The Best (and Worst) Places to Sell Your Book
by John F. Harnish
Where’s the worst place to sell your book? Take your pick.
A. In an elevator
B. In a pro shop
C. In a restaurant
D. In a seminar setting
E. In an independent bookstore
F. In a national chain bookstore
Not so fast- the answer isn’t as easy as you think. Let’s take a closer look at each option.
A. The elevator- Every author should have a 60-second elevator pitch. Why? Well, imagine you are in an elevator on your way to an authors’ conference. Who should be on the elevator with you but a well-known editor, literary agent, or wonder of wonders- a famous movie producer? AND they just asked you what your book is about. Here’s your chance! There’s less than a minute before the elevator reaches his floor. Remember to remain calm and don’t get tongue-tied. Shoot for brevity. Think about the three most important aspects of your book that make it one of a kind. Write out your pitch and practice reciting it in a minute or less. Sometimes it only takes a moment to change your life.
B. The pro shop- That’s right, sports clubs, health spas, and other places that focus on exercise or sporting activities are excellent places to do a book signing if your book will help to improve their game or enhance their daily exercise program. You’ll have a captive audience who will hopefully be interested in the topic and will want to buy your book. Dan Poynter doesn’t go to bookstores to promote his new book about skydiving. He goes wherever skydivers are gathering to talk about their rushes from jumping out of a perfectly good aircraft. He’s presenting to his primary target audience, he’s prepared with handouts, and he has an ample supply of books to provide instant gratification for eager buyers.
C. The restaurant- The retail price of most books sold today is about the same as dinner at a decent restaurant. People eat out more often than they go to a bookstore. Most restaurants have a slow evening when they’d appreciate a few more patrons. One of these nights is the perfect time to have you come in to do a reading while the patrons enjoy dining. This is like a dinner theater, expect the author is the star and the lines are read from the author’s book. The restaurant can do a mailing to their patrons promoting Dinner-with-the-Author night. Naturally, you’ll promote it to family, friends and co-workers. Maybe a couple dozen will make reservations and actually show up. Whatever the number, it will be more than they usually have on a slow night. The author will benefit by having potential customers who will learn more about the book while they enjoy a good meal.
D. The Seminar- Seminars are sensational settings for selling topic books. Seek out local and national associations devoted to your book’s topic. Bring your book to the attention of the organizers by letting them know you would be delighted to do a presentation about your book—available for purchase after your talk. Back-of-the-room sales are profitable.
E. The independent bookstore- Bookstores are perhaps the worst place to do a book signing, because your book is competing with thousands and thousands of other books. All you have going for you is what you say about your book—so talk clearly with a proud passion. Many independents have an active calendar of in-store events featuring local authors. They’ll usually order the featured book when they schedule a promotional event. You need to contact independent bookstores in your area to be considered for these events.
F. The national chain bookstore- A national chain bookstore is the worst place to do a signing. They’ll order your book through Ingram and your Infinity title will be produced by Lightning Source for Ingram’s distribution. The deep discount of 55% cuts deeply into the author’s earned royalty. And in addition to the ever-present tables of discounted books, you have even the most recent bestsellers on sale at a 40% discount!!! Some of the chain store managers are more flexible and will schedule local self-published authors for in-store events. However, be careful they don’t charge you a fee for promoting your appearance. Accept the fact that you’ll have the prestige of doing a bookstore event without much in the way of profit. Yes, the greater profits for the author are often found far beyond the bookstores—no fooling!!!
Photo courtesy of Dolf Bakker.