The 2017 New Zealand Book Festival is done and dusted, and the lessons learnt tucked away for the next event. There are always lessons to be learnt after every event, after every author appearance and talk.

Firstly I must congratulate the organisers for the incredibly helpful emails they sent out in the months and weeks leading up to the festival. The emails gave tips on stand presentation and marketing and all things book festival related. All useful.

A big shout out to Panic PR, who were brought on late in the piece but did an amazing job. If ever you needed an example of PR done well, look no further than the job Priscilla Southcombe from Panic PR did for the NZ Book Festival. She is a miracle worker!

I'd been asked to speak about marketing at the Festival's Gala Night. I'm normally quite confident when speaking to groups or on a stage, but this time I was speaking after the fantastic children's author Stu Duval, and the best selling historical fiction author Deborah Challinor. That's when the imposter syndrome kicked in! How was I meant to follow those two?!

Fortunately a deep breath, and a dozen or so balloons carried me through, and that's the truth. I had a handful of balloons I'd blown up and had written on each of them the various marketing tools I use as an author - Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+, Blog, Website, Word Of Mouth, Goodreads, Amazon Author Page. And I talked to each of those balloons. We had an interactive crowd at the Gala Night, and they made it easy by asking plenty of questions. Whew!

Stand Preparation

Cue Saturday morning, and the set up for the NZ Book Festival began. It really began days before as I prepped my marketing material, gathered my books together, arranged cash for a float, and drilled and sawed and put together a room divider. Thanks to our family antique store Antique Alley, I have access to any number of delicious props! They hire things out for this sort of thing all the time!

Thanks to the assistance from my fellow author Andrene Low, my stand looked spectacular. And thanks to the numerous helpful emails and advice from the NZ Book Festival organisers, all the other stands looked superb too. The Mt Eden War Memorial Hall looked amazing this year. The helium balloons from the Kids Zone gave it a festive feel and helped the visitors locate their desired genre by colour coding us all.

Room divider

And the lessons learnt this year? It's still promote, promote, promote. If all the exhibitors promoted across all the available social media platforms, we could have reached infinitely more potential readers. As it was, the hall held its buzz the whole day, and not once did it feel that the flow of customers had slowed, but still more can be done. Indie authors have to dip more than their toes into the social media ocean and learn to swim!

Next time I'm planning to simplify my stand even further. I'll add another panel to the room divider and insert my marketing material into the antique frames, that way any pull up banner or corflute board signage won't be a waste of money by becoming outdated. I can just swap artwork in and out of the frames, a perfect solution. So often I see authors with beautiful pull up banners, which become outdated as soon as they publish another book. Author Zee Southcombe has it sorted by just having her name and genre on her pull up banner. A good point for other authors to consider.

The goodie bags on offer to the first one hundred visitors to the NZ Book Festival were a huge drawcard, and as an author I'm grateful to the sponsors who donated items to the bags - books, Neds Coffee, Lush bath bombs and lip tints, tea towels, Whittakers chocolate, and plenty of book swag. As authors, we all had an opportunity to add our marketing material to the goodie bags. And so I did. Not to every bag, but next year I will ensure I have enough postcards to add to every goodie bag.

I was lucky to meet many of the same visitors who came last year and the year before. For me, that was the best part of the festival, selling books to readers who had already read my work and wanted the next book. A definite highlight and one I won't forget. 

So, lessons learnt?

Books - arrange for books to arrive in plenty of time. I won't go into the dramas I had with NZ Post, but at the end of the festival I only had two copies of Painted left. So the box of books which weren't delivered weren't needed, this time. Highly stressful. Give yourself plenty of time to order and to take delivery of the books you order!

Kirsten and Andrene Low

Marketing - meaningful and often and share the load with other authors. Piggyback on each other. You aren't competitors, so it's okay to help each other! 

Promotional material - print more than you think you need, that way you won't be afraid to hand them out like candy.

Stand - keep the stand simple for ease of set up and pack down. My suitcases are brilliant for this. And my folding card table means there is no need to hire a trestle table. Scour your local second hand shop for one.

Physical - I choose to stand for the whole festival - this makes it easier to engage with potential readers by making eye contact as I'm not sitting there reading on my kindle or playing on my phone. Yes, by the end of the day I was dying to sit down, but I didn't, and that shows in my sale statistics. Engage, engage, engage. Make it easy for people to talk to you about your books.

The NZ Book Festival is getting bigger and better every year, and I can't wait for next year. My sincere thanks to the organisers for all their efforts.