Thanks to the authors across the way at Dallas FanExpo, one slogan will be forever emblazoned in my brain. Because, well, they had a book. It had words. They wanted everyone to understand this. So, they shouted it mercilessly.
And you know what? It worked. By the end of the weekend, I’m pretty sure they’d outsold fellow author Laura Maisano and I.
Before I get into the meat of this post, I want to thank everybody at FanExpo who stopped by the booth (and even those who sent emissaries to get their signed copies!) We had a great time making new friends, re-connecting with old ones, and introducing fans to our work.
Now, back to the hard sell.
WE HAVE BOOKS! WITH WORDS!
I’m not that guy. I make eye contact, start a conversation, and give a quick pitch. But I’ve never run a booth at a convention this size before.
There were thousands in attendance at Dallas FanExpo. The “Artist’s Alley” we’d been crammed into was just that – a dark and seedy place away from the main flow of traffic. (Okay, not dark or seedy, but definitely easy to miss and confusingly un-labeled.) The ambient noise of people alone and the occasional loudspeaker announcement gave cause for some voice projecting. We needed the extra attention on our aisle.
Now, if every seller had been as boisterous as our booth neighbors, we probably would’ve driven off the traffic, but as it was, it worked. Which got me to thinking about things which do work when selling at a convention or a festival.
From my experience:
Never wait for a reader to find you. Speak up. Make eye contact and start a conversation with something simple. “Hello, what do you like to read?”
Wear comfortable shoes. Because if you want to sell anything, you’ll be on your feet not sitting behind the table.
Don’t sweat the fancy displays. You need a nice looking set up, but if it’s crowded or sparse, or the books aren’t perfectly aligned, none of that matters. What matters is that you get your book into the hands of somebody and connect with them.
Encourage them to touch the merchandise. One trick? Just hand it to them as you begin your pitch. Want to use some ninja tactics? Put a book face down on the table and appeal to the OCD in all of us. You’d be surprised how many people feel the need to pick it up and “fix it”.
DO take credit cards. Girl Scouts do this to sell cookies. Seriously, you have no excuse. Square (the processor I used), PayPal, too many outfits out there offer free card readers. Roughly half my sales were plastic.
Sales tax. Don’t forget to pay the man. It’s a pain, true. And once you get a sales tax permit you’ll likely need to begin quarterly reporting (whether you sell books or not.) But this saves you the awkwardness of getting caught up in a sweep and paying heavy fines.
Offer bundles. Give them a special deal which they can only get at that particular venue. A bundle of books for a discount (say the first three in a series) is a good idea. Or some other starter pack if you’ve got multiple series. But beware: You will likely sell many, many more first in series than continuations to new readers (more on this next week…)
Have a catchphrase you sign each book with. Laura was great at this. Trying to think up clever things on the spot is a potentially terrible idea. I’m still worried about having signed one book “You’re never too old to go to the con!” after a fan let it slip their relative, who’d sent them specifically to buy my book, had said they felt too old to go. Words of encouragement could easily translate into something else…
Have a pitch. I’ve written and re-written the blurb for Crimson Son a millionty times (this is marketing terminology.) Blurbs are complete nightmares, especially for authors like myself who have trouble being concise. But all that pain came in handy. Since I have not only re-written and even tested different phrases in my marketing, I knew what worked and what grabbed people’s attention. This is the main reason I completely sold out of book one of Crimson Son.
Two or three sentences will do. I varied mine a bit just as you would normal conversation but it went something like this:
The powerless son of a superhero has to launch into his father’s world to uncover the fate of his mother. Without powers of his own, he must rely on his ingenuity and his “leet” hacking skills to get him out of all the trouble his mouth gets him into. It’s the first book in a three book series with two more in development.
That was usually enough for somebody to decide. You don’t want to dominate their time or keep them trapped at the table. If they’re ready to move on, let them.
Sometimes they’d have questions. Other times, I’d mix up the wording a bit and discuss different themes in the book which might intrigue them more. How would I know this, you ask? Because I’ve already spoken to them about “What they like to read…”
All else fails, give them swag. Don’t spend a fortune on this. I’ve got a box of bookmarks I had printed which I can hand out to people who may be on the fence (Keep an eye out for coupons and deals from online print shops ). Use your cover art, add a quick blurb, and a link to your website so they can make the purchase later. Laura had a mini-booklet printed with the first two chapters of her book. Hook them and provide sales links – smart!
I don’t claim to be a pro at booth sales. We did profit on this venture, so that’s always a good thing. But sales aside, if you take away one thing from this blog post it should be this: make yourself heard.
This is tough for us introverted authors, I know. Others though, are more than happy to shout about their books TO EVERYBODY ON THE AISLE. And this isn’t a bad thing. Be proud of the work you’ve done and excited to share it with the world.
If you have an interest in A Book! With Words! Check out Soul Chambers by Dominic Dames and Paul Vander. If my pitch worked, and you’ve just got to follow Spencer’s adventures, go here. And please check out my booth buddy, Laura Maisano’s, excellent portal fantasy and contemporary romance novels!