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12 Secrets to Selling More Books at Events

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So you got a book event, great! Now you want to maximize it, right? You've heard your writing buddies (or perhaps read online) about the lack of attendance at signings, so figuring out how to maximize the event, regardless of the numbers might be tricky. While I spend a lot of time addressing online marketing, the offline component is one you shouldn't overlook. If book events are where you want to focus, then bringing in some ideas to help you sell more books is something you should consider.

Some years back when I was promoting The Cliffhanger I ended up at a book signing in the driving rain. I mean, it was pouring and the store was all but empty. It was amazing I sold even one book, let alone seven. While not a big number, the copies were all sold to people who were seeking refuge in the store from the rain and not there for my event. This signing taught me a lot about events and connecting with consumers in stores. If you have an event coming up, consider these ideas before you head out:

  1. Marketing: First and foremost is the marketing of your event. But I'm not talking about the marketing you do the media (though that is great too). I'm speaking of in-store marketing; this is what most folks seem to overlook. This is where you supply things to the store to help them market your event. Because the first phase of a successful event is driving people to it. Here are a few thoughts.
    • Do bag stuffers. You can easily do this in your favorite computer program, do two up on a page, meaning that you use one 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper to do two fliers. You'll want to ask the store first if they mind that you provide this. Most stores or event venues don't.
    • Bookmarks: while most in the industry see these as passé, people still love them. You can do bookmarks and bag stuffers (or staple them to the flier) or you can do custom bookmarks with the date and time of your event. Nowadays it's pretty easy to get these done cheaply. Keep in mind that if you are having the event in a mall or other type shopping area, you might be able to drop the bookmarks (or bag stuffers) off at the nearby stores to see if they'll help promote the event.
  2. Book signings are boring: Regardless of where you do the event, plan to do a talk instead of a signing. People are drawn into a discussion and are often turned off by an author just sitting at a table. Marketing is about message and movement so stand up and speak. If speaking in public is intimidating to you, go to Toastmasters or some other local networking/speaking group and see what you can learn.
  3. Unique places: If you want to get more attention for your event, consider doing events in unique places. We've done them in video stores, electronics stores, gyms, even restaurants (on slow nights); doing outside-the-bookstore events is a great way to gain more interest for your talk. Why? Because you aren't competing with everyone else at the bookstore for your crowd. When you do an event at a locale that doesn't normally do events, you'll attract more people just because it's considered "unique."
  4. Show up early and talk it up: OK, so let's say you're in the store and there are a ton of people in there shopping (a book event dream, yes?) I suggest that you take your extra bag stuffers or custom bookmarks and just hand them to the people in the store. Let them know you are doing an event at such and such time and you'd love it if they can sit in. You'll be surprised how many new people you might pull in this way.
  5. Customize: Regardless of what your talk is about, poll the audience first to see a) what brought them there, or b) what they hope to learn if your talk is educational. I suggest this because the more you can customize your discussion, the more likely you are to sell a book. If you can solve problems (and this is often done during the Q&A) all the better. You'll look like the answer machine you are and readers love that. If you have the answers, they'll want to buy from you. I promise.
  6. Make friends: Get to know the bookstore people, but not just on the day of the event. Go in prior and make friends, tell them who you are and maybe even hand them your flier or bookmark (or a stack if you can). Often stores have Information Centers, see if you can leave some fliers there instead of just at the register. Getting to know the people who are selling the book is a great way to help gather more people into your event. If your event isn't in a bookstore but attached to a shopping area or mall, go around to the stores (and perhaps you did this when you passed out the fliers) and let them know you have an event and what can you do to help them promote it. If you can rally the troops to help you market your talk, you could triple the numbers of people at your event. No kidding.
  7. Take names: I always, always recommend that you get names and (email) addresses from the folks who attended. Signing them up for your mailing list is a great way to keep in touch with them and stay on your reader's radar screen. If you have a giveaway or drawing, great! This will help you to collect names. If you don't, offer them a freebie or e-book after the event. Often if I'm doing a PowerPoint presentation I will put together a set of them (delivered in PDF) after the event. Attendees need to sign up to get them and then once they do, I include them in our newsletter list, which helps me to stay on their radar screen.
  8. Pricing: Make sure your book is easy to buy. If you are doing this outside of a bookstore this is easy to do and will help your sales. I find that a rounded number like 10 or 20 makes for a quick and easy sale. If you can round up or down without adding or losing too much to the price, by all means do it.
  9. Book pairing: One way you might be able to round up is by pairing your book with a freebie. When I paired Red Hot Internet Publicity with a second, but smaller, marketing book I took the awkward pricing of18.95, bumped it up to 20 (so 2 books for 20) and quadrupled my sales after an event. Now the pairing doesn't have to be a book, it can be a special report or even an e-book that you send to them after the event.
  10. Product and placement: As you're doing your talk (especially if it's in a non-bookstore venue) make sure that you have a copy of the book propped up in front of you so event visitors see it the entire time you are speaking. Hold up the book when appropriate and use it as an example when you can. This will help to direct the consumer's eye to the book -- and making eye contact with the product is a good way to make sure it stays on their radar screen throughout your talk. When I do a speaking gig at an event that allows me to sell books in the room, I will sell four times more than I would if the attendees have to go somewhere else to buy it, so make the buy easy. If you can, make sure your books are for sale in the room.
  11. Ease of purchase: Aside from pricing, if you're doing your own checkout, make sure that you have many ways consumers can buy your book. I take credit cards at the event, checks and cash. Don't limit yourself as to what you can take or you will limit your sales.
  12. Post event wrap up: So the event is over, what now? Well, if you got attendees to sign up for your newsletter (you did do that, right?) now it's time to send a thank you note for attending and remind them (if they missed the chance at the event) to buy a copy of your book at the "special event price."

Speaking and book events are great ways to build your platform, but if you aren't selling books there's little point in doing them. For many of us, our book is our business card and thus, if we can sell our "business card" we can keep consumers in our funnel. If your book isn't your business card, you still want readers, right? So the marketing both post and during an event is crucial to building your readership. While it's easy to say that events sell books, they often don't. I find that if you don't "work it" you often will find your time wasted. Seek the opportunities when they are made available to you -- and then maximize them when they are, you'll be glad you did!