There’s nothing more exciting than releasing a book into the world but nothing more disheartening than watching sales slump after the first month or two. There’s a fix for that!
We tend to focus our marketing efforts on those first weeks or months, but you can extend those sales into years. You can either focus on spending money for ads to generate online sales or go out and sell your books yourself. Because I find meeting readers and making a personal connection with them energizing to my creative energy, I’m a fan of in-person sales. That’s not to say you need to be super outgoing and an avid sales person, but you do need to turn on the social energy light for a few hours.
The usual go-to events for authors are bookstores, school visits, and libraries. Those are great if they fit your audience. School visits work nicely for middle grade and YA books if you can make the connection with a teacher, administrator, or school librarian. Indie bookstores tend to be more willing to host book signings than the big chains but you can sometimes work magic there too. Local libraries might be willing to let you come in and do a talk about your genre or writing/publishing experience and then sell your book(s). While all of those options are usually at no cost to you (schools and libraries may even compensate you), I’d found sales are mediocre. However, it’s a good place to start honing your sales skills at little to no financial risk.
If you’re looking for more sales, you need to go where people already are rather than trying to pull them in for you as the attraction. When I started selling my books, I didn’t have a lot of money to invest beyond buying inventory. I started with craft shows at schools and churches. Booth fees were low and people were already going to those with the intent to shop local creative businesses and the venues had established audiences. Readers are everywhere. You just have to be where they are and be willing to engage with them. Meaning: smile, make a little small talk, and have a one to two line pitch for your book down. Being friendly will get you a lot farther than being pushy in terms of sales.
Once you’ve built up your funds, start looking for more focused events. Where does your audience congregate? Art festivals, vintage car shows, comic cons, renaissance faires, mermaid festivals, historical reenactments, pirate day at the zoo, air shows, horror fests, your local berry/cherry/flower festival…there are so many options. This is where Facebook becomes your best friend. There are groups for everything! Search for festivals, craft and vendor shows, comic cons, etc. in your state, or even surrounding states if you don’t mind a little travel. Find state-wide author groups, many times they will feature events looking for authors. All of this information is at your fingertips.
Equally useful resources are your fellow vendors at those small shows where you start out and every single show you do from there on out. Talk to your booth neighbors ask where they’ll be next, where they’ve been, what their best shows are. You’ll need to evaluate whether those might be a good fit for you and your books, but there’s a lot of crossover. Make friends with these people, follow their businesses on Facebook and Instagram, especially if you happen across other authors. You’ll probably be seeing more of each other in the future and its always a good idea to network.
Not sure about absorbing the cost of a full booth? Only have a few books? Share. Join forces with your local writing group, nearby author friends, or far author friends if you want to meet in the middle. Splitting a booth not only means share expenses, but this is also be a great way to swap sales experience and see how other people display their books.
Try a few events before heavily committing yourself. See how you sell, change tactics if needed, see what works for other sellers and emulate them. Having been doing this for seven years now, I found the events I sell well at, that I can afford, and am willing to travel to. I’m willing to add or drop those as I learn about new/better opportunities or if they don’t perform. Currently, I do 2-4 events a month eleven months of year. Yes, that’s a lot, but I enjoy it.
Wherever you go, you’re likely to meet indie bookstore owners willing to carry your book, teachers and librarians, grandparents buying gifts for grandkids, parents looking for a book to escape into once the kids go to bed, teens who have to do summer reading, and genuine booklovers eager to add to their collection. Get out there and sell some books!
Jean Davis writes science fiction and fantasy from the comfort of her magical writing chair in West Michigan. When taking a break from fictional people, she spends time with her musical husband, a small flock of ducks and chickens, and two attention-craving terriers. Occasionally, she ventures outside to play in her flower garden, visit the local breweries, and eat gluttonous amounts of sushi.