For the First Time Ever an Alliance of Indie Authors Showcased their Self-Published Books at the Texas Book Festival in Austin in October 2012

by Karen Jonson

Over 20 Independent Texas-based Authors Gained the Opportunity to Promote Their Books, Meet Readers, and Sell Books — Thanks to the New “Texas Indie Authors” Collective

Karen Jonson holding up "Sex, Lies, and Two Hindu Gurus"

Proudly holding up my self-published book, “Sex, Lies, and Two Hindu Gurus,” at my first-ever public event.

Just after I launched my new memoir on Amazon as a print-on-demand paperback and a Kindle ebook in late September, a friend emailed me about his new self-published book. “If my book is ready, I am going to share a booth at the Texas Book Festival with Texas Indie Authors.” Dave Piper’s new book, Church of the God Particle, and my book, Sex, Lies, and Two Hindu Gurus, traveled a similar timetable to reach publication on Amazon.

He said, “If you are interested in participating in the Texas Book Festival, I’ll introduce you to the coordinator of the indie author booth, Sue Donahoe.”

I said I was, but didn’t know how to get affordable copies of my book.

He said, “Authors can order books at reduced prices on CreateSpace.” Bingo!

Sue Donahoe selling books in the Texas Indie Authors booth.

Sue Donahoe selling books in the Texas Indie Authors booth.

I had no idea. I hadn’t had time to explore all the features and functionality of CreateSpace.

I asked for the introduction to Sue.

That fateful encounter resulted in one of the most educational and exhilarating experience a new indie author could hope for.

The Texas Book Festival is Like a Rock Concert for Book Lovers

For those who are not from Austin, the Texas Book Festival is an amazing annual event held every Fall for two days in and around the Texas Capitol building and grounds. Here is the description from the organization’s website:

“The Texas Book Festival celebrates authors and their contributions to the culture of literacy, ideas, and imagination. The Texas Book Festival was established in 1995 by First Lady Laura Bush, a former librarian and an ardent advocate of literacy. Mrs. Bush created a task force to plan the book festival to honor Texas authors, promote the joys of reading, and serve to benefit the state’s public libraries. The first Festival took place at the Capitol in November 1996; the Festival has quickly evolved into one of the premier literary events in the country, annually hosting over 200 Texas and nationally known authors. More than 40,000 visitors participate annually in a weekend of author readings and presentations, panel discussions, book signings, and musical entertainment at the State Capitol in Austin.”

Zach Turner at Texas Book Festival

Zach Turner, author of “Visions,” a sci-fi novel, with his book at the Texas Indie Authors booth.

The event is nirvana for book lovers. Austin is known internationally for its live music. However, the weekend of the Book Festival is like a mega-rock concert for people who love books and love to listen to authors speak.

From a self-published author’s perspective, the Festival does not offer a lot of opportunity. There is no official avenue to join the slate of traditionally published authors. However, things have started to change, because some entrepreneurial indie authors have taken matters into their own hands — and rented booths to sell their books and meet potential readers — like Sue Donahoe!

Ingenuity and Determination Helps Indie Authors Promote Their Books at the Texas Book Festival

Yolanda Baker at Texas Indie Authors booth

Yolanda Baker, author of “BITE Your Bills: Cutting Medical Expenses for the Disabled.”

Sue was determined to sell her book at the Festival this year. When she realized that she would not be invited to speak at the Festival about her self-published book, Never Heard Of ‘Em: Austin’s Music Explosion, 1994 – 2000, she rented a booth. Almost immediately she started meeting other self-published authors who wanted to join her. The first author was Yolanda Baker, who wrote BITE Your Bills: Cutting Medical Expenses for the Disabled. Yolanda became Sue’s right-arm, as they worked to get the booth off the ground and promote it.

Sue didn’t turn away any indie authors, and by the first day of the Festival, 23 self-published authors’ books were stacked on the booth’s two tables. The books covered a wide spectrum of genres, from fiction to non-fiction, memoir to poetry, and science to history. Sue’s commitment to promote books didn’t stop there. She actively and enthusiastically helped sell the other authors’ books for the entire two days.

J. Patrick Rick at Texas Book Festival

J. Patrick Rick, author of “The Abbey & Me: Renegades, Rednecks, Real Estate & Religion.”

Sue comes by her indie chops honestly. In the 1990s, she and her husband ran a music story on Fifth Street in downtown Austin, called Local Flavor, dedicated to local indie musicians. The store gave the local musicians a first-ever venue to sell their music and build a fan base. Her book documents this experience.

“Just as the music scene changed in the 1990s and gave indie musicians an opportunity to make and sell their music, book publishing world has changed significantly in the past few years,” Sue said. “Now, authors who can’t or don’t want to publish traditionally, have the opportunity to publish independently, sell their books, and build readership. I’m hoping that by giving indie authors the opportunity to appear at Texas’s leading annual book event, they will gain greater exposure and expand their business opportunities.”

Meeting Potential Readers Was Like a Focus Group Session

HR Stokes III

HR Stokes III, author of “Crazy: A Memoir” (right with sister and friend).

Most of the authors who manned the Texas Indie Authors booth at some point during the event, said they loved the opportunity to meet and talk to potential readers. I manned the booth for about two hours each day. I spoke with many people interested in my book. I have a difficult story about my experience living in and getting out of a cult. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But by talking to people one-on-one I was able to discover what comments got their attention. I can use this insight as I move forward with my book marketing plan.

I sold one book directly to a psychiatrist. This was interesting, because just two days earlier I had given my first talk to a group of graduate students at the University of Texas. The professor said that he thinks my book will be one of the most important books about life inside of a cult. Since then I’ve been thinking that one of the best markets for my book is likely academia (more on this in a future blog post).

Deanna Roy at Texas Book Festival

Deanna Roy (with Sue), author of “Baby Dust.”

Asked about the results of our indie author booth, Sue said: “It was a great success! The Book Festival experiment was an opportunity and adventure for our newly formed collective of self-published authors. We actually made a profit over the cost of our booth, a rare result for the first marketing event of any product. The authors’ energy and enthusiasm was electric and well received by booth visitors. I am certain that Texas Indie Authors will grow throughout the year and will be back with an even stronger presentation in 2013.”

The general conclusion of our new collective of indie authors regarding the Texas Book Festival is, We will be back! What’s more, many of us are going to stay in touch and meet regularly from now on. We’ll be a support group to help each other find innovate and effective ways to get our books discovered, purchased, and read.

Mark Fennell at the Texas Book Festival

Mark Fennell, author of several books, including “Solar Power Technologies Explained Simply.”

Yolanda Baker was the first author to join Sue’s booth with her book, BITE Your Bills: Cutting Medical Expenses for the Disabled. “I am so happy I met all so many wonderful indie authors at the Texas Book Festival.”

J. Patrick Rick, author of The Abbey & Me: Renegades, Rednecks, Real Estate & Religion, said, “My experience during the 2012 Texas Book Festival in Austin proved there is no substitute for an author in-person. There is a magic tangible exchange between the writer and a reader when a book is signed followed by a handshake. The encounter has lasting value for all.”

HR Stokes III, author of Crazy: A Memoir, said, “I was thrilled to be part of the exhibit/Book Festival as a whole. Great exposure. I’m looking forward to next year!!

Deanna Roy, author of Baby Dust, said, “My main reason for attending the festival was to spend the day with other authors. And I did that in spades! I met several fabulous indie authors who I never would have known about otherwise.”

Mark Fennell, author of Solar Power Technologies Explained Simply and Wind Power Technologies Explained Simply, said, “I enjoyed talking with lots of people. I had great conversations with books and about energy with many customers.”

Zach Turner, author of Visions, said, “Sue did a great job of bringing all these great authors together in one place. I’ve learned so much just talking briefly with other authors that are going through the exact battle I am. They are savvy and motivated. I don’t know what was more helpful to me, being in the Book Festival or just being a part of a collective promotion effort. Either way, I hope to continue the relationships and represent at next year’s Festival as well.”

For more information on the new Texas Indie Authors group, visit www.texasindieauthors.com, Texas Indie Authors on Facebook, and “Texas Indie Authors” on Twitter.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

HR Stokes III November 7, 2012 at 11:18 am

Karen, Great job! I am honored to be part of this. SS

Reply

Karen Jonson November 7, 2012 at 12:22 pm

Thank you Sandy.

It was great to meet you and have our books be neighbors :).

Karen

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Yolanda Baker November 7, 2012 at 12:34 pm

Karen,

Good times at the festival! Here’s to a better future festival!

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Karen Jonson November 7, 2012 at 12:54 pm

Hi Yolanda,

I agree — I’m looking forward to our future!

See you Friday.

Karen

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masonxhamilton November 10, 2012 at 11:14 am

Unless I mentioned there is no accounting of the actual number of books sold at the fair in the article. Without numbers the event and the article are pretty much meaningless.

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Karen Jonson November 12, 2012 at 11:58 am

Hi Mason,

I don’t agree at all with your perspective on immediate sales as the only measurement of success — and I know most of the authors who participated in this experimental project would not either. There are many more benefits from a single experience than just selling books. While that is of course the ultimate goal, you have to plant a lot of seeds to get there.

The feedback I heard from authors is that it was wonderful to meet potential readers face-to-face and hear their thoughts and see what captured their attention. For some of us, it was a first time event of this nature — and I gained immensely from the experience. While I only sold one book at the event, I met many potential readers who asked me some very good questions and I handed out cards to those who said they wanted to purchase the ebook instead of a paperback.

The psychiatrist who purchased my book wants to meet and discuss it. I expect I will learn a lot from the experience — including finding ways to market to other people in the mental health field.

Over all, I felt like the experience helped me understand how to fine tune my book’s marketing message.

Best,
Karen

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Sidney November 11, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Am I understanding correctly that participating as a vendor at the Texas Book Festival is only open to Texas indie authors (and nationally know authors)?

Minnesota indie author

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Karen Jonson November 12, 2012 at 11:52 am

Hi Sidney,

That is not correct. Authors and vendors from all over the country participate in this event.

I think it started as a “Texas” author event, but quickly expanded to include authors from everywhere.

Our indie author group right now is just authors from Austin (and a couple of other Texas towns) — so that’s kind of our “angle.”

Individual or other groups of author could just as easily participate.

Best
Karen

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James Rada, Jr. November 12, 2012 at 4:50 am

Congrats on the success of the venture. You might want to check out SPAN (Small Press Association of North America). They do presentations at festivals like this all over the country for small press and indie publishers.

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Karen Jonson November 12, 2012 at 11:49 am

Hi James,

Thank you!

I will definitely check out SPAN.

Thanks for the tip!!

Best
Karen

Reply

Steve Theme November 13, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Clearly there are many benefits to attending an event like this besides sales, but I would like to see sales numbers. Publishing is a business, and of course businesses run on revenue. It’s unfortunate there are no sales numbers to help others decide if they may want to participate in this or other similar events.

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Karen Jonson November 13, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Steve,

The woman who spearheaded the event has not reported sales yet, since it just happened less than two weeks ago and she was fried afterwards and need a break and time to tally the figures.

However, I would hope that authors wouldn’t make a yes or no decision based on my one single blog post. I was merely sharing my experience, not making a case for book festivals. Every event and every author is unique, and so decisions have to be made on an individual basis.

Thank you for reading and adding to the conversation on this topic. It’s always great to have a dialogue and explore all the ins and outs, and ups and downs. We are all learning.

Best,
Karen

Reply

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