencies, like for instance; I didn’t know Facebook would flag words like ‘slut’ and not show a comment or a post if it contains similar words. Facebook also didn’t allow authors to have too many links in their posts. And as you know, that’s our thing as authors. We like readers to get in touch with us. So links were, for some authors, posted in the comments.
There were technical difficulties, like laptops freezing or internet being slow. The typical issues you deal with when you use a computer in the digital age. I once had to deal with a banking app issue and had to wait almost an hour in the bank on the end of the month (so busy time for everyone) because the network was offline. No one could do anything! (Yikes!) It’s the hassle we take with the internet age because we know how convenient it is when everything lines up perfectly.
And the book fair definitely had that to offer.
But how did the fair do? That’s the question on your mind. In its second year, how did the Africa Online Book Fair: Romance Authors & Books do?
Now last year the fair wasn’t run from my book page, but from my co-host’s, so I didn’t have the insights. I could only give an account of how my sales did from an author’s point of view. And I did sell a lot of books. Last year I’d placed two books on discount while the other was normal price. The normal priced paranormal romance out sold the discounted books! (Ha). Though that could be attributed to the paranormal genre being a bit more popular than the contemporary last year, I can’t really say. But that’s what it looked like to me.
Anyway, this year I ran the fair from my book page and here are the screenshots.
Fig.1. Africa Online Book Fair: Romance Authors & Books 2018 1 June-2 June
I like how the organic vs. paid is showed. From May 31 organic spiked. Now from the graph for Awareness: People Reached it shows, Total Event Reach was 6,491 and Total Responses was 115. In the future I’d like the responses to be closer to the total of people the event reached.
Fig.2. Africa Online Book Fair: Romance Authors & Books 2018 1 June-2 June
Engagement: People Who Responded show lines for those who were Interested and Going. I have to add here that even though I attended the event, I didn’t click Going. I took this into consideration when I looked at this graph. Clearly the Going part of this graph can and have been influenced by those attending who didn’t change their Interested click to Going.
Fig.3. Africa Online Book Fair: Romance Authors & Books 2018 1 June-2 June
Engagement: Event Actions just illustrate what I wrote above. It also shows that those who attend the event engaged by leaving comments but sometimes not ‘likes’.
Fig.4. Africa Online Book Fair: Romance Authors & Books 2018 1 June-2 June
Audience: Demographics the highest age group is 27, 8% Women aged 24-34 and Men 28, 7% aged 24-34 with the number of women being more than men for attendance. The second age group is 35-44 and the third, 18-24. Close behind the last age group is 45-54 demographic. This is interesting for the planning of future events. Traditionally women do outnumber men at events like this one. But it is still interesting to note that the fair shouldn’t exclude male romance readers/authors.
Now, as someone who didn’t participate in the fair this year as an author but as an organizer and attendee, keeping in mind the above graphs, I have my own insights I’d like to add.
I noticed, and do believe authors should keep this in mind (myself included) is that an online book fair is not a Facebook book party. Yes both use the same social network platform, but there are distinct differences. The online book fair operates in very much the same way as a traditional fair where the author has a “booth” and “table” where they showcase their books and themselves. They engage with those attending, be it their fellow authors or readers.
Where this online fair differs is that authors like readers can “leave” the fair and come back, to engage on posts and catch up with what they missed in that time. The fair also doesn’t require attendees/readers to pay a ticket to enter, it’s free. Authors also don’t pay to have a time slot at the fair. In light of this, authors can and should come back to their posts and reply on those who left a comment. Give them the necessary attention. It will only work in the author’s favor if they do.
Authors who prepared well, as in researched and asked questions on what the book fair was about, and accordingly planned their posts to suit the fair, typically got more engagement. Authors, who set out to engage the attendees by playing games and asking questions, got responses.
Being visually appealing is great, by that I mean, having awesome graphics that signify your brand, is great. Now add warmth, which is difficult for some to do with a screen between themselves and others online. Watch and learn how successful authors at this, do it.
Now for my last observations, and this is definitely from an organizer’s point of view.
Please don’t think you’re above any event. Yes the book fair is still new; this was its second year. And maybe you’ve attended many such events online and physically, but what your experience should translate into is being accommodating, understanding and if you feel needed, adding your knowledge and wisdom politely.
Don’t double book online events. If you can wing both and give each the amount of attention the organizers require, than great. But usually that’s not the case. Plus you’re taking the promotion opportunity away from an author who would give their 100% to the fair and could use its platform.
And don’t be the type of author who uses a free blog tour/promo than bail out at the last minute and leave organizers to scramble to fill a time slot, a day before the event. Needless to say, that won’t endear you to anyone. They will remember you, and not for the reasons you’d like them to. This happened last year.
Now for some positives (smile).
I loved seeing the amount of love and support between most of the authors who participated in the event, the authors who really connected with each other and plan on keeping in touch. These types of connections are one of the aims of the fair. Also authors cross-promoting each other on their platforms, that was great to see. The diversity represented at the fair this year, like last time, also left an impression: diversity in sub-genres of romance as well as racial and cultural diversity amongst authors from the continent.
In conclusion, the book fair did reach a significant amount of people. However, I’d like the responses to be the same as the amount reached. So that’s something we’ll definitely have to work on. Engagement on other social media platforms, leading up to and during the fair could help with this and encouraging participating authors to reach out to readers on their platforms to come to the fair. This year I hadn’t put as much stress on that point.
Authors don’t pay for promotion other than running giveaways, discounts, etc. and committing to an one hour time slot at the fair. Last year, author and blogger Leenna Naidoo, put it nicely, that we are all collaborating by participating in the book fair. Even though the fair is my brainchild, it does rely on authors willing to collaborate.
This year was truly an experience and fun. I got something new out of it. It motivated me as an author to keep on producing stories that are unique to someone with a voice that come from the continent. And also, once again, showed that there are many who share the vision and goals that I do as an author and organizer for the fair. It’s heartwarming and humbling. Once again, thank you to every author who participated and every reader who attended. Hope to see you again at next year’s fair.
For more information about the fair or if you want to participate in 2019 you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also connect with the Africa Online Book Fair: Romance Authors & Books
Facebook Group Page: https://tinyurl.com/ka3ucvl
2018 Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/215209169033746/?ti=cl