For both conferences I had a budget, but the process for each one was different.
Realm Maker's 2018
I didn't have an advance list of books to buy at Realm Maker's. I just knew I'd probably want to buy books there--it makes for a fun experience to come home with a stack of new reading material.
The Evaporation of Sofi Snow, by Mary Weber
I had actually tried a Mary Weber novel before that wasn't quite my cup of tea and didn't make it all the way through. This was a new series, however, and I wanted to buy one of her books to have her sign it. So it was pretty much an advance decision--the prospect of getting a book personalized. But after I heard Mary speak (and totally became a fangirl) I was even more glad I bought it. Later that month I saw the second book in the series for sale at a discount and bought it. So the chance of meeting her, her personality, and the desire to own the whole series, led to sales. However, it's definitely who she is as an author that led to the Instagram follow, the Facebook follow, and the desire to buy her upcoming novel, To Best the Boys. And that also goes to show that if your first book isn't someone's cup of tea, you can still win their heart later.
Dagger's Sleep, by Tricia Mingerink
I rode down with Tricia Mingerink and some friends to Realm Maker's. I knew she'd published books and people loved them, but I hadn't read any of them yet. So I thought I'd pick one up at Realm Maker's--Dagger's Sleep looked fun because it was a standalone start to a series, and a fairytale retelling of Sleeping Beauty. This book sale was based primarily on being personally acquainted, but I also had several books to choose from, and ended up starting with a new standalone because that seemed like a great way to jump into a new author.
Coiled, by H.L. Burke
This book actually won a purchase from less personalized means: I didn't have a recommendation from anyone prior to picking it up on the book table, but I loved the cover and the Beauty and the Beast vibe of the backstory. Sometimes I take a picture of the cover in those circumstances and save it for later, but this time I was at the conference, I wanted to buy books, and it just looked really cute. The author was there behind the table to explain more about her story--that it was based on an old myth--and ultimately I loved the cover and premise so much that I picked it up to bring it home. This was my most gamble/splurge buy at the conference. So that goes to show that cover and premise are important for grabbing readers.
The Electrical Menagerie, by Mollie E. Reader
I'd seen Mollie's name recommended by a close friend. She loved Mollie's book so much that it was definitely on my buy list, and I loved the sample of her writing on Amazon. When I heard she might sell out, I tracked her down to get a copy before that happened. Mollie's author branding was on point, from freebie character playing cards, to signing her name with a gold pen and a star next to it. Her book delivered on the experience and was hugely worth the money.
Realm Maker Notes:
For probably three out of the four books I looked up samples on Amazon to make sure I liked the writing before buying. I also had a couple of other options that I narrowed down; one didn't look quite as much my cup of tea as I expected, the other I wanted to get but just didn't have the money for and wanted to stay in budget. That last book I didn't have a recommendation on, and ultimately, wanting it didn't weight as heavily against the recommendations I had heard for the other books. When people close to you have read the books, you're likely to pay attention to them yourself.
Incidentally, I was sold on the last book I didn't buy from seeing the author interact on Facebook. Even though I don't have it yet, I hope to someday. This isn't actually an author I know or follow yet--but social media interactions with followers can make sales to non-followers.
True Woman 2018
This conference I came into armed with a book list of releases I wanted to get. Before the main session started, I was down in the vendor hall and down to business. Book buying is a serious thing. ;) With the help of friendly volunteers in yellow aprons, it didn't take long before I had a stack of books and was sitting looking them over before the final purchase.
Book Girl, by Sarah Clarkson
I heard of this book from Joy Clarkson's Twitter account. Joy Clarkson is one of the queens of Twitter, and her charming, warm thoughts make this social media platform a joy to be on. So Joy's personality, mention, and the relatable subject made this a book I wanted to get. When I looked at it, it looked chock full of lovely book lists and totally worth the read.
Reading Well, by Karen Swallow Prior
I don't remember where I saw this book, and hadn't even heard it was coming until I saw it on Twitter. Seriously, I think I've only seen it once or twice, but I immediately popped off to Goodreads to add it to my list because books about books are my cup of tea. I think it may have been a sale tweet from Karen herself (I either follow her or a friend re-tweeted it.) I trust her because I've read another one of her books and an article online which I liked.
Gay Girl, Good God, by Jackie Hill Perry
I think I first heard of Jackie Hill Perry when I saw Nancy Wolgemuth respond to a tweet of hers. I have a high respect for Nancy and who she interacts with, and grew to like Jackie for herself after that. She's honest with her words, has a boldness that shines, and is faithful to the Word. I love a wide variety of people who are solidly grounded in the Word, and I'm not familiar with a lot of Christian hip-hop artists. I liked that unique juxtaposition, and was excited to learn more about her in her book. So it was a tweet from a ministry leader I respected that sold me on her book.
The Gospel Comes With a House Key, by Rosaria Butterfield
I don't remember when I first heard of Rosaria; it was a while ago, though I've never actually read one of her books. A church we respected brought her to the area, and during that time my mom listened to her book on converting to Christianity. The quotes my mom mentioned piqued my interested--I thought they were hard-hitting truths that needed to be shared to help conservative Christians fruitfully share the Gospel with the LGBT sector. Earlier this summer our church newsletter mentioned her latest book The Gospel Comes with a House Key. I found the audiobook for free on Hoopla, loved the beginning, and definitely wanted it in book form. I went to the conference hoping maybe to get it. The price was right at the Crossway booth, and it landed in my shopping bag.
True Woman Notes:
I ended up getting all of the books on my list except two. One wasn't at the conference, and I could get a cheaper, used option since it was an old book. The other I decided that since I had waited this long, I could wait a little longer to keep within budget.
On another note, I had another book on my list that I planned to get, only to realize it wasn't released yet! Moody Publishers has another book coming out called Lies Girls Believe in February 2019. Originally I planned to buy it because it completed the books in the Lies family; but at the conference they handed out sample chapters, and when I read it, I was even more excited about it because it explained a concept that I hadn't thought about before.
If you ever wonder if your social media efforts are worth it, they are! I bought most of these books because I saw them recommended by friends or noticed interactions on Twitter. And a couple of buy links helped alert me to books I wouldn't have been aware of, so that works too. The authors' reputations for knowledge or being an engaging personality in their online conversations made me like them for themselves, so when they mentioned a new book for sale, I was automatically interested in reading it. In the end, I wanted to purchase books at the conferences, and the fact that I either knew the authors, loved them, or respected them from afar helped clinch these specific deals. Recommendations are powerful! If you get your tribe to love you, they'll praise your books to their friends and get more readers who are just fringe observers. But just being yourself sells books too. We receive your labors of love with eager hands.