I’ve Become a Hustler (No, Not That Kind…)

hustling, marketing, Random, selling, show, Writing Advice
No, I have not decided become a prostitute or petty criminal. While I am almost certain these ‘career’ paths would generate more income than a relatively unknown indie author can make, I have chosen the latter profession, anyway. We writers know how to punish ourselves, tell ourselves we’re not good enough, we’ll never be good enough, ask ourselves why we bother trying, brow-beat ourselves until we can no longer function as capable members of society… but we persist anyways. Onwards and upwards, isn’t that what they say?
Well, in the last year, I have focused quite a bit on publishing and the distribution of my books, but last night I took a step forwards in my marketing campaign. Well, okay, it was a small step, but a relatively successful one, considering I had low expectations of the results.
Last night in Forest, ON (where worked until recently), I attended the Home and Garden Accent Show… You’re thinking, “What? With books? Why ever would you do such a thing?” That’s what I was thinking, too, but I shared a booth with my brother-in-law (selling lily bulbs – a product apt for the show) and grandmother-in-law (selling handmade Swarovski jewellery). But I was not the only one at the show selling things not necessary related to gardening or home-ownership, so I felt a little better.
You’re probably thinking, I can’t believe you’re only just attending a show now. Yes, I know, I know. I am not a marketer. I fear the idea of having to sell myself because I don’t have a big enough ego. Plus attending the shows can be expensive for just little old me, especially when our profit margin is not enough to feed a pigeon.

At the Forest Home & Garden Accent Show – April 26, 2011
I went in with expectations of selling no books, or one at the most. After all, no one really knows who I am, not to mention we’re at a show where people do not expect to find books. However, I was fortunate enough to sell ten copies throughout the evening, and also fortunate to speak to many people about myself and my work, give away bookmarks, and promote my work via the giant poster you see in the picture. I was very glad to see that every person walking by our booth read the poster.
I did also manage to stumble quite accidentally into an opportunity that I had been procrastinating on pursuing. The local librarian stopped by and we had a little chat about a potential talk/signing at the library, as well as donating a couple of books for cataloguing.
I did learn a few things, however; some directly from customers and some from plain old trial and error.
1) Do not write the same message in each book you sign. Eventually two people will come together, read the same message, and no longer feel so ‘special’. I learned this the hard way; the wonderful ladies in the booth next to us bought copies of Stolen Prey and The Lothgoliar and will exchange with each other, and as you can guess, I wrote the same thing in each, which was noticed. I won’t do that anymore! Very embarrassed.
2) I completely neglected to write what kind of writer I am on the poster. I have a short blurb about each book and how you can purchase copies, but unless you can derive from those blurbs the genre, there is no way to know that I am a thriller/suspense writer. You would have to read the full synopses on the back of the book (and even not then, sometimes, can you realize they’re thrillers).
3) It helps to have a sign that says “signed by the author” because no one knew I was the author. I had a framed biography on the table with a small picture, but it wasn’t big enough. Most people had to ask if I was the author!
4) Having a sign with a price helps to weed out those that don’t want to spend $15 on a book, even if it is a $7.99 discount from the online price.
5) You have to engage the crowd. I learned this within the first fifteen minutes of the show. Sitting and watching patrons as they wander into your booth is not conducive to sales (it also made me feel awkward). You have to stand, greet them, allow them to soak everything in, and make yourself available for questions. And number one: **EYE CONTACT**!!!!!!
6) It helps to have your synopses blown up so that they are easily visible to read. I found that very few people actually picked up the books to read the back. I did turn them around so that the backs were facing the crowds, but that was not as affective as I had hoped. I may redesign my poster with all of the above factors in mind.
I am sure I learned more than just these things. You may be thinking, ten books, so what, big deal. Well, in the grand scheme of things, maybe it’s not a lot of books, but there are hopefully ten new fans who may each tell even one or two other people about my books. You can’t ask for too much. You have to build your name from the ground up. Because I don’t price my eBooks at $0.99 or $2.99, but rather at $7.99, which is ONE THIRD the cost of the paperback, I don’t sell as many as a cheaply priced book. So every sale counts.
I hope those who are planning to attend any shows/sales/signings can learn from some of the errors I made, and if anyone has any tips to give me (especially about talks/signings) drop them here in the comments box. I’d love to hear from you.

2 thoughts on “I’ve Become a Hustler (No, Not That Kind…)

  1. That is great that you are doing shows. You have to get your name out there somehow and I think this is a good way. Even if people read your sign it helps get known. I believe you can be a very successful author. Your books are not only amazing but I think you have the ability to sell yourself.

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