By Margi Evans
Each March, the literary community in southern Arizona hosts the country’s fourth largest book festival on the University of Arizona campus. Tents are set up and authors, publishers and book stores are invited to come be a part of the food, fun and festivities. Authors are invited to either sign up for the general book signing booth, make presentations or purchase a private booth. I was fortunate to be friends with the owner of a small, independent publishing house who wanted to buy a booth. She invited me to join her booth since my books are compatible with hers and we would fit nicely together in the children’s section.
On March 14th, I flew to Tucson on Southwest in order to take advantage of my husband’s frequent flyer miles and the two free bags. Both suitcases were full of books, though carefully weighed so that I was sure they did not exceed fifty pounds. I stayed with a friend of a friend that is now my friend, too. Expenses, thus far…nothing except 1/4th of the $500 booth fee and purchasing books from the publisher.
Saturday morning, the four authors that were to be in our booth met at 7:00 a.m., found our booth and set it up. I had made my first sale before the 9:30 a.m. official opening. Our booth was on a corner in the children’s section…a great location. But, as the beautiful, hot day wore on, we discovered that the south and west openings in the tent left us sitting ducks for the intense Arizona sun. By the end of the day on Saturday I was nearly sold out of books and suffering from a painful sunburn. I was sorely ill-prepared for both states of affairs. First of all, I am outdoors riding my horses all the time and never get sun-burned. I don’t even own sunscreen! Lesson one learned: bring sunscreen.
Secondly, I had no idea that this event was so enormous. This year, an estimated 135,000 people attended the fair. And I can testify that they were not just browsers. They came to buy books! Lesson two learned: bring more books.
I flew home Sunday evening with two empty suitcases and an invitation to return next year which I gladly accepted. I’m even thinking about taking my horse down with me and spending a few days exploring trails in the area!
Next year’s Tucson Festival of books will be held on March 14th and 15th. If you are interested in learning more about how you might get involved, you can go to their website: tucsonfestivalofbooks.org. If you are thinking you might like to get a booth, I would suggest you join with a few other authors that write for the same or similar audience in order to split the costs and attract more people to your booth.
This was an event that worked out really well for me. Perhaps it would for you as well!