I haven’t posted to this blog for a while. Since my last post there have been a few experiences related to book marketing worth writing about. The first relates to book signing opportunities and the second to direct to the public marketing at a market type event.
An author signing sounds like a terrific opportunity at first for the novice writer with his first book in print. In my case, the book is a creative non-fiction work. The opportunity was provided by Indigo/Chapters in Canada. I won’t name the bookstore branch since it is irrelevant to what I have to say. The store and the manager were most accommodating and welcoming, so that is not an issue. The issue is the reality of the bookstore as a venue.
I believe I stated in a long ago post that the idea of writing a book was daunting for two reasons; the enormity of the task, and the massive number of books available for the buying public to choose from. It was clear from the beginning that I would be fighting for oxygen the whole way. Not only are there vast numbers of books in print but there is an even larger ocean of eBooks in this world. All of those books are competing for the reader’s dollars before you put pen to paper.
When you have a book signing scheduled many factors influence the possibility of making a sale, particularly when you are essentially an unknown quantity. So the first reality is no name, no fame, and no line up of people wanting to talk to you or look at your book. I did sell one copy to an interested reader, and had a few good conversations with a few individuals, but that was the sum total of the action during two four-hour intervals on different days. Perhaps the writer of a niche non-fiction work should be pleased with that outcome, but I’m a novice at this, so that’s just a guess.
The people who visit a bookstore usually have a book, or specific author in mind. This chain of bookstores is big on quality, unique, non-literature gift items as well, which is a big draw. The gift buyers are not there for books at all. There is also a Starbucks on site, so there are some people who pop in for a copy of a magazine or a newspaper and a coffee. Even on a great store traffic day, the probability of having people come over to your table is very small. You might as well be “the Invisible Man.” In fact, if I were an invisible man who had written a book, it probably would attract some attention. I was just INVISIBLE.
The other thing to consider is the “Consignment split”, which can be as little as 30% to the store. Stores in this chain take 45% of a sale. That’s not a problem, it’s just the cost of having space made available for your event. I suggest taking advantage of an opportunity to have an in-store event. You might get some leads and make some contacts with the public.
Direct sales are the best way to earn some money from your book. Copies can be ordered from the publisher at a significant discount. The Canada/US Dollar exchange rate was much better when I bought my copies. With the current exchange rates, the cost to the author increases. If I sell a book for the $CDN equivalent, the cost would be close to $30 a copy. I have been selling my books as if the $CDN is on par with the $US. Since my copies were purchased at about $13.22 CDN a copy, my profit is $8.78 a copy, so 10 copies net me $87.80. At the current exchange rate, my net gain would be about $1.00 less per copy or $77.80 net.
I decided to try direct sales to the public at a Christmas Market held at a popular location during the last weekend of November. The cost of a 2.5 x 4 sq ft display space on a covered table top was $220.00 + Taxes, $245.00 total. I needed gross sales from 11 books to break even. I sold only 8. That’s the downside of my experience. The upside was the number of public interactions I had over those two days. Not only did I make some important contacts through those interactions, but I was also able to affirm the validity of my plan to offer guided autobiography/memoir writing workshops at different venues in the coming year.
The number of books one might sell at a venue is limited by two factors; the audience for the sale and the cost of admission to the venue. This Christmas Market was held at a Botanical Garden and the emphasis was on Christmas displays, a model train display, and a ride on a miniature railway through a lighted garden. Most of the people attending were families with small children who had already paid an admission fee to enter the gardens. Definitely not my target audience.
There were some older individuals that were members of the gardens and entered the site free of charge. They were few in number, but accounted for almost all my sales and for most of the interactions providing good leads. I was also able to get my business cards distributed to a wider audience. I have already booked sales tables at two additional shows for 2016, but this time my target audience is assured. The shows are for seniors titled Forever Young. In addition to the sales space, I was able to pay a small fee to guarantee a corner table spot and reserve a 20-minute slot to make a presentation. There will be between 1400 and 1600 senior citizens in attendance at each show, which are 100% within my target group.
Just one more thing… You are going to have to spend a bit of money to reserve these sales locations so choose the event wisely.
As always, your faithful blogger,
L Alan Weiss (Larry) – Author