C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

Write and publish with love and fury.

How NOT to sell books at a reading

I did a reading a while back. I sold a book. Yeah. One. Let’s just take a moment to take that in. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Okay…here’s what I’ll do differently next time:

1. Advertise and/or promote more and work my network beforehand. Most of my friends are of the cyber variety. I’ve been a nomad/recluse so long that, locally, I don’t have a network. I’m connected to a lot of people who are too far away. Not just Skype calls and a long car ride. I’m talking long plane flights. I’m working on that, mostly through Twitter (#Ldnont) and connecting with local humans within handshake distance. It’s not entirely excruciating.

2. Have a sign. I had brochures, which was a good move. I didn’t have a proper sign that told people the books’ prices. A helpful friend took the money…or would have but, ahem…that turned out to be a non-issue. The forty dollar float in fives proved much more than adequate. (Do make it easy for potential customers by charging round numbers. Nobody wants to search for nickels.)

3. Rock the books you came with. I should have talked more about the books at the back of the room while I was at the front of the room. Instead, I rocked a short story that always gets laughs. I’m very confident reading that story to an audience, so I took the easy way out. I can sell that story, Another Day at the Office from Self-help for Stoners, easily. I should have pushed the books I brought instead, and harder. I should have read a piece from my books that sell most now (This Plague of Days) and a chapter from Crack the Indie Author Code (indies were the theme of the event.)

Being confident, instead of looking confident: I’ll figure it out and try it sometime.

4. I gave a good talk about writing and publishing. Actually, it was a great talk. People smiled and laughed in the right places. At one point I sang and even threatened an audience member with a grisly death, mostly for entertainment purposes. People went away smiling and happy…but they did go away.

The main problem was that I should have ended it sooner. We used the whole time allotted for the event. You’d think that would be delivering on expectations and promises. Instead, it gave people no time to shop for books. They ran to get their parking validated before the library closed. Rather than talk at the front of the room (which I enjoyed immensely) I should have mixed with the audience more before the event began and I should have built in more one-on-one chatting/selling/handshake/hip bump/high-five/hula dancing time at the end of the reading.

5. When the reading’s done, don’t get waylaid by the sweet, little old lady sitting in the third row. Push her out of your way and to the ground if necessary. She is killing you. At least, that’s what she did to me. I should have rushed straight to the back and engaged people there. By the time I answered her tangential question about who I might be related to (I wasn’t and oh, sweet Jebus, who cares?), most people had filed out, off to make sure their parking was free. Damn old lady. And damn parking. And damn me. 

To the one guy to whom I sold This Plague of Days in paperback, may Thor bless you with smart, stout-thighed, stress-resistant children with perfect teeth. It’s great signing a book for a reader who digs what you’re doing.

Back on the net that night, another audience member hit me up on Twitter to let me know he had a good time and was buying my ebooks, not paper. That was cool and eased my roiling sea of torment. Somewhat. 

I’ll do better next time.

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Filed under: author platform, book marketing, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

7 Responses

  1. fuonlyknew says:

    Now that was entertainment! LOL I bet you did rock the house and learned some valuable lessons. I’m sure you’ll be prepared next time. Happy New Year Chazz:)

  2. Debbie Kowal says:

    I would have loved to have been there, but alas, too far away. I’m working my way through what you have written so far and still loving every bit of it! If I were there, I would have bought everything you brought whether I already owned it or not. BUT…..Can I still be a “Chazzhead” if I only buy ebooks? Belated birthday greetings and Happy New Year!

  3. Wilhelmine Estabrook says:

    You had better luck than I did. I did three readings and sold nothing at any of them.

  4. I did a reading a week ago today that had very few people, but very high sales. I have to agree with your point about rocking the books you have to sell. It would have been easy to read from my best-seller, but I wanted people to buy my newer book that doesn’t have many reviews yet, so I read from it. Of course you want to put your best foot forward, but you should also push what you need to sell. The book I read from sold the most copies by far.

    I didn’t sing at my reading though. Now I’m wishing I’d thought of it.

  5. Great post – I’m not “there” yet (God willing, this year, sometime…) and I confess the thought kinda scares me a little.

  6. Thanks for sharing your experience. I did a signing at a small store, and only a few of my friends showed up. If I did it again, I would encourage the store owners to read one of my books and that way, if they liked it, they could put a personal note about how they enjoyed the book in their newsletter. I think that would’ve got some of their list to show up. Otherwise it’s just another nobody doing a signing 🙂

    • Christina Carson says:

      Chazz you are one of the few who can deliver an experience that, if it happened to most people it would make them cry, while you make us laugh. Something is never a bust if you can at least get a laugh out of it. Imagine how I figured that out.

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