Direct Sale Venues For Authors

Meet-the-author-OPSelf-published authors wear a lot of hats, and I’m going to speak for many of us and say that the most boggling of them all is book promotion. We’re pretty much always trying to think up ways to get ourselves and our titles in front of readers, am I right?

So while we’re spending a ton of time figuring out how to promote our 99 cent sales and which book marketing vendors will give us the best bang for our buck, we might overlook the chance to make direct sales and meet potential new readers one-on-one. And when we do consider it, bookstore signings and book festivals are often the only thing that comes to mind.

But other venues are available.

To be successful at direct sales, you’ll need a print version of your book(s), giveaways such as bookmarks, a laptop so people can sign up for your newsletter right on the spot (or a notebook to record email addresses), a huge smile and lots of energy. And a place to go, of course. The great news is that these places provide a great opportunity for you to say, “Buy my book!” Here are a few ideas:

  • Book festivals. As I mentioned, most authors think of book festivals when they think of direct-sale venues, and they’re a great place to start. Check out Jodie Renner’s comprehensive list of Writers’ Conferences & Book Festivals in North America in 2014. If the price of a booth at the festival you want to attend is too expensive, consider sharing with an author or two who write in the same genre. Here are Tips to Maximize a Book Festival Appearance.
  • Bookstores. Let’s face it, 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.
  • Local and regional fairs, meetings, and specialty events. Whether you write sci-fi, historical fiction, westerns, or nonfiction, Belea Keeney’s post, Selling Your Books at a Booth will give you lots of ideas about venues and the process to prepare for one. Think conventions, conferences, club meetings, even rodeos and sci-fi confabs. Choose a venue that syncs with your genre and/or subplot or characters. Is your protagonist an avid gardener? There you go.
  • Libraries. My local library system offers all sorts of classes and entertainment, and there’s something going on nearly every week. Consider preparing 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.
  • Not-so traditional-methods. This author spreads his books out at his table when he’s at Starbucks. He hangs out in the hotel bar during travel conventions. Cheeky, but funny. You might get some ideas!

Work hard to maximize book sales per event
If you’re going to all the effort required to appear at an event, be sure to go the extra mile so you can maximize the number of books you sell. That means you’ll need to help promote the event, be able to accept multiple forms of payment, create special book sale bundles and offer special pricing, and gather email addresses so you can touch bases with the people you meet after the event is over. Penny Sansevieri’s post, 12 Secrets to Selling More Books at Events provides lots of ideas.

Accept multiple payment methods
Today, only 27% of purchases are made with cash. One in five people in the United States do not regularly carry cash, and an additional 40% carry less than $20 at any given time. That means that most people rely on credit cards. So if you set up events that require you to handle check-out and sales, you must be able to accept credit cards as well as cash, debit cards, checks, and PayPal. Many vendors provide free card readers for your smartphone or tablet, and businesses like Shopify make it possible for you to expand into cashless markets.

Readers, have you tried any direct-sale methods? Do you have venues or ideas to add? Please leave a comment and share!

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12 Responses to Direct Sale Venues For Authors

  1. Belinda Pollard July 7, 2014 at 2:53 pm #

    One I’ve heard of people doing, Molly, is craft markets. I’m not sure what you call them in the US, but in Australia there are a lot of markets operating on the weekends where people go to sell all sorts of stuff.

    Some people have done well with setting up a stall with a couple of other local authors. But they need to be the craft or artisan markets, where people expect to pay for quality items, rather than what I’d call “junk” markets, where people go to sell all the things they don’t want any more fro 50c. (The different markets attract a different kind of buyer.)

    Thanks for the ideas and the collection of interesting articles from others. 🙂

    • Molly Greene July 7, 2014 at 3:22 pm #

      Interesting, Belinda! I haven’t heard of that for fiction authors, but it sounds like it would be fun (and probably not expensive) to try. We have a couple of great annual craft markets here that draw big crowds. Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Deborah Armstrong July 7, 2014 at 7:04 pm #

    I am happy to say I have tried all of your suggestions. I have also joined women’s networking groups. The women in these groups have supported my writing and have helped promote my books with their connections. Support fund raisers by donating your books. It helps others as well as promoting your work. As you suggested, always have your books with you (soft cover or ebook card) and business cards or bookmarks with your website listed. You are the best person for selling your books.

    • Molly Greene July 7, 2014 at 7:25 pm #

      Deborah, how exciting! Sounds like you’re a true direct-sale advocate and I deeply appreciate your comment. Hawaiian author Toby Neal has also said that donating print books to charitable auctions has also worked well for her. Best to you on your book sales!

  3. elaine pinkerton coleman July 7, 2014 at 7:12 pm #

    Excellent suggestions, Molly. One approach that seems to work well here in my home town of Santa Fe, NM, is to give part of proceeds to a charitable cause. True, we authors seldom make enough to be giving away part of our slim profits. Fortunately, however, I have a couple back titles that I’m able to donate for causes such as “Youth Shelters,” Veterans for Peace and various literacy programs for children. It’s amazing to me how people flock to benefits (at least in this town). We also have an independent book store, Op Cit, whose owner does not take a cut — if the reading or booksigning is for a good cause. Refreshments and door prizes help draw people. Such events raise author visibility and can be fun.

    • Molly Greene July 7, 2014 at 7:27 pm #

      Thanks, Elaine, that’s a great idea – I look forward to the day when my donated proceeds amount to enough to actually make a difference! Thank you so much for sharing.

  4. Debbie A. McClure July 8, 2014 at 7:10 am #

    Hi Molly. Great post here, and it comes with some great ideas. One of the things I tried with the release of my first book last year, was to offer talks and book signing/sales at local retirement homes. These folks definitely read, and they read a lot. They’re often overlooked by people, but especially for upscale retirement homes, they have many programs and usually a book club and/or library. Don’t forget, you aren’t just reaching the residents, but the staff of these homes as well. I’ve had some great sales and really interesting discussions with attendees. Just be prepared to have access to a microphone, and speak loudly! 🙂

    • Molly Greene July 8, 2014 at 7:14 am #

      Thanks Debbie, what a brilliant idea! Some genres might not fit, but what an excellent way to think outside the box. You are one smart lady, and it sounds like fun, too. Thank you so much for sharing and best to you on your book sales!

  5. joybelle2012 July 20, 2014 at 4:03 am #

    Hi Molly and thanks, – this was all very interesting.
    I’ve had an idea that I’m going to try out shortly that will fit in with what you have said.
    I decided to make A4 copies of my covers and place them into transparent plastic sleeves, with an outline of the story included at the back of the picture, so that people can read what the story is about.
    I’ll either do each short story as an individual cover/ or buy those folders that have lots of transparent sleeves stuck into them.
    Then I’ll go to markets and fairs etc. with my laptop and my colourful covers in their sleeves and book myself a table, where I’ll do a display on a board and also have several of the cover folders for people to view.
    I’ll then offer to download in Word PDF,Kindle or anything they want and send the stories directly to their email address or Kindle, while they are waiting.
    Then I’ll charge a standard R10 for each short story, which is good value in South African money, as most people will part with this amount quite happily.
    I’ll let you know if it works later, but presently I’m off to the seaside for a much needed two week break. -Maybe I’ll even set up a stall on the beach and sell my short stories from there.
    What do you think about this idea????

    • Molly Greene July 20, 2014 at 8:39 am #

      Joybelle, what a great idea!!! I love that you’re thinking outside the box. And anyone could adapt this idea to large bookmarks and give stacks to the local library – not the download part, but with a sales link. … and think of all the people at the beach would are looking for a good read! Thank you so, so much for sharing!

  6. Julie Musil August 10, 2014 at 7:14 pm #

    I’m doing an author event in October, and I need to get a card reader thingy for my iPhone. Thanks for these great tips!

    • Molly Greene August 11, 2014 at 8:34 am #

      My pleasure Julie, and best of luck at your event!