News room: How to sell books at events - tips for direct marketing

How to sell books at events - tips for direct marketing  by Sarah Juckes

Those of you who follow publishing news might have seen a lot of talk recently on how traditional publishers should make more of an effort to sell books directly to readers. Independent authors however, are in a brilliant position to be able to do this right now. As an author, you can take your print books with you on the road, engaging directly with readers and, hopefully, sell a few copies along the way.

So what’s the best way to approach face-to-face marketing? To find out, we asked three CompletelyNovel authors to share their secrets.

Tips from Atulya K. Bingham – author of Ayse’s Trail

Selling books face to face is different from selling online. Your personality and energy play a huge role. For me, speaking events have proved the most effective. Your audience is physically ‘stuck’ with you for a while (rather than able to click you out of existence, or walk away), so you have more time to draw readers in. I usually kick off with a preamble about the inspiration behind the book. Long winded explanations of the plot and characters are a no-no, unless you particularly enjoy watching rows of eyes glaze over. You want an atmospheric introduction to the genre, setting and protagonist that leaves questions unanswered.

I always conclude a talk by reading the beginning of my book. In any case the first 500 words of your story ought to hook your readers, so it makes sense to use that in a speech. Conjuring up a conducive environment is also good idea. I found informal worked better than formal. Seating listeners about one very large table full of books, review-filled flyers and other marketing paraphernalia invites questions and discussion. People like to be able to flick through the book while you talk, too.

Tips from Vanessa Matthews – author of The Doctor’s Daughter

Don’t be shy – In my experience, taking the time to connect with people and talk passionately about your book really can help you sell copies. Most readers are as interested in the author behind the story as they are in the book itself and will enjoy getting to know more about you. If you are giving a formal talk, engage readers and establish your credibility by sharing the origins of your story or talk about your writing process. If you are talking to people individually ask them to tell you about books they’ve read and loved and hopefully you will find some common ground to help you introduce your own work or the themes of your book in a more natural conversation.

It’s a book, not a baby – If you have ambitions to earn from your writing then you would be wise to look your book objectively. A book is a product and writing is a business like any other. Creative people are often reluctant to consider their art in commercial terms but it’s essential if you want to sell more copies. Create some buzz around your stand or table, come up with a promotional offer specifically for the occasion. For example you could sell your book at a discounted price to people buying directly from you, give away a limited edition bookmark or develop an offer aimed at selling multiple copies such as a ‘buy one get one half price’ offer. The more people you can draw to your stand the more others will follow, and a crowd means more sales.

Tips from Karen Williams – business book mentor and author of Your Book is the Hook

Whether attending or speaking at an event, I advise my clients to take a copy of their book with them. If they introduce themselves as an author, they may get a ‘so what?’ response, but with a copy of their book they’re more likely to elicit a positive reaction. That’s because you can capture someone’s attention by telling the story behind the book and the reason why you wrote it. It makes what you do ‘real’ and others can see the effort you’ve put into your learning and knowledge, and how you get this across to others, for themselves.

You can use the physical book as a prop, appealing to those who are more tactile and want to thumb through your copy to take a look at your work. You also might sell a copy or two, or get a new client as a result. Either way, it’s a good opportunity to physically showcase your wisdom and share your expertise.

Even more marketing tips:

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Written by
Sarah Juckes
Published on
Book marketing and Events