I’m on the road again today, back to my old home town of Fredericksburg, Virginia to try and sell a few books.
This is Fredericksburg’s first such book fair, and I’m grateful to my friends at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library for letting me know about it so I could participate. Steve Watkins, a good friend of mine from the old days, will be a featured speaker, holding forth on his successful career as a writer of award-winning young adult fiction. And my kids (and grandkids) will be there to help me set up, take down, and attract folks to my table in between. So this will be a homecoming in more ways than one.
The helpful folks at FIBF sent the authors this great article on “Selling at Conventions” by Travis Heermann, author of Spirit of the Ronin. Travis has some terrific advice for anyone who has never done something like this before (which also serves as a reminder for those of us who are returning to the trenches).
This is what I can add, based on two years at the Shore Leave STAR TREK con and various library and coffeehouse signings:
--Don’t sit down. The table is barrier enough between you and your potential reader/buyers. Don’t increase the distance by sitting and getting engrossed in your own favorite book or what’s happening on Facebook. Keep to your feet where you can greet everyone who comes by. (I know—seven hours of this? You are allowed to take an occasional break.)
--Don’t become a circus barker. That doesn’t mean you hassle everyone who passes with, “Hey, you really need to read this book!” Just say hello. Maybe comment on a neat cosplay outfit or tee-shirt. If they slow down, ask how their con or book fair is going.
--Take time with your table display. Make it attractive and eye-catching with lots of color and something unique to draw attention. I’ve invested in a professional bookrack and signage. But I’m lamenting the fact that my cut-out of Captain James T. Kirk can’t be with me this time, since it’s an outdoor show. He’s an instant draw with an Interstellar Rescue tee-shirt on.
--Make it easy for folks to buy. I have Square now, which allows people to pay with credit cards directly into my bank account, using my iPad. (I pay a very small fee.) Post prices so people don’t have to ask you. Offer discounts for multiple buys.
--Capture readers even if they don’t buy. I offer giveaways (tee-shirts, signed copies, Amazon gift cards) as an incentive for folks to sign up for my Interstellar Rescue Squad Facebook group (my version of a mailing list). Some of them turn into my biggest fans.
--Tag team it. My daughter Jessie is my convention selling partner. She’s young, she’s attractive and she’s very outgoing. She’s not afraid to engage folks on just about any level. Let me tell you, it’s fantastic having her around! But there are other advantages to working with a partner. You can relieve each other for breaks, or to go get food. More books to sell always means more interest from the crowd. And if you know each other well, the very fact that you play off each other is a draw.
--Keep smiling! No matter what happens. This is the equivalent of Travis Heermann’s “don’t be a dick” admonition. Misunderstandings occur; space is at a premium; oddballs attach themselves to you for no clear reason; undisciplined children grab handfuls of freebies meant for adults; it’s hot (or cold); you get hungry and thirsty and tired. But people will remember how you treated them that one time FOREVER. God knows I may never be famous, but if I ever do breathe that rarefied air, I hope folks remember they met me one time in Fredericksburg (or at Shore Leave) and I was not some kind of ogre.
So wish me and the folks at the Fredericksburg Independent Book Fair well. And if you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and visit!