As the founder and one of the organizers of the #AfricaOnBookFair Romance Authors & Books, to say my nerves were fried when the weekend of the fair (2nd of June) arrived, would be an understatement.
The hosting of such an event on Facebook was a first for me, though not participating in one. Being a reader and getting to know authors, is the much preferred role of the two. But I was also extremely excited.
Here was an opportunity to bring people together, for authors to network with each other, for readers to discover new talent and for African romance authors to have another platform to showcase themselves. When you set out to do something like this you should 1) take a lot of deep breaths 2) give yourself room to make mistakes 3) surround yourself with positive people 4) surround yourself with people you can count on 5) check your resources 6) do your research and 8) set out to have fun!
Yep those aren’t very technical things except numbers 5 & 6, but they do help you to keep perspective.
That’s from a hosting perspective of the weekend. Now as an author who also showcased their books for the weekend *smile*
Blog tours and Facebook parties rarely give earth shattering sales. Literary services will tell you that blog tours mainly create exposure and that’s what an author should focus on. Sales that do come from a blog tour are great, but the focus should be connecting with or creating a readership for your book(s).
Now Facebook book parties are a bit tricky, they’ve worked in the past to generate sales. But only when you diligently market your participation in the event. Facebook book parties are not as effective as they used to be. The ‘shine’ has worn off and some literary services don’t recommend having them.
So why did I as an author thought attending a Facebook book event will help me? Why participate in an online book fair? For the simple reason that online book fairs, according to my research, are still at the beginning phase of online book events and authors and those in the publishing industry has caught on that creating a comfortable and accessible space for both readers and publishing professionals seem to be the way forward. Attending an event like this annually creates relationships, networks and consistency that you won’t necessarily find at a Facebook party.
So I had 1hr to put my 4 posts up, and then for roughly a 1hr 30min I got to interact with anyone who responded on my posts. For me the time flew by, I thought the gap between me and the author after me might be too wide, but as the host of the fair *smile* I knew the time had to be allocated to slow down the social media for each author on our networks. That way you won’t have authors infringing on each others time.
As a bit of an experiment I put both my books for Decadent Publishing’s Ubuntu line on sale for the weekend. I offered nothing else. No gift cards, free books, swag, etc. because I wanted to test something. But not just my books. Authors who also write for the line and who took part in the fair, the publisher offered to put their books on sale as well.
I knew that the experiment would be skewed because all of us promoted ourselves differently and one of the Ubuntu line authors pulled out a day before the event started. This would and probably did, affect the results.
I had invited some of my Facebook friends and also used my other networks to spread the word about my slot at the fair. During my hour, I also sent out private messages via Facebook inviting a few friends and reminding others. I posted in my publishers Facebook groups and also tagged DP on twitter. I thought of running an advert on Facebook or Twitter, but since I was hosting 2 out of the 3 days of the fair, I didn’t come around to doing it.
A few days after the fair I emailed my publisher and asked if the fair had in anyway hiked up sales for the Ubuntu line, and me, and she said it did. *smile* I’ll have to wait till my next royalty statement to see exactly by how big a margin.
One thing I’ve learned about online events the same as with physical events like say, a music concert. You have to tell people about it. Where you are going to be at, at what time, with who (if you’re not alone) and what they can expect from you. And not just once or twice, but multiple times before and, if it’s possible, during the event. Goodness, I got so sick of the Justin Bieber adverts promoting his concerts in SA, but I knew exactly where and when it was happening. (Thanks for the earworms after each advert Justin *raises eyebrow*)
So a heavy dose of marketing is definitely part of the plan next year for me as an author.
The experiment was a success, because I wanted to see if an event like this on a 99c book sale, for two of my books and other books of the Ubuntu line could bring in sales. And it did.
And this is the last thing I want to point out as a positive for an event like the Africa Online Book Fair: Romance Authors & Readers.
I’ve made some lasting connections with authors and readers during the fair. I was pleasantly surprised at an attendee (a Facebook friend) who I didn’t think would be interested in a romance authors event, show up with questions and engaging right up till my time was up. I got another writing buddy; I’m keen to hook up with. And as an organizer of the fair, two romance publishers already offered support us for next year.
I’ve already thanked the guest authors for the weekend via email, as well as my co-host Kathy Bosman, but I’d like to say another thank you. Without you the fair wouldn’t have been possible.
Link to the Africa Online Book Fair: https://web.facebook.com/groups/137410896799580/