Like many authors, I used to hate selling but a few easy techniques have made me love it and have fun. This can happen to you too, once you’ve mastered the moves that clinch a sale when your real book meets a live customer. Last Sunday copies of my new paperback flew out the door with almost one-third of the traffic that shopped at Ottawa’s Perfect Books bookstore between 1 and 3 p.m. (20 loners or couples, six books sold.) Here’s my advice; I hope it works just as well for you:
- Prepare for your event with a phone call, follow-up visit to the store and a query just before you come. By the time you get there, you will know the easiest way to drop off your books and the best place to park your car. The owner will have consignment copies of your book on the shelves, posters in the window and a table and chair for you to use. Get there early enough to hang up your coat in the back room and set up your display before you start work.
- Begin by making eye contact with the first customer you see. A man held the door open for me and my big box, I thanked him and had sold a copy of my book even before my coat was off! More often, I watched a customer enter the store from a few feet away, while I stood (not sat) at my table in the line of view in a conspicuous spot.
- Greet the customer or nod immediately with a friendly smile, before they turn away to browse among the shelves or address the cashier. If they come closer to you —
- In an inviting, confident manner hold out your book towards them slightly and say, “This is my new book I am introducing today. Will you take a moment to find out about it?” Most say they will. Your next steps depend on your unique book. I plunge in and tell them the subtitle is ‘A true love story from over the ocean and in the bush after WW1’. I point to my name and say “I’m Margaret”, point to the title word ‘Kathleen’ and say “This is my mother” and let them look at the picture, which explains the title word ‘cariole’ (a fancy toboggan).
- Pause. By now, the customer is probably ready to talk to you or ask a question. Be prepared to carry the conversation wherever it may go in order to find common ground in fact or feeling between you two and your book.
- Remember the time-honored way of buying books is by browsing and taking time to decide. If the customer says nothing, hand them the book with the back cover turned up and say, “Here”, so they can take their time reading the blurb and quotes from reviews. (My new paperback had already been reviewed in its parallel life as an e-book).
- Have a sample copy you don’t mind having fingerprinted by people who’ve been eating a hot dog. Make a written note if it is taken off wandering around the store so you don’t lose count.
- Be aware of any other customers who have been eavesdropping on your conversation while they are browsing and make eye contact with them too.
- Have an attractive display on your table so it can engage customers on its own. When you are busy talking to someone, stand free of your table so others can look at it. Ingredients of my theme and information display are (1) Tablecloth and decorations in seasonal colors (2) Framed rave review (3) Framed announcement of the day’s event and price (4) Paper scroll of key words (5) Copies of book (6) Signing pen (7) Book marks and (8) Business cards.
- Get to know the cashier and establish a relationship that will make you a recurring fixture in the store If, like me, you are not yet a celebrity, the person on duty may be a part-time worker. Signings are held on weekends and your appearance gives the owner and regular employees relief from their duties of informing, entertaining and chatting with customers.
- You may or may not have signed a contract and find the cashier is not authorized to pay you. In this case, give the owner a call Monday morning to report how it went and find out when your check will come. Usually the store keeps 40% of receipts. You may have written other books, and want to arrange to put some copies of them in the store too. If you can’t sell one, you may be able to sell another.
- Give the store information on how they can order more copies of your book. My books are printed on demand by CreateSpace, which also provides distribution channels to all major outfits. The bookstore owner looks at a website such as The Book Manager to see if your book is available from a distributor they use, likely Ingram. Since my paperback is new, it will not be listed for six or eight weeks. In the meantime, I will order an inventory of 50 books at a time and retailers can buy them from me. However, CreateSpace will not pay me any royalties until I have accumulated $100 in their account. They do not pay me royalties on the copies I buy, so I am anxious to have the stores enabled to buy them directly.
The few remaining book stores in my city are using authors as a strategy to keep their stores lively. Several ‘Book Events’ are allotted two-hour time slots on Saturdays and Sundays. Readings work well in some locations but only if there is a good group of bodies. More elaborate parties, complete with martinis, may also be held in stores after closing hours to launch books.
I used to waste countless, frustrating hours trying to sell my books to listless shoppers at book fairs or bookstores. Meanwhile, bookstore proprietors stared out their windows, praying for somebody to come in. But when the store-owner and the author get together to have live events like signings and readings, it can be a different story.
Thank you for dropping by. To order a copy of Kathleen’s Cariole Ride for Christmas or Valentines giving, please contact V&V Publishing, firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about all e-book and paperback versions of A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void, Kathleen’s Cariole Ride or Eating at Church, click on these links to Amazon, CreateSpace or my website. Bookstores selling my books in the Ottawa area are Black Squirrel, Books on Beechwood, Brittons, Michabou, Octopus and Perfect Books.
Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics!