5 Tips To Make Direct-Sale Events A Rousing Success

A growing number of self-published authors either never joined the social media frenzy, or are giving it the cold shoulder in favor of other book promotion methods. Author Todd Borg is one of them. Last week Todd guested on my blog and talked about his production, his income, and his selling strategies.

We found out he’s not on Twitter or Facebook (GASP!), but his Owen McKenna Mysteries sell well in spite of it. So how does he do it? Personal appearances: this author gets around. And while it might not be for everybody, it works for him, and it’s worth considering.

file0001917819721-1Todd says, “Most of my return on festivals doesn’t come from the event itself but from Amazon and other sales down the road. I’ve even seen many of my reviews mention, ‘I met Mr. Borg at a festival…’ The festival is just one of several important steps (for me) in building a career. And the career, in the big picture, makes money.”

Are you game? Here are a few ideas about possible venues:

Book-specific festivals

Most authors think of book-specific festivals when they think of direct-sale venues, and they’re a great place to start. Check out Jodie Renner’s comprehensive list of 2015 Writers’ Conferences & Book Festivals. If the booth price at the festival you’re interested in is too expensive, share with an author or two who write in the same genre.


Let’s face it, traditional bookstore-type book signings can be dull and the buzz is that they’re often not lucrative for the author. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try them – especially locally – it simply means you need to think outside the box and make YOUR book signing special. Consider giving a talk, a reading, sponsor a contest, provide special giveaways. Although mass distribution to national bookstores remains mostly out of reach for self-pubbers (at this writing), local bookstores can still be approachable. Author Toby Neal wrote about her experience here: How to get your indie book into Barnes and Noble.

Book clubs, libraries, and service clubs

Local libraries offer all sorts of classes and entertainment, and there’s something going on nearly every week. Consider approaching your librarian to offer your services, then prepare a presentation – not just a book reading or signing – and use it to draw an audience, then sell your books in the back of the room. And book clubs and Rotary clubs are always looking for speakers!

Festivals, regional fairs, and specialty events

FarmersMarket_OpThis is the type of event Todd attends most often. Art, wine, and harvest festivals are all a possibility. Farmers Markets draw large crowds, and since few other authors will appear there, you might have the readers to yourself. Think conventions, conferences, even rodeos and sci-fi confabs. Consider a venue that syncs with your genre and/or subplot or characters. Is your protagonist an avid gardener? There you go.

Todd Borg says, “… the great thing for introverts is that you don’t have to stand up and give a speech [at a festival], you just have to smile and answer questions. I don’t even introduce myself to passersby because that sometimes scares them away. I just sit in the back writing on my laptop, and wait until someone picks up one of my books. Over and over, I’ll be writing and a voice will say, ‘Working on the next book, huh?’ And there’s my opening.” Todd discusses his festival philosophy here.

5 tips to maximize the success of your event

  1. Promote early and well. Start promoting your event weeks prior to the big day. You may also want to advertise in local media and ask other authors to help get the word out to their audience. Call on family and friends for support and use your online connections. In addition, send reminders just before the event. Add the info to your website, your newsletter, blog about it, post about it on social media.
  1. Get good signage. Whether you participate in a public event or sign books at a table in a bookstore or library, you must provide visual clues about who you are and why you’re there. That means put up signs everywhere, including professional table signs. That way, attendees can figure out what you do at a glance.Choose good quality signage and locate a reliable discounted online resource for it (rather than a traditional printer) where you will save time and money. For example, custom table banners at eSigns can turn an ordinary table into an attractive display that will serve to highlight the event and promote your books.
  1. Prepare a talk. If your event is at a library, meeting, bookstore, or book club, prepare a 15 to 45 minute presentation. You can speak about your publishing experience, and describe your journey and the challenges you faced before you achieved your dream. If you write non-fiction, speak about the topic in depth and offer tips and advice. In addition, you can include a reading from your book.
  1. Take giveaways. Print up a small postcard or bookmark (yes, people still love them!) with your name, website book title(s), Amazon Author page, social media accounts, and/or thumbnail images of your book covers. Pass them out. You might be surprised how many people download your book following the event.
  1. Smile! Todd says, “… the role of exhibitor makes it easier to gradually move from being a shy introvert to an introvert who can, when needed, be gregarious. We’re all introverts. Otherwise, why would we choose to spend enormous amounts of time alone dreaming up our own little worlds? But we can learn to get past shyness. Check out Toastmasters – they teach even the shyest people how to be confident public speakers.”

Live, direct-sale venues are an opportunity to meet potential readers face-to-face. For your event to be successful, start in advance to inform people about it, arrange for proper, professional signage, and make the event engaging by providing an informative talk.

Readers, have you tried any direct-sale venues? If so, what was the outcome and if not, do you have plans to give it a go? Please leave a comment and share!

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12 Responses to 5 Tips To Make Direct-Sale Events A Rousing Success

  1. DK Walker January 12, 2015 at 6:59 pm #

    Thanks Molly for sharing this great post to how to explore other unconventional options in selling your book. Like your previous blog featuring Todd Borg, I too found better success selling my books off line as well, would love to reach a happy medium because social media does give you a worldwide reach. But in the meantime I will continue to ramp up my efforts off line as I learn this ever changing social media beast…lol.

    • Molly Greene January 13, 2015 at 7:18 am #

      My pleasure, DK, and I agree that a happy medium is ideal. Social media is a powerful tool and although both methods of marketing are time consuming, you can tweet from home in your pj’s 🙂

  2. Toby Neal January 12, 2015 at 9:56 pm #

    Thanks so much for including the link to my B & N article! What it didn’t show was how fabulously the event went, what an opportunity it was to meet friends and fans who’s been waiting for a chance to meet me in person, and how fun it was to hand sell print books.
    I still don’t have the time for the event-driven model becuase I choose to focus on writing more books, but kudos to Todd and those who do. I know it works!

    • Molly Greene January 13, 2015 at 7:19 am #

      My pleasure Toby, and I bet it was great fun. I don’t think I’d be well suited to the festival-intense model myself but I think it would be a blast to get out a couple times a year and meet folks one-on-one.

  3. joybelle2012 January 12, 2015 at 10:45 pm #

    Thanks Molly, I rather like the bookmark idea so I think I’ll try it.
    Best wishes, Joy

    • Molly Greene January 13, 2015 at 7:21 am #

      Thank you, Joybelle! I have bookmarks that I’ve kept around for years, so I know from personal experience readers hang on to them!

  4. Belinda Pollard January 12, 2015 at 11:14 pm #

    Thanks Molly, some great tips that I’m going to explore! I particularly like that one about working on the laptop and letting people just look at the books.

    In my very short career as a novelist (1 month and counting, ha) I have found that selling face-to-face is surprisingly satisfying. Not necessarily lucrative… but energising. People I know are so excited about my book that it makes me feel excited.

    I’ve sold copies to people from my exercise class, my church, my Toastmasters club, my bank, my post office, and one of my clients even agreed to put it in their bookstall at a big annual conference. It has taken me by surprise how many people were interested and supportive.

    I did do a twilight market stall just before Christmas with two other local authors, but we found that sales were mostly to people we knew who had come because we advertised on social media. I think I only sold one to a complete stranger. And it was a LOT of work getting it all set up. So I’d be doing a cost-benefit analysis before I did it again!

    Lots to think about…

    • Molly Greene January 13, 2015 at 7:23 am #

      That is so wonderful, Belinda! It also illustrates the power of a print book – I still don’t have any, so I’ve been denied the thrill. Kudos to you for getting out and experimenting with direct sales!

  5. Carrie Ann Lahain January 13, 2015 at 11:10 am #

    Boy, could I have used this post back in October when I attended my first book festival. Had no idea what I was doing. Didn’t sell a thing, but I did meet some interesting people and got a lead on my next event, which will be at a local library at the end of March. Looking back at my first event through the lens of this post was fascinating. I can see where I went wrong and where I did well. This is indie writing business is such a learning process! It’s stressful, but it’s also exciting. Anyway, thanks for another valuable post! I’m going to share it with my network. Plenty of publishing newbies there, and they could use the help.

    • Molly Greene January 13, 2015 at 12:21 pm #

      Thanks, Carrie! I honestly think that sometimes it’s better to jump in and do things. I’ve honestly learned more by the mistakes I’ve made than what I’ve done right. So kudos to you for “just doing it.” Bottom line you had an adventure and gained ammo for your next shot at it. Good luck, and thanks for your support!

  6. Chris Henderson January 13, 2015 at 6:56 pm #

    I think I’m moving towards the indie-pub idea. Keep posting these great tips to encourage me to step out on my own.

    • Molly Greene January 14, 2015 at 8:24 am #

      Even trad-published authors need to get out, meet readers, and do a portion of their marketing! Glad to be of service, Chris, and best to you in 2015 book sales!