It all began last spring when Dick Smith, my cohort on Crossings, and I met with Connie Bradley to pick her brain about how to go about marketing our book that came out April 1. She and illustrator Carol Unser had published their book, Snowball: The Nanny Goose of Sutton Lake, the year before, and we hoped to learn from their experiences.
One of her suggestions was to attend book fairs. Dick woke up in the middle of the night thinking about it and then ran an idea by Director Kevin Rhodes at the Florence Events Center. Connie, Dick, and I met again, and Dick suggested we have our own book fair and that Kevin at the FEC was all for the idea. Kevin would even give us a discounted rate on the rental of two or three rooms on the flat floor.
Dick can be very persuasive. Before the meeting was over, Connie and I had agreed to co-chair the event and figured that we could get the required 20 participants to pay the costs. Connie would run the meetings, and I would take minutes.
We put together a dynamite committee of folks who mostly knew each other but had not worked together before—Siuslaw Public Library Director Steve Skidmore, Port Hole Books & Publishing owner Ellen Traylor, author Jan Jett, and the three of us. At the first meeting we decided to include publishers, have no speakers or panel discussions, and to stick to a one-day format on October 1.
By the next meeting Tara Haley, Community Outreach Manager for the FEC, joined us. We decided we would need at least 30 participants and some sponsors to pay expenses, started developing a list of authors to send letters of invitation, combined various media lists for sending press releases, brainstormed all the ways to advertise, and came up with a name––the Florence Festival of Books.
Over the course of 13 weekly meetings, numerous details were worked out regarding sponsors, applications and other forms, letters of invitation and follow-up information, flyers and posters, and press releases. Whenever something needed to be done, someone volunteered.
The committee handed out or mailed flyers throughout much of the state and passed out posters in Florence, Eugene, and up and down the coast. Committee members spoke on radio and TV and four different press releases were emailed to newspapers and radio and TV stations throughout western Oregon. The word was getting out.
Our hard work paid off. Within a few days of having the application available online, 30 participants signed up, by the next week 46, and by the deadline 61. We had decided that 60 would be our limit because that was the FEC limit on tables. As it turned out, 67 was their actual limit and that’s how many we accepted. We ended up stretching the resources of the FEC by using all five rooms and all the table skirting and vinyl tops and divider curtains available.
Follow up letters with directions were sent as applications came in and reminder letters were sent the week of the event. On October 1, a banner hung above the door of the events center and road signs pointed the way.
By 8 a.m., committee members were there as well as Key Club members from the high school to help arriving authors and publishers unload their books. By 10 a.m. everybody was ready and it looked incredibly professional––like we’d been doing it for years. Between opening and closing at 4 p.m., 356 people came through the door, picked up the complementary bag with our logo, and bought books. It was a huge success with lots of kudos for those who put it on! We’re still astounded.
At our evaluation meeting a few days later, we celebrated with chocolate cake and decided to do it again next year with the same format. Kevin at the FEC was a step ahead of us and had already pegged in a date for next year. So mark your calendars for October 6, 2012, for the 2nd Annual Florence Festival of Books.
Crossings: McCullough’s Coastal Bridges can be yours for $24.95 plus $3.99 shipping. Order from Pacific Publishing at www.connectflorence.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. It is also available on the coast in bookstores, museums, and gift shops; in Eugene at the airport, the historical museum, and several bookstores; and in Portland at Powell’s and the Oregon Historical Society.
Judy’s PowerPoint Presentations:
November 12, 1:30 p.m.––Visitor Center Theater, Hatfield Marine Science Center, Newport (just south of the Yaquina Bay Bridge)
February 19, 3 p.m.––Port Orford Library, Port Orford.