The LA Times Festival of Books is a pretty major book festival. It’s huge. I’m not the most aggressive sales person, so last year, when I shared a booth with other authors for the first time, I found it a bit daunting. The selling stuff, I mean. I’m an author, not a sales person. My sales were okay, but not great, and this year I learned why.
A week ago, I shared the same booth at the same event, with the same group of authors, and this year I sucked far less at selling than I did the year before.
I’ve sold my books at plenty of street fairs, but they’ve been much smaller events, with lots of distractions: food, toys, gadgets and gizmos. These events generally don’t attract too many readers. The LA Times Festival Of Books is different. People come here for books. They are serious readers and they want to buy books. Our books. Yours and mine.
Some of us feel awkward blowing our own trumpet, or horn, or whatever you blow :-). I find it easier to talk about other authors books than my own, yet I’m the best person to talk about my own books. No one knows the stories better than me. Last year, I talked more about the other authors books. I couldn’t nail down a tag line well enough on my own. By the 2nd day, I was so disappointed with my performance, I wanted the floor to eat me up.
This year, I shared space next to Joel Fox, author of Lincoln’s Hand, and I listened as he repeatedly told readers the gist of his story. Each time I heard it, I fell a little more in love with the sound of his book. So did the readers. He hooked them.
When the readers asked about my book, I got tongue-tied on the first day, realized I still hadn’t nailed down the tag line – not like Joel. I watched him sell, and all I had to offer was a bag for the readers to put his books in.
I went back to the hotel room and practiced my pitch, tightened my hook, kept it short and punchy, enough to bait the reader (or so I hoped).
I got off to a good start. Sold 2 books right at the opening bell (there’s not really a bell). Then things slowed down. Sunday was less busy, but there was still a good crowd. I remembered my tag line and I used it. I worked it like Joel, and it worked for me. “An international pilot goes missing. His girlfriend’s body is discovered. His wife has no alibi for the night of the murder.” (my new practiced tag for No Alibi)
“Oooh, sounds like my kind of read.” The reader bought my book. I did the same thing for Madness and Murder. Both my books sold equally, and far more than last year. I signed readers up for my newsletter and told them about my new release, Hide and Seek (due out in June). I’m still not fantastic at selling, but I’m better. I suck a lot less than I did. Next year, I’ll be awesome!
Here are a few tips that also make it easier at large events: get a friend or couple of friends to stand outside the booth, talk to readers, hand out your bookmark and send readers over to your booth. When they arrive, have your tag line ready, then shut up while they read the back cover of your book. As they finish reading, and still have your book in their hand, tell them you’re offering a deal – a discounted price for the event, and a double discount if they buy both your books. This works wonders. Not only do they get a discount, they get signed copies.
I realized you don’t have to be aggressive to sell. All you need is to know your books and develop a great tag line. Find a good catch phrase that will stick in their mind. Joel’s for Lincoln’s Hand is “a little history with your mystery.”