Working a book fair: how to sell books

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Thread: Working a book fair: how to sell books

  1. #1

    Working a book fair: how to sell books

    I just got back from the Tucson book festival and I thought I'd share some insights that are rarely discussed in these writing forums: How to work a book fair.

    When I go to book fairs and sales, one of the big problems I see with writers is that they just sit there and wait for people to stagger over to their table.

    But me, I'm an old-school street hawker. If they have an empty book bag I'll ask 'em if there's still room in their bag, then once they answer I can ask 'em what kind of books they are into. After that I use the opening to sell them down the river.

    Okay, what I mean by selling them down the river is a little bit complicated.
    Y'see, when you are selling at bookfairs and such, you are usually selling besides other authors, prolly 2 or 3 on your side of the tent (we had 4 today). That's your river.

    So most people assume that the logical thing to do is to fight over the customers who go by. But being selfish along the river always works out badly. The truth is, you will sell more books if you can energize your river.

    So right now you are saying "What kinda hippy-horseshit is this, Ralph. What exactly does this river selling look like in practical terms?"

    Here's how it works. First I hawk an opener; offer 'em a free bookmark, ask if their book bag still has room in it, , tell 'em their Rocky Horror T-shirt is cool, or just flat out ask what kind of books they are looking for.

    Then, regardless of what they say, I pretend to hear what they say,even reflect it a little, then I start telling them about the books on our side of the tent, starting with the guy on the far left and working my way across the tables.
    "So you ike action books, eh? Well, over here on my left we have Space pirates in the distant future. Then we have post-apocalyptic here (gesture to my own books), Murder mysteries here, and spiritual self-help with Mary on the end."

    As I'm telling them, this I watch to see if they show a particular inflection. If it's one of my books I sell 'em hard. if it's one of the other writers I hand the sales spiel over to them.

    How does this help me?
    1) It generates a lot of good will among the other members of the river. They don't hate me for being loud and overbearing as I hawk customers.
    2) Within 30 minutes, the other authors will begin adopting the process
    3) Visible sales activity at your river helps draw more buyers.
    4) Overall sales are way higher than if you just sit there like a lump on a log.
    5) Hawking allows me to engage with more people, and that's how I meet bloggers, reviewers, and other people in the industry. I found out about Indies United from someone I met at a book fair.
    6) If that other writer misses the sale, I go back in and try to sell 'em my book again.


    So if this sounds like too much work, keep in mind these 2 irrefutable laws of writing physics:
    1) Books do not write themselves.
    2) Books do not sell themselves.
    If you wanna sell a lotta books, then roll up your sleeves and expect to work for your lunch.

  2. #2
    That all makes sense; not sure I'd have the confidence to sell my books in person, to be honest!

    HJC
    My novels Hidden Content and Hidden Content are available from Amazon

    Hidden Content Hidden Content

    You can find me on Twitter: Hidden Content

  3. #3
    Good and practical advice! Thx for sharing.
    Mikeyboy_esq
    Check out my books for authors including SMART MARKETING FOR INDIE AUTHORS and 14 STEPS TO SELF-PUBLISHING A BOOK.
    Hidden Content

  4. #4
    This is great advice! I would even say wisdom that can be applied to many aspects of likw, great post!

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Harper J. Cole View Post
    That all makes sense; not sure I'd have the confidence to sell my books in person, to be honest!

    HJC


    Most other authors I meet are not street-hawkers. They're afraid to talk to people more than 3 feet away.
    But person-to-person sales is a great way to practice your hook.
    You have got to have a hook to query or write the jacket text.
    You have got to have that way of describing your story that makes people go "Oooh, I wanna read that!"
    Selling face-to-face you can test many different iterations of your theme because you get immediate feedback.
    Wonder if your query has a good hook? Try using it at a book fair.

  6. #6
    I was sick and had to miss the fest. Had a table, too. But blood sugar and pneumonia, not so good. Love cons, fests. Direct sales are my jam. I sell ebooks from my kindle.
    Sorry I missed you. Next year though.
    Hidden Content
    "From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it." - Groucho Marx

  7. #7
    What you do, is shove the box of books under the table. Hold up one copy. "This is the last copy of my book, Mister. Would you like to buy my book?" and then you HIT 'EM WITH THE PUPPY DOG EYES!!! Muahahahaha.... Resistance is futile! The blood of Christ compels you! The tractor-beam of the literary brilliance is impossible to overcome! Ten-thousands suns of sheer genius blaze through your mind, the conflagration igniting and BURNING all resistance to buying my book completely to ASHES!!!!

    Yeah... Like that. *cough*

    Last edited by Amnesiac; March 11th, 2019 at 10:10 PM.
    Her: I love my computer! All of my friends are in there!
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  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by moderan View Post
    I was sick and had to miss the fest. Had a table, too. But blood sugar and pneumonia, not so good. Love cons, fests. Direct sales are my jam. I sell ebooks from my kindle.
    Sorry I missed you. Next year though.
    You had a table go to waste? I coulda manned it fer ya, and sold a few of my own books too....
    I took home books.
    Not a lot tho. I forgot to place a book order so I was a little shorthanded. My order from zazzle didn't come in so I only had about a half box of bookmarks to give out.
    For some reason I thought the festival was in another month or two.
    Doh!

  9. #9
    By the time I thought about messaging you it was 1 am Saturday. My backup got in a car accident and got concussed earlier that night, and my medical issues were ongoing, though I was out of the hospital. Was supposed to have lunch with two well-known horror writers, too.
    I have big boxes of books still. Will have to have a sale.
    Hidden Content
    "From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it." - Groucho Marx

  10. #10
    1 am? That's actually only 3 hours before I get up and start writing.*
    Bummer that your table went to waste. I coulda moved a lotta books if I had a whole table to work.
    Can you tell I used to sell used cars?



    *I gotta get a life...

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