Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Tips For Hand-Selling Your Book

This year I had the distinct pleasure to attend Windy Con as a panelist. For those unfamiliar with the convention it's dedicated to science fiction and fantasy in Chicago, which makes the attendees rather a mixed bunch. For myself the best part of the convention was meeting fellow authors, and swapping war stories about how we'd all gotten where we are today. I gave away a lot of swag, met some truly talented people, and I even managed to learn a few things. The most important thing I learned is that it doesn't matter how brilliant your story is unless you can sell it to anyone who crosses your path.

 Generally this is left up to the marketing department. Authors will provide the story, show up to book signings, give interviews, etc., but we aren't supposed to have to hit the streets and try to get people to buy our books straight from us. Needs be when the devil drives though, and if you want to move copies then you have to bite the bullet and do what you need to do. There's no reason to make it harder on yourself than it already is though. So here's a simple list of tips I picked up while watching my fellow writers work.

Tip #1: Make Eye Contact

Look into my eyes. Buy my book
Aimee Kuzenski, author of Eye of the Storm, made me realize something very important. As soon as one becomes an author, they gain mesmeric powers like something out of Dracula. All you have to do is make eye contact with someone in a rushing crowd, and beckon to them like Bela Lugosi to hook a potential reader. Seriously though, if you're hand-selling your book you need every weapon you can get, and social convention is a powerful thing. If someone meets your eyes and you smile at them, chances are they'll at least stop for a few moments at your table. Sometimes that's all you need.

Tip #2: Get Your Book in Their Hands

Humans have a lot of really strange tics in their psychology. One of those is that something becomes more real to them if they pick it up and handle it. Author Blake Hausladen made particularly good use of this tactic by handing anyone who stopped at his table a copy of his book Ghosts in the Yew. Once someone actually touches your book, you're that much closer to getting them to take it home.

Having a sexy book cover helps.

Tip #3: Push Subtly

Authors are masters of wordplay, but this has to be a part of your sales pitch if you're ever going to get copies off your table and into the hands of eager readers. A successful hand-seller won't ask, "So, are you interested in a copy?" when someone is holding his or her book. Instead, that author will ask, "So, would you like one copy or two?"

Oh god, what do I say, what do I do?
This changes up the dynamic entirely. You aren't simply asking someone to give you a yes or no now; instead they'll have to back up the conversation. That's hard to do, and a lot of people simply won't do it. This is especially true if they have convention money burning a hole in their pocket, and you managed to engage them enough with your book to get them to the point of consideration. Little changes in wording can result in a lot more sales.

Tip #4: Be Visible, Be Personable

The first thing you have to do if you're going to sell copies of your book is to make sure people see it, and see you. It sounds simple, but a lot of choices can affect how many potential buyers you get to interact with in any given location. If you have a table, for instance, where is it located? In the back corner of the dealer's hall where the lighting is bad and the crowds are thin? Or are you in the hallway on the way to the food court, where everyone is going to have to walk past sooner or later? If no one sees you, then you might as well not be there at all.

Also, break down as many barriers between you and the people you're trying to sell to as possible. Putting yourself on the other side of a table makes you harder to approach; it gives you an air of being someone apart from the potential reader. So while you shouldn't obscure your table by blocking your books, you should come around and talk to people. Shake hands, engage, and be friendly. People are much more likely to help you out by buying a copy if you're nice to them.

Tip #5: Have a Gimmick

Ever wonder why it is every business has a logo, a mascot, or some easy way to identify their products? It's because sales gimmicks work. People who claim they're nothing but cheap tricks might be right, but gimmicks are cheap tricks that make you more recognizable and which do at least some of your marketing for you. Paul Erickson, author of the parody The Wobbit, comes to conventions dressed as a Bilbo look-alike, complete with curly wig, furry feet, and the One ring around his neck. What are you doing to get noticed?
I have a high-caliber gimmick, myself.
All you need to do is ask yourself a few, simple questions. Will this make people notice me? Will they view it in a positive way? Will it help me sell books? If the answer to those three things is yes, then I suggest you do whatever disgusting, hilarious thing it is you were considering doing in the name of your career.

Tip #6: Don't Let Them Leave Empty-Handed

Perhaps the most important thing you can do as an author is to give something to everyone. Even if you don't make a sale, perhaps because someone has no spare cash on them at that moment, make sure you give them a piece of swag. A bookmark advertising your novel, a post card, a business card, a free pen; anything that makes someone remember you positively is a chance to make a sale at a later date. If nothing else that person might get curious, wondering at what point they met an author at the convention they were at, and check out your book or website online. The more seeds you plant, the better your chances that something will grow out of it.

As always, thank you for stopping by the Literary Mercenary's Business of Writing update! If you'd like more information about what yours truly is up to, follow me on TwitterFacebook, or Tumblr, whichever you prefer. Lastly, if you want to see more of what the Literary Mercenary has to offer stop by my Vocal archive, or My Amazon Author Page where you can find books like my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife!

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