The crowds numbered in the hundreds and I sold 41 books. Am I a big-name author at a Barnes & Noble? Hardly—not even close. I am a sometimes-known author who was in a booth at an annual 4th of July celebration in small-town Iowa.
What I have come to discover, as an author who likes to see readers buy and (hopefully) enjoy my books, is that the best sales happen out in the marketplace.
So where is the marketplace? Any public venue where you can rent a spot, set up a table, and offer your stories to a group that may never have heard of your book.
And for most of us authors, we must consider the reality: Why would many readers know about our intricately woven plots, carefully crafted characters, and astutely edited volumes when Amazon has over 8 million books available to choose from? Even if your book is featured in stores across the country, does that assure sales? I presume we all know the answer to that question.
Most of us depend on Facebook and Twitter to promote our releases. But in this day and age of social media, many of us tend to forget the importance of face-to-face interaction.
I’ll never forget the words of a bookstore owner in a metropolitan area who had a best-selling author show up for a book signing. Only a handful of readers came in. This author told him that her favorite book signings were in small towns where folks appreciated the effort of an author coming out to meet them and sign books for them or a loved one.
That tells me something right there. And in my somewhat limited experience of three years marketing my books, I’ve learned that the marketplace is where the buyers are, whether it’s a 4th of July event, a craft fair, or a Holiday festival where vendors can set up their wares.
If you decide to try this, here are a few tips to hopefully help you be successful:
Get a business and/or sales license: Every state has individual laws about such requirements. Check with yours and carry the necessary paperwork. And have a receipt book for sales for your own records for taxes.
Include tax in the price of the book: Unless you want to be dealing with lots of change for cash sales, try to keep your transactions simple. It’s a lot easier to charge $10 for a book than $10.60. Just figure your tax accordingly.
Get a device that accepts credit cards: My sales have increased dramatically since getting the Square App for my smart phone. In my latest venue, I sold 16 books that I might not have sold otherwise. I use the Square although I believe there are other devices available. The fee per sale is minimal and, I think, well worth it.
Make your table shine: Find a theme and flaunt it. Your table is one of dozens, perhaps hundreds. Draw the shoppers’ eyes to yours. Color co-ordinate your clothing with your booth. J
Get bookmarks and bring lots of them: Make sure your book cover is highly visible on these, as well as a brief synopsis of your book. Use bookmarks as an ice-breaker for passers-by. “Do you enjoy reading?” is a good ice-breaker. “Would you like a free bookmark?” Offer one to potential customers with a smile on your face. If they stop, and seem interested, have a prepared pitch to draw them in further. If they move on, say something nice. If they start picking up your book to look at it, say a few more words—but don’t overwhelm them. If every child in a family asks for a bookmark, be gracious and let them each have one. The cost is well worth your public persona of kindness.
Tell them where else they can purchase your book: Even if they don’t buy at your booth, tell them it’s available on Amazon or the bookstores where they can purchase it. Many readers prefer reading from an e-reader and are delighted to find yours can be purchased in that format.
Put your snooty attitude in your back pocket and sit on it: Some of the visitors to your table may not seem like they have a clean shirt to their name. They may not even seem literate. Be kind and treat others, as you would have others treat you.
Keep your booth neat: Only keep a few copies of each book out on your table. Replace from your supply as needed. If there are dozens of your books out, it will look like they are not selling.
Be knowledgeable of the book industry: Folks may be surprised that an author is selling his or her own novels. You can tell them John Grisham used to sell his books out of his car trunk. Tell them how many books are in the market now and why authors need to promote their own words. Tell them you’re not famous and may never be. But tell them why your book is worth reading and why they may like it. Be excited and friendly. They may just buy it.