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WHEN YOU DON’T SELL A THING REVISITED

August 11, 2021

            By the time this gets published, I’ll have just participated in my first book event since COVID hit. It’ll be interesting to see how things panned out. It was called the Local Author’s Literary Fair and was conducted at the main public library here in Las Vegas. Will I have been successful? If so, I’ll tweak this accordingly. In the meantime, I think it’s a good time for a revisit.

INTRO

For those of you that’ve published books, by whatever means, there comes a time when you have to get out in the world and sell them…or at least attempt to.

            If you’re like me, you still have to work for a living. Even if not, you likely as not try to stay local. That means signing up for as many (or as few, depending on how active you want to be) book signing events as you can. If you live in an isolated area, that may mean zero events, but let’s consider a reasonable in-between situation.

            These events can be invitation only, or sign-up-until-there-are-no-slots-left.

            I can tell you they’re almost always a mixed bag. You never know what kind of crowd, if any, you’re going to get.

PRE-PUBLICITY

            At an event I attended a few years ago, while sitting around waiting for people to show up, we discussed pre-publicity. We were not sure how the organizer publicized the event for us, but as authors, we did our parts as much as we could. However, what does this mean?

            As for myself and many of my co-authors, we relied on social media to put out the word. The flaw with this idea is that we pretty much preached to the choir, to borrow a well-worn cliché. What does this mean? It means that we basically advertised to friends, family, and people that have already bought our book or books! At best, we might see a few of them at the event for moral support, or they might actually buy a book from another author. There’s that possibility.

            On the other hand, I mentioned in an earlier article how I spent significant bucks on pre-publicity on Facebook for my book signing at the local Barnes & Noble. Though it was a successful event, not a single person who showed or bought my book heard about it through Facebook! I know, because I asked.

            That begs the question: Why spend money on a social media blast for an event where there’s a good likelihood nobody at all will show up? I think the gamble would be better at the local slot machines (I live in Las Vegas, after all).

THE CROWD

            Sometimes you can just tell when you’re setting up that things are probably not going to go well. You always hope for the best, but since I’m a glass is half full type person, I get the mindset that I’m there for networking. Then, if I sell one book, it’s a better than total success.

            When and if people start showing up, your job is to get them to your table. This is where reading them comes in handy as well. Standing around your table yelling at them to come over doesn’t always cut it. Some people you can just tell have no interest in your stuff. You can wave at them, say hi and invite them over, but if they give you that “look,” don’t press it. If they surprise you later and wander by, fine. If not, move on to the next person, if anyone comes along at all.

            Sometimes, the crowd is so sparse, you end up with other authors wandering by to say hi. This is the networking aspect of the event. Take advantage of that so the event isn’t a total loss.

            If someone stops by to look at your stuff, be prepared! Show interest, have your pitch ready, and make sure to give them your business card(s) and try not to look too disappointed when they nod and move on.

            As I’ve said before, just sitting there twiddling your thumbs, reading, or with your face in your cell phone isn’t going to attract people. On the other hand, even if you have a big crowd of people traipsing by, you can say “hi, what do you like to read” until you turn blue in the face, but if they just walk on by, avoiding eye contact, or make a bee-line to a certain author, don’t press it.

            Oh, and don’t forget the candy bowl, or something to entice them to stop by. At this particular event, I had plenty of takers.

THE PERSON PARTNERED WITH YOU IS MAKING A KILLING

            We’re a diverse bunch, we writers, and nobody writes the same book. That means, if you’re sharing a table, or sunshade, or booth with another writer, don’t be surprised if your partner sells like hotcakes and you don’t. It goes with the territory.

            Just remember that it could very easily be the other way around, and one day it will be.

            One time it just happened to be his day and not mine. I was very happy for my friend. He well-deserved it.

            On the other hand, at this most recent event, we tied and both sold two books.

WHAT TO GET OUT OF A NO-SALE EVENT?

            Folks, when you’re a no-name author, which unless you’re with the big six, or on the New York Times best-seller list, face it, that’s you, pretty much, you’re going to attend book events where you’re hot and cold.

            I’m sure in comparative ways, this even happens to the big names at times, and it certainly did when they were starting out.

            When any author sells nothing at all, what to do?

            No, and I mean NO event is for nothing.

            Why?

            You were there.

            Your name was on the marquee or publicity flyer.

            People saw you there.

            Other authors saw you there.

            You talked to other authors and networked.

            You may have connected with and caught up with old friends.

            You must’ve learned at least ONE tidbit of info that may or may not be useful to you in the future.

RESULT

            I just had a two-book sale event. All of the above was true as well. Since I sold two books instead of just one, I consider it a resounding success, instead of just a success. Two is better than one is better than zero.

            Until then, happy writing!

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