Tuesday, October 11, 2011

How to hand-sell 1000 books Part II

So you've done all your preparation work and arrived at the book store with pens in pocket and water bottle in hand.
After meeting as many of the staff as you can, you MUST get your table set up out the front of the store. Anything inside the store is a killer. And don't use a chair. If you sit down, you'll be lucky to get two sales, let alone 20.
Chat to the owners and see if they'll do a deal.
The ideal scenario (with a trilogy) is for them to knock a dollar or two off the price of the first book (to get the mildly interested and tyre-kickers over the line) and then a decent discount for them to take the entire trilogy.
Price points are vital. My trilogy has a rrp of $67. If you can offer it for $59 or better, I have a much better rate of success than $60 or above.
Dymocks Nowra offered all three for $55 and I sold five trilogies in 45 minutes, on a quiet Thursday afternoon when about 10 people walked past!
With that negotiated, get started!
If you're lucky, there are a few people waiting for you. You can use Facebook and Twitter to alert people - and don't disregard local newspapers. They're always looking for stories and even a couple of pars will give your name plenty of attention. They may not come in on the day but if they later see a poster up, or a signed copy on the shelf, then you've got a real chance of a purchase.
If there's no one there for you, no problem. There are dozens of book-lovers walking past the store each hour. You just need to talk to them.
You have to turn yourself into a cold-caller or spruiker - but a nice one!
My opening line is: ``Do you like reading?'
It forces people to stop and think - they can't just say ``No'' because it makes them look silly.
Having said that, there is a proportion of people who hate reading and will be quick to tell you!
Generally, they seem to prefer eating and getting themselves tattooed!
If they stop, or at least pause, I say: ``I'm an author and these are my books''.
They can either brush me or come over and talk.
You'd be surprised how many want to talk but if they don't, you have to still smile and give them a wave.
You are on show - you have to keep putting out positivity. Smile, be pleased to see people. You're asking them to pay money and buy your books. The least you can do is look happy about it!
Often I'll see someone walking briskly towards me, trying to hustle past this pushy bloke who's obviously trying to sell something. I'll give them a big smile and a cheery greeting and, quite often, they'll slow down enough for me to ask if they like reading - and go from there. But toss a question at them too early and they just brush you.
So now you have them talking. I have my pitch all worked out, tailored to whether the potential buyer is male, female or teenager (yes, a different species sometimes!)
Seriously, I give them a quick rundown of the book, point out a few reviews, number of reprints and bestseller status, then give them the special offer.
If all is good, then they say yes and I sign immediately before sending them inside to pay.
I sign at this stage for two reasons - one, they can't have a rethink while wandering around the store and just put the book down on a shelf and two, you're free to keep selling, instead of waiting for someone to pay and then come back to have it signed.
Now, if they are still wavering there are a few things to do. Offer them the back of the book to read. Ask them their favourite authors to see if you can draw a connection with your books.
Sometimes, however, they decide not to buy. Don't show any disappointment. Instead, encourage them to recommend you to friends/family who might like it better. Or to put it down on their wish list. Wave them off with a smile, so they have a positive memory of you.
The whole point of this is to sell yourself for two hours. Don't sell yourself short. People won't always want to buy your books on the day. But if you give them time and a smile, then it may well pay off.
Likewise if people tell you they love to read but don't like fantasy. Suggest your name to friends/family but don't make them feel bad.
Every person you talk to should remember you in a positive light.
When it comes to who to talk to, always pick women over men, as women are 70% of fantasy buyers.
Ideally you ask everyone, which means quieter foot traffic can mean better results. But, if faced with a choice of two, I always ask the woman!
Keep track of sales, if you wish, but always remember it's about speaking to people first, selling second. Get the first right and the sales will follow.
People want to meet authors. They want to buy books. You just have to reach out to them.
Next, I'll take you through in-depth tips and tricks to help convert talks into sales.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

How to hand-sell 1000 books a month - Part I

I've managed to turn bookstore appearances into something of an art, averaging 20 sales per store, often topping 30 sales and twice hitting 49 books sold in two hours.
Of course this does not count extra books left signed at the stores, people who don't want to buy that day but will ``keep you in mind'' and those who will pass on your name to their relative/friend who loves fantasy.
Plus there is the store feel-good factor, where store owners and staff are impressed by your efforts on their behalf and will not only have you back for your next book, but will also recommend your books to customers over the coming weeks and months.
It's a strategy I used to hand-sell 1032 books in a month and certainly helped my third book, The Radiant Child, spend the entire month on the Dymocks fantasy/sci-fi Bestseller list, with two weeks at number four, where it was the top-selling title by an Australian author.
I can't promise you will get those results but, if you are willing to put in the work, you will do well. And here's how:

You can't just walk out there and expect to do well. You have to be ready. The hard work begins long before you walk into a bookstore.
First step is the mental preparation. You will get ignored, brushed off and sneered at. It will happen. Be prepared to take it and move on. In two hours I will expect to ask more than 100 people to speak to me. About 30-40 will listen and 15-20 will then buy. That's a good day. If you can't handle rejection, then you shouldn't be a writer. If you can't handle being rejected 50-60 times in a couple of hours, then don't try these store appearances.
I did some acting when I was younger and try a couple of techniques. Firstly I see myself as Duncan Lay The Author for these appearances, which puts some space between the rejection and myself.
Secondly, experience tells me if I ask enough people, I will find buyers. I just have to shrug off the sneers and meet them with an ever wider smile. If you put out positive energy, eventually it comes back to you.
Next you need to know what to say. You have to sound confident. Work at what you will say until you are ready. You can offer people the back of the book to read but I have worked out a little spiel of my own. I also have variations to appeal to families with teenagers, to women and to men.
Obviously you are going to get the odd question that comes from left field - once I was asked how long was the longest battle scene and had to hurriedly flick through Risen Queen to find the answer.
But you can anticipate most of the questions - How long have you been writing, what was your inspiration, how long did it take to write this book, do you have any advice for budding writers, is this your full-time job (oh, if only they knew!) etc, etc.
Have a little think about these common questions, so you sound like you're on top of your game when they do get asked.
Arrive with a bottle of water and a pen, so you look prepared. Make sure the store has posters etc at least a week or so before you arrive.
Lunchtime is the best time for these appearances, so make sure you had a good breakfast.
If you have bookmarks or business cards, take enough so you can hand them out to as many people as possible.
Next, and this is VITAL. Insist you get a table out the front of the store (NOT inside) and NO CHAIR.
Sitting down breaks the eye contact with people. Sitting behind a desk creates a barrier between you and potential buyers. Going inside a store means you don't get to talk to passers-by.
Any of these things will destroy your chances at a successful store appearance.
Above all, prepare yourself so that the number of sales is not the be-all and end-all. You have two hours to promote yourself as best you can. Do that and sales will follow. Obsess about numbers and you will struggle.
So now you're ready to go ... next time I'll discuss how to talk to people, then go into some finer points of selling.
And, if I get enough forwards and re-tweets, I will put up a short video, to show you how I put it all together!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Conflux Part Two

If Friday of Conflux was mainly bookstores with a little panel work thrown in, Saturday was more about the panel.
It kicked off with a Starting The Journey panel, about the steps you need to take to get yourself published.
My fellow panellists were Voyager author Nicole Murphy, Angry Robot author Jo Anderton and ex-Harper Collins editor and online guru Natalie Costa Bir.
Nicole, as moderator, pointed out just how many people in the audience wanted to be published with a quick straw poll. Given there would be hundreds more across Australia, it brought home the enormity of the challenge.
I guess the message I tried to convey was simple.
Out of every 100 submissions an agent is sent, they will ask for perhaps five full manuscripts. Out of that five, perhaps one will be selected. maybe even one out of 120. It's that tough.
So it's up to you to do everything possible to make sure you are that one. Because if you don't, then you can be sure someone else is.
If that means thinking about the commercial possibilities of your work at the earliest stage, then so be it. Obviously don't try to slavishly follow what you think is the latest trend - you have to write something from the heart - but it makes sense to appeal to as many people as possible.
That was an enjoyable panel - and funny in that you could see the audience tweeting furiously as the advice came out!
After the panel, it was off to Dymocks Tuggeranong, where the long weekend rain had brought the shoppers out in hordes. As usual, they were happy to buy books from an author and I sold plenty of trilogies and also swiftly sold out of Wounded Guardians, leaving behind a happy bookstore!
An author-in-residence spot came next, and a great chat with the delightful Natalie, my copy editor extraordinaire and tweeting expert Abigail Nathan (Bothersome Words) and author-to-be Zena Shapter. They kept me company before it was time for a panel on Writing With Dinosaurs, about common themes or motifs in writing.
My panellists here were fellow Voyager author KJ Taylor and sci-fi author Simon Petrie.
I met KJ at my last Conflux in 2009; our books were and are on a similar time frame for release. More, I like the way she thinks - and she's always entertaining as a fellow panellist!
Our panel ranged across ideas and similarities within writing and I revealed a couple of recurring motifs within my own work ... a donkey and a bedtime song!
Once again, at the mass book signing, we sat together and chatted ... very necessary as we didn't have books to sell and sign!
The Sunday saw my final panel - Fantasy Accoutrements - the things every fantasy character needs.
I kicked off with the Goblinator 6000 Mark II ... it slices, it dices and it also has a handy attachment for cleaning the blood out from underneath the fingernails.
It's better than the Mark I, which had a tool for clipping nose hairs, except the button for that was too close to the slicer, which had several unfortunate incidents ...
In all seriousness, I highlighted the need for logic - as well as Hollywood's distressing habit of breaking rules of history and sense in its portrayal.
Basically, you can do whatever you want, but have it make sense. You can't sleep out for several nights without getting dirty and needing to carry plenty of food. Swords and other weapons lose their sharpness. Quivers mean you drop arrows everywhere.
I like to use history as a guide. Humans living in those environments coped as best they could and seeing how they did gives you a perfect start.
If you want to get creative, then that's fine as well - but have it make sense.
And as KJ Taylor pointed out, think things through to their logical conclusion!
I had a fun kaffeeklatsche afterwards but then called off my reading with my voice struggling due to all the bookstore appearances.
All in all, a fun Conflux. I met plenty of wonderful people and hope I said a few things that helped people, a little!