Jeanne: Selling Books the Old-Fashioned Way

Indy Bookstore Day 2019On Saturday I attended a book-signing at New and Olde Pages, a local bookstore, in honor of Independent Bookstore Day, where I sold seven books. That may not sound like much, but it’s twice what I’ve sold on Amazon in the past week, including my KU reads. (On Sunday I had to suspend my “trickle” ad when the trickle became a flood thanks to Christmas shoppers who apparently clicked on my ad only to remember that they weren’t shopping for themselves. Since the Zon charges per click, this is the worst possible outcome. Like many other authors at this time of year, I had to suspend my advertising.)

For an author with only two books on the market, selling seven books in an afternoon is a very nice result. It wasn’t especially profitable, because I bought books from two other authors there (of course), but it was an enjoyable afternoon of chatting with potential readers. It was also, for an introvert, insanely stressful. When I got home I walked in the door, ordered up a drink (it’s lovely when your husband is also your bartender) and proceeded to binge on Spider Solitaire while listening to the soundtrack from Hadestown for a couple of hours while I unwound.

(If you’ve never heard Why We Build the Wall, it’s absolutely haunting.)

As I write this post on Sunday morning, though, I’m largely recovered from the ordeal of talking to other human beings and I think hand-sales is something I need to pursue more aggressively in 2020. I believe in my books. I think they’re funny and thought-provoking, with unique and compelling characters. And when I talk to people face-to-face, this comes through persuasively.

So one of my goals for 2020 will be to approach independent bookstores and ask if they’ll take my books on consignment (or order through Lightning Spark). There are only a couple of Indies here in the Dayton area, but there are more in Cincinnati and Columbus. I also plan to approach the local library systems and see if they’d be willing to stock it.

Which means I’ll need to talk to people again.

Is 9 a.m. too early to start drinking?


10 thoughts on “Jeanne: Selling Books the Old-Fashioned Way

  1. I’m an introvert, too. I can handle people in small, controlled doses, but then I need to spend a lot of recovery time staring at my phone. (-: My dayjob is teaching, so that’s really not working out for me. (I love being with the kids, but it takes a lot of energy and decision-making.)

    Nine a.m. sounds like a good time to take a nap, and then face the music later!

  2. Glad you had a productive event and recovered from the ordeal. As a card-carrying introvert, I feel for you. My day job involves a lot of going to conferences and talking to strangers and it can be a very draining experience, no matter how interesting and friendly the people might be.

    On the plus side, I’ve found that the more I do it and the more confident I am in what I’m talking about, the shorter the recovery time that I need afterwards. Perhaps that will hold true for you as well as you embark upon your 2020 plan.

    As far as the 9:00 question – definitely not too early. Bloody Mary or Gin Fizz anyone?

    • I hope you’re right. I’m terrified of public speaking but I did a 3 month gig for the United Way where I went out and spoke to people about donating and by the time I finished up my stint I could do it without batting an eye (or feeling sick to my stomach and shaking with nerves).

  3. Your signing table and banner look great! Old-fashioned, personal hand-selling takes a while to build, but it can be incredibly effective. I used to work for a couple of entrepreneurs who built a multi-million dollar household brand that way.

    I’m firmly in the introvert camp. I write better than I talk and I’m not looking forward to putting myself out there, but I understand that it has to be done. I’m taking comfort from the fact that you and Elizabeth have both found that it gets easier with practice.

    • It does get easier, especially when you start interacting with people who have read one of your books and really liked it. I had a fun conversation with one of the bookstore employees about why she liked Bad so much better than Belial. And she wanted to know when Book 3 will be done because she’s waiting to see how I can possibly redeem Lilith.

      I also had one customer tell me candidly that she was buying the book because she saw my review from Darynda Jones on Amazon and she loves the Charley Davidson series. So I also got a little reinforcement that there was value in walking up to a famous author, cold, and asking for a favor.

  4. Congrats, Jeanne! It sounds like a successful day. Expanding into the indie bookstore markets sounds like a great plan. You should be able tout the ‘local author’ angle with them (maybe even stickers for the books? I’ve seen that done), even for the cities that are a bit farther away.

    I have so many questions about the signing, if you’re willing to answer them! How many books did you take with you? Were you able to sign the remaining books and leave them for the store to sell? Where did you source your banner, bookmarks, etc? And any lessons learned working with Lightning Spark? (LS was on my Sept to-do list, but I still haven’t gotten to it, so it’s looking like 2020 for that task for me.)

    • Okay, answers:
      1) I took six of each book with me. However, I knew she had a few left from when I did the Indie Bookstore event last year. Double-however, when I got there, she only had one copy of the first book and I think three of the second book left and she didn’t think that would be enough. I wound up calling my husband to bring more. He was not happy.

      2) When the event was over, I did sign some books and leave them–I think she has three of each. She also mentioned that she sold one of the originals to another indie bookstore owner, whom she thought would be in touch with me about stocking the book, too.

      3) I got my bookmarks and my angel/demon doorhangers from Vistaprint. A local graphics company, TCA Graphics, did my banner.

      4) Lightning Spark. I’ve sold, to my knowledge, 4 books through Ingram Spark (via Bares & Noble). At this point, only the first book is up there, with the original cover, because it would cost $50 to make changes or load the second book and the ROI just isn’t there.

      I’ve heard other authors say the quality of paperbacks is different between IS and the Zon. I didn’t see that, but the price to order author’s copies was definitely higher on LS.

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