Books by Melissa Bowersock

Sunday, September 25, 2016

How to Work Book Festivals

 I used to live in Tucson, Arizona, where they started a new Book Festival back in 2009. That first year, there were over 50,000 attendees, and by the third year that number had jumped to 100,000. Quite quickly, the Tucson Festival of Books was rated in the top 5 book festivals in the country. I attended every TFOB until I moved out of the area, and it was gratifying to see so many people excited about books and reading. But being used to smaller events in book stores and libraries, I quickly realized that a book festival of this magnitude was a completely different animal, and there was a lot to learn. Every year I did things a little differently, and every year I had a more successful time.

The Nature of the Beast
At first glance, you might see a number of 50,000 or 100,000 potential readers and think, “Jackpot!” Yes, it’s true, there’re a lot of potential sales out there, but what I quickly learned is there is also (1) a lot of real estate these readers expect to cover and (2) a lot of other authors out there crying for attention. The problem with a venue like this is that there is a veritable river of readers rushing like a torrent down the alleyways between tents. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to get that river to STOP at your tent, or at the very least, pull out a few stray readers with whom you can converse.
Easier said than done.
Festivals like these always have vendor and sponsor tents. If you write in a single genre, you might try to get a spot in the Mystery Tent, or the Romance Tent, or see if you can get a book store, local business or publisher to make room for you in their tent. This way you may be able to narrow your audience and not have that thundering river to contend with. Check with your regional book festival for a list of sponsors and how to connect with them. I write across multiple genres, so that wasn’t a good fit for me, and I always bought space in a generic Authors’ Pavilion where I was not pigeonholed.
Okay, so you’ve got your territory staked out. What’s next?
Don’t sit behind your table and expect readers to approach you. They won’t. I saw one woman sit behind her stack of books, head down, eyes averted and ― as she was probably expecting ― everyone streamed right on by. Stand up so you’re on the same eye level with them. Smile. Make eye contact. Say hello. Offer freebies. I give out free bookmarks and free business card-sized magnets with my book covers on them. However, don’t just lay your freebies on the table; actively hand them to people. Many people are afraid to pick things up, not sure if they are free or not, and if they don’t take one, you’ve just lost an opportunity. While not everyone will take the freebies you offer, at least they will slow down for a sec, and if one of your books catches their eye, they’ll stop.
Speaking of catching eyes, have something designed to do just that. I learned to have a poster large enough to read from a middle distance with a catchy or thought-provoking question or statement. It has to be short so people can read it quickly within the two to three seconds their eyes are roving my space. One year I was promoting my non-fiction, the biography of an Army nurse and prisoner-of-war, and I had a poster asking, “Could YOU survive a prisoner-of-war camp?” Another year I was promoting a novel about reincarnation and my poster read, “Have YOU lived before?” Ask the question or gear the statement toward the reader, drawing them personally into the implied discussion.
Once they’ve stopped, engage them in cheerful, non-pushy conversation. Do not pounce on them with, “Buy my book!” One year I shared a table with a man who practically leaped over the table and button-holed anyone who even looked sideways at his book. He would shove the book in their faces, reeling off his spiel and not even noticing the deer-in-the-headlights look on their faces or the speed with which they would skitter away at the first chance. When I was selling books and he wasn’t, he was completely dumbfounded. He had no idea that he was actually driving readers away.
Remember to have fun. In my last appearance, I had people constantly at my table, and I was so caught up in our conversations that I wasn’t even paying attention to the books I sold. After all was said and done, I realized I’d been selling a book every 20 minutes on average.
Finally, don’t look at this as a huge selling event. It probably won’t be. Look at it as a PR event where you can meet people and get your name out there. Very often attendees won’t even try to make a buying decision; they just have too much ground to cover, too many things to see and do. Instead, think of this as a Halloween of sorts for readers. When they get home with all their free loot, then they’ll sit down and go through the book marks and business cards and whatnot, and when they find yours, they’ll think about that nice lady (or man) and that interesting-looking book. They’ll remember your demeanor, your generosity, your cheerful conversation, and they’ll think, “Yeah … I’m going to go order that book.”
Things to Do
  • Stand up
  • Make eye contact
  • Smile
  • Hand out freebies
  • Have a poster with a catchy question or statement
  • Don’t hard-sell; be friendly
Things to Have
  • Bookmarks
  • Magnets or other freebies (candy is also good)
  • Business cards
  • Poster
  • Payment sign (how much your books are, special discounts, etc. Also types of payment you accept)
  • Pens
  • Receipts (if requested)
  • Change for cash
Originally published by Indies Unlimited on September 2, 2014.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Birthday Sale -- A Blast to the Past!

September is my birth month and I always like to give presents to YOU, my readers. And, because most of us tend to hark back to our past on our birthdays (some more than others), I decided this would be an excellent time to put my time travel novels on sale. Not quite the same as stepping into a time machine and going back to our 20s, 30s or even 40s, but a fun ride nonetheless. Here's the deal.

From now until September 25, 2016, both books of my time travel series No Time for Travis will be on sale for just 99 cents. That's a $4.00 savings per book. I believe these are my best books to date, and if you like time travel, I'm pretty sure you'll love these! 

Finding Travis: Travis Merrill’s life isn’t going according to plan. He’s quit several career paths, his wife has left him, and his only solace is volunteering to portray a cavalry surgeon at historic Fort Verde in Arizona, a place where time seems to stand still. When a weird trick of time actually sends him back to the year 1877, he’s boxed into impersonating the post surgeon for real. Unfortunately, he finds his medical knowledge is no match for the primitive practices of the day, and he’s forced to make life or death decisions, not always successfully. He wonders if he will ever be able to return to his own time, or if he might find a life—and a love—140 years in the past.

Being Travis: Two years ago, a weird trick of time sent Travis Merrill spiraling from 2016 to the year 1877. Committed now to his life in frontier Arizona, Travis is married with a child on the way and is homesteading a ranch. His knowledge of the future, however, keeps him at odds with his neighbors, his friends… and his wife. He finds it more and more difficult to protect his home without alienating his family, yet he can’t ignore what he knows isand will betrue.

Scoop up both of these novels for just 99 cents each and take a trip back in time to frontier Arizona. You'll find humor, drama, romance and adventure. Perfect reading for a cool fall evening. I guarantee it!  

Monday, August 22, 2016

Author Interview: Robert Redding

Continuing my little jaunt around my home state of Arizona, I am now in Chino Valley to interview my good buddy Robert Redding. Robert is clearly a Renaissance man, interested in so many different topics that it would take a full page just to list them. He brings that eclectic interest and passion to his writing, as well, and I would be hard-pressed to pigeonhole him in any particular genre. So far he has released two books, Over the Road: 37 Years of True Truckin’ Adventures and Mutual Funds Are Cheating You!  Let’s start there and see where it leads us.

MJB: Robert, I am going out on a limb here and just guessing that your 37 years as a truck driver provided you with more stories than you could ever put down on paper. Can you give us a quick peek at one or two of them?

RR: Of course, Melissa…happy to.  The book is filled with crashes and breakdowns, junkies and prostitutes, steep hills and problems with police. My favorite story is “Granddad.”  It is about a trucker hauling steel in Ohio.  He was caught in a blizzard, forced off the road, and buried in a snowdrift.  It was the Blizzard of 1998 that killed 51 people.

Five days later his son, on a snowmobile, came looking for him.  The buried highway showed no sign of his truck.  He was on a huge snow berm, looking over waves of drifts that marched to the horizon.  He realized that it was too late, his father was dead.  Dropping his head in grief, his tears fell at his feet.  Then he saw the top 3 inches of a CB radio antenna poking up out of the snow.

MJB: When did you decide to write the stories you witnessed? Did you keep notes as you drove and plan to write a book “someday,” or did it all wait until you were done with trucking and then you knew you had to write them all down?

RR: Yes, I wrote up my trucking stories as they happened.  When I retired I finished them off and put them on Amazon. 

The first story I ever wrote was about the Death Road which runs from La Paz into the Amazon basin in South America.  This road is the food lifeline to the ancient silver town.  During a weekend some friends and I were on the road.  Overnight, a massive rain storm hit.  A bridge and a hundred yards of road disappeared into the valley below.  This trapped hundreds of people, and dozens of vehicles on the dangerous and precipitous lane.  It was the height of the rainy season and repairs would take a month.  After that I became addicted to writing out my adventures, which were mostly overseas travel stories. 

MJB: And now for something completely different… mutual funds. What background and experience do you have in the financial world? And what compelled you to write about this? (Keep in mind that I am not—and maybe some of my readers are not—a financial whiz, so please keep it simple.)

RR:  My own study led to the discovery of our hard wired psychological traits that prevent most people from making money in the market.  Inevitably it seems we are programmed to buy high, and sell low.  The pain of losses is so high, that we hold onto bad investments, even though we should dump them as soon as they start to fade.  For instance, if you were to buy ten stocks, you would find that three start to lose money, four stay the same, and three start to gain in value.  It sounds crazy, I know, but what most people will do is take profits and sell the gainers, and hold onto the losers until they spiral down, and then sell at the nadir.   The truth is that every generation helplessly makes the same mistakes over and over again.  We rarely learn from our past.

Almost all of us have money in mutual funds.  It is considered to be the smart way to save for retirement, and it is if done right.  It is really very simple.  The key is decades and decades of compounding interest.  So, very early in life, buy into a mutual fund that holds blue chip stocks, and continue to invest every month.  Forget day trading, forget penny stocks, forget currency trading, forget buying gold…and especially forget buying and selling.  Buying into a blue chip index fund is investing, everything else is gambling.

MJB: I know you’re also interested in things like astrology, UFOs, symbolism and crop circles, just to name a few. Is there any one topic that pulls you more than the others, or do you find yourself jumping from one to another constantly? Which topic appeals to you the most, and why?

RR: I have always been interested in crop circles and astrology. In 2012 I flew to England and took a tour of the crop circles.  This adventure lead to a book called “Autobiography of An Alien”.  The interesting idea here is that crop circles are made by humans, but not all of them….and the difference is easily seen.

I started studying astrology in 1973 and found that I was quite fascinated with it.  I studied it for a very simple reason. If astrology was everything they said it was, then everybody should be studying it, as it gave paranormal powers. I did charts for a number of years, but soon became fascinated with astrological symbols…their source, their original meaning, and how they have evolved into what they are today.  For example, Christmas is full of symbols that we have forgotten the meaning of. 

Besides my other subjects I have discovered an interest in the Symbolism of Geometric Forms and Polarity and Duality.  Of course these are deadly dull subjects to most people.  Lately I have been asking everybody if they have seen a ghost, or a UFO, and writing out their stories.  That is kind of fun.

MJB: So far all your writing has been non-fiction. Do you think there might ever be a novel mixed in there somewhere? If so, what might it be about? 

RR: I started a novel.  I have the first chapter.  A teenager, just out of high school, starts on a cross country bicycle trip.  He arrives in Boston during a rainstorm and takes refuge in a church.  There he interrupts a church council meeting.  The Pastor allows the kid to dry out at his home.  They start talking and the kid spends the night.  The Pastor, who has just lost his wife, knows it is time for a change in his life.  He has a lot of money and is going to retire from the church.  This is what he knows.  He can go anyplace he wants, and do anything he wants.  He has complete freedom to do what he wants.  He invites the teenager along as a travel companion. 


MJB: Do you read as many far-reaching topics as you write? What books have really grabbed you? What authors have inspired you?

RR: Like most writers I’ve read hundreds of books. This is the how I see the writing process. A kitchen chief has basic ingredients all around him. But his skill comes in the re-combination of these ingredients into a fashionable new recipe. In the same way I take the ideas in these books and combine then into the newest cutting edge speculations. Because there is nothing new under the sun, the skill comes in the re-combination of these ancient concepts to provide a unique, and purely personal, perspective. After all, there is no progress without speculation.

My favorite fiction author is Somerset Maugham, a great story teller. I’m not much into fiction these days….I did that years ago. My favorite contemporary author is Colin Wilson.  I have always had an interest in the paranormal, and this author explains it well.

MJB: I noticed on your Amazon Author Page that you’re working on a book called The Symbolism of Salt, the Essential Element. Were you aware that there is a prehistoric salt mine nearby in Camp Verde? That for the Indians there around 1000AD, making a pilgrimage to the salt mine was a spiritual journey?  

RR: That’s right. Of course, we have to have salt to live.  In past times, salt was so scarce it was as valuable as gold.  Salt was also sacred because it preserved foods.   Most people know the word salary comes from salt.  Also, the main reason that the Erie Canal was built, was to bring salt from depositions near Buffalo to New York City. 

MJB: And I see you’re also working on a book called The Mystical Symbolism of the Christian Fish. How far back did you find evidence for the spiritual meaning of the fish? I’m pretty sure it predates Christianity.

RR: Because of my interest in astrology, I wrote a paper on the “Symbolism of Astrological Animals.”  This led to a book called “The Mystical Symbolism of the Christian Fish.”
In pagan times, the fish, because of its abundance and diversity, was a symbol of fertility and prosperous healthy living.  Fish were considered to be messengers from the Gods which dwelt in the Great Oceans, the source of all life.  At first used by the early Christians, it was later replaced with the cross as the symbol of Christianity.  The reason….the church fathers wanted to excise all pagan symbols from the Church.

MJB: Robert, thanks for taking some time out of your busy schedule to chat. I have a feeling you are never at a loss for things to do, read, write! Now, if people want to find out more and/or connect with you, how can they do that? 

RR: I have to admit that I am really a tech dinosaur   I have no idea what I would do with a Twitter account and never spend time on Facebook.  Here are some websites that I am on.

Amazon Author Page