Australian indie author and musician Jessica Bell reports from Athens, Greece, on her great new idea to help indie authors promote their self-published books at public events: the self-published catalogue.
Being an expat author and musician in Athens, Greece, I am not often given the opportunity to attend live literary events. To do so, I need to travel. And that is expensive. So I focus my efforts on reaching readers online, as it’s the most cost-effective and time-efficient promotional tool for me.
But recently, the organizer of a six-day cultural art festival called Art Links here in Athens contacted me about being involved in a couple of events there. I’m going to be a part of a poetry reading and a prose reading. Both events also involve a Q&A panel of authors and an opportunity to hand-sell my products.
Making the Most of Offline Opportunities
I thought to myself, Hand-sell my products? Really? I’m actually going to have the opportunity to talk to potential readers face-to-face and tempt them with my pretty paperbacks and CDs? Finally! I was excited, but then … extremely daunted.
I have a backlist of fifteen books and six albums. I would also have to carry a receipt book with me and be sure to write one up, on the spot, for every purchase (strict laws here). And considering there is likely to be an attendance of 50 – 100 people at each event, that would mean carrying a load of … how many books exactly? And cost me … how much money exactly? Not only that, how would I get them all to the venue? And if I only brought copies of my latest titles, then surely it would be a missed opportunity seeing as an event like this only rocks around in this city once in a very scarce blue moon.
I began to hyperventilate. What the flip am I going to do? How can I be sure potential readers have the opportunity to see everything I have available without breaking the bank and my back?
An Easy Alternative to Boxes of Books
For a moment I wondered about just taking a couple of copies of each book as “display copies” and having an order form, which I could then have people fill out with their PayPal details, etc. That would avoid the cost, the heavy lifting, and the receipt writing. But then I thought, if I was in their position, I would look at the display copies, realize I couldn’t actually take anything home, and not bother.
But that sparked an idea. People want to be able to walk away from events like this with freebies, not spend money. Especially in Greece right now with the economic crisis in full swing. So I thought, what can I give away for free that will also benefit me in the best possible way? A CATALOGUE! Publishers make catalogues of their books, so why shouldn’t an author? One compact attractive booklet that people can take home with them. Perfect!
I’m a hands-on DIY-always kind of author, and so I planned and designed it myself. But if you don’t have those skills, you can always hire a designer to make one for you. There are plenty of us around!
If you want to do something like this yourself, here are a few things to think about:
- Make sure it is representative of your brand. For example, use the same colours, fonts, and pictures you use on your website. You want readers to be able to make that visual connection to you.
- This is a catalogue, so make sure you include more than just a picture of your covers and a blurb. Give readers all possible information they might need, such as ISBNs, retailers your books are available at, genres, release dates, publisher name, etc.
- Be sure to include any relevant weblinks for each separate product. For example, in mine, I added a weblink to a store on my website where I sell autographed copies. For my albums, I added a weblink to my Soundcloud profile where they can listen to my songs for free.
- Be sure to include a Biography page and a Contact & Weblinks You want potential readers to be able to locate you everywhere and anywhere, and to learn more about you if it is the first time they’ve heard of you.
- Include information about other aspects of yourself at the back of the catalogue that are relevant to you as a brand. For example, I included a page about my book cover design services, The Artist Unleashed (a blog feature where I host guest writers), and Vine Leaves Literary Journal.
- The purpose of the catalogue is to sell your books, so be sure to make it visually appealing. Don’t clutter the page. Be sure the placement of all your information is aesthetically pleasing to the eye. You also might like to include review quotes. It’s also important to consider that you actually want people to KEEP the catalogue. If it’s attractive on their coffee table, it won’t end up in the trash.
Choose a trim size and format that is different to your actual books. I think this is important because you want readers to have a different “holding experience” than they do when holding your books. It adds to the excitement of buying something new.
- Don’t just get it printed, upload it to your website for free download too. There may be people who are interested in seeing what you have available, but too lazy or strapped for time to browse your site at the moment of visiting. That way it’s easy to click that download button and come back to it later without having to remember (or bookmark) a URL. I know that I have many bookmarked pages that I’ve forgotten to revisit. Here’s the link to mine for you to see what it looks like in its entirety.
What do you think? Might you consider doing this for your next event? Don’t hesitate to leave a comment here!
“A great new idea to promote your books at events from @msbessiebell via @IndieAuthorALLi: http://selfpublishingadvice.org/catalogue/”