Saturday, September 8, 2012

What Does It Take To Sell a Book?

Decatur Book Festival
Decatur Book Festival (Photo credit: The Suss-Man (Mike))
Over Labor Day Weekend, I attended the Decatur Book Festival.  Since I am in the process of launching two new books, I considered investing in a booth there. Billed as the largest book festival in the southeast, it has been in existence for seven years and although I've often thought about checking it out, this was my first visit.  After discovering the cost of a booth (pretty pricey I'm afraid), I decided to go to the festival and do some research to determine how worthwhile it would be.  I had several things to investigate.

First Booklogix, the publishing company that published my most recent Wyatt book had a large booth and was sponsoring a tent for "emerging writers".  I had been asked to participate in that venue but I really wanted to see how worthwhile it was before I invested money in a booth or a table.  I found the Booklogix booth was hopping but mainly because it had some very energetic people promoting the contests they had as well as a couple of authors promoting their books.

The most successful author in the Booklogix tent was Mark Diamond and here's why.  His wife was actually the one there selling the books and I"ll give her credit for discovering a great way to engage children.  She did this by teaching them an origami trick.  Here she is with some of her interested customers....

She had several books for sale.  One was on various origami tricks to teach children.  The others were on how to teach children to write.  Teaching children to write is something I'm interested in, so guess what?  I bought her books. Three of them.  This example shows two things.  First no matter how good your book is, you aren't going to sell it to someone who has no interest in the topic.  I visited one whole booth that consisted of about eight authors who all wrote variations on Jane Austen stories.  I was intrigued with the idea and actually talked to several of them but I didn't buy a book.  Why?  I'm just not a fan of that type of book.

Here's the second thing I found which is something I wrote about in a previous blog.  In order to sell a book (or anything really), you must engage people in someway.  The author I just mentioned engaged me in conversation right away and the fact that she had a book with a very practical way to engage children through origami caught my attention.  This is selling at it's best.  It is discovering what your customer needs and providing that.  It is helping people in some way.  It is building a relationship.  We not only talked about teaching children origami but when she found out I was a teacher, she told me about her books on teaching children to write well and the workshops they offer for teachers.  She mentioned contacts we might know in common in the county I work in.  The three books I bought from her, were the only books I bought at the festival.  Why?  Because she had books on a topic that I was interested in.  Because she built a relationship.  It's really that simple.

I visited lots of booths.  Some booths were very busy.  

Some booths were not.  

But the lesson I learned proved true in each case:  In order to sell your book, you must first find a way to market it to the right audience.  You are never going to sell Harry Potter to someone who dislikes fantasy.  You are never going sell a book on how to train a dog to someone who doesn't own one.  But even with the right customer present, you must engage them somehow.  You must get out from behind the table, you must get up off your chair, you must have something more interactive than a bowl of candy and you must build a relationship.  If you aren't willing to do this... well you might as well spend the day at home writing a few chapters in your next book.

Would you agree?  What do you think it takes to sell a book... or two?

Here's the books I bought:

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  1. Yes, Lynne, I agree - you MUST engage the potential reader in some way to spark interest in what you are selling. I'm simmering some of the techniques I can use in the future on the back burner right now . . .
    Just curious - how much does it cost to rent a booth at the Decatur book fair?
    Thanks again for another informative, helpful post!

  2. You're absolutely right, Lynne. When I go to fairs, we make headbands. The kids love crafting them, and because they wear them (feathers and all) people ask where to find my booth.

  3. Engagement is key, for sure!

    While I'm not a book writer, I am a voracious consumer of illustrated picture books. I imagine that it depends on what the book is for, so my disclaimer is that it's for a preK-3 school counselor (that's me!). First, it can't have too many words or I won't get through a 30-minute guidance lesson. Second, it has to have a purpose without being too preachy. Third, I just LOVE a clever title or a pithy play on words. Finally, the illustrations have to grab me.

    Thanks for such a comprehensive recap!

    The Corner On Character

  4. @Martha- good idea to be thinking ahead about this even before your book is published!
    @Erin--I've seen your headbands on some of your pictures and I remember thinking what a great idea it was! You inspire me always!

  5. @Barbara--I love picture books too and your website! What a great deal of information you have gathered for school counselors! I love it.