Monday, September 2, 2013
You Don't Sell Books Sitting Down
I spent the weekend in Decatur, GA (a beautiful and historic suburb of Atlanta) at the Decatur Book Festival. I was a participant in the Emerging Writers Tent, and it was not only a very profitable weekend for me, but it was also a time of reflection and observation. There was also one BIG lesson I learned: always, always bring more books than they tell you to bring. The rules for the Emerging Writers area stated that each author (and there were over 100 of us participating) could only bring 20 of each title. So I brought 20 of each title. I started selling at 10 AM. I sold out of book 1, The Six, by 1:50 with a day and a half left to the festival. Thankfully my publisher and I rallied and were able to offer a special deal for people who wanted to order copies of book 1 directly from me, and I sold several more copies that way, but I was really kicking myself for not bringing more than the prescribed twenty, because I know I could have doubled my sales on all the rest of the books. All of this led to a general observation though. Selling books doesn't just happen. Of all the authors there, I was the only one selling books in the Emerging Writers Tent in high quantities. In fact, of all the authors there, I was one of the only ones actively selling any books at all! Early in the day on Saturday I spoke with a fellow author who was there with his debut book, and I asked him what his strategy was for the weekend. He chuckled and said that he didn't really have one. He just wanted to put his book out there and see what happened. For the rest of the day, I saw him sitting on a bench watching the crowd go by. Meanwhile I (and my sister who came along for moral support and ended up being a great sales assistant!) was on my feet handing out flyers and bookmarks, engaging in conversation with people, smiling, laughing, and in some cases practically tackling people to bring them over to my books. I didn't scalp people away from other authors' books or anything like that, which would have been wrong and unkind, but I made an attempt to actively engage every person who so much as paused in front of my books. And you know what happened? I met wonderful people, I got to know some of my future readers, I learned what sorts of things they look for in stories, and I sold books! Now, I don't mean to be overly critical of the gentleman who spent his day on the bench. Novice authors tend to have this, "If you write it, they will come" mentality when it comes to publishing their first books, but the fact of the matter is that that's simply not true. Writers are generally introverted, but if you're like me - an author who is making a career out of writing - then you have to attack the pragmatic side of the coin as well. This year I can finally say this is my career, and I'm going to attack it with what financial guru Dave Ramsey would call "Gazelle intensity" (imagine a gazelle outrunning a cheetah and you'll understand the metaphor a little better). I will not sit down. You don't sell books sitting down.