Second Aspect: personal interaction
First off, the main problem in selling books is not that people don’t read anymore. If you’ve ever done a signing and saw people coming in and out of the store, giving you a glance and walking away, the problem is not that they’re not interested, it’s that you haven’t given them a reason to be. There was exactly zero personal interaction.
I spoke recently to a Chapters manager who told me that authors who engage the public make eight times the sales, on average, than those who do not.
Whether it’s because you are shy, or because you are afraid of rejection, or you feel like you might be bothering someone, the fact remains that you are letting a potential reader get away when you do not engage.
Interesting anecdote: I was at Fan Expo Toronto last year. My booth neighbor was also an author of science fiction. I thought this might be a problem, but no. He spent the entire four days playing a video game on his phone. He may have sold three books. I walked out of there having sold 150. You have to speak to your audience, or they do not know you exist.
You might say: I don’t like selling. It demeans me.
That’s fine. I’m not selling. I’m creating a fan base. I’m putting my books in the hands of people who will love a good story I wrote, for a finder’s fee.
There are others who have told me that they were writers, not salespeople.
Let me be blunt. This is from my own personal experience. However short and stunted it is. I’m starting out. I unfortunately don’t have 50 000 dollars to put an ad out in the New York Times for my book. I can’t afford to send out my book to 150 reviewers in the country to get glowing reviews in papers, one time. What I can do, though, is attend book sales and conventions for a few hundred dollars at a time, and try to sell as many of my books as possible to get them out there. I did write them for the fun of it, but now I want others to have the opportunity to share in that fun. That is what I can do, and so far it has gone very well, and I think it could do very well for you as well.
The greatest hurdle between you and selling well, is yourself.
What I recommend, at first, is to do free events.
You can go to any Chapters, Indigo, or Coles, or any independent book store and ask them to do a signing there. You can go to any store that relates to the kind of writing and try to do signings there, too. There are many free events you can do to try to get some practice in.
If you’ve ever heard of the Author’s Market at the Byward Market, I strongly suggest you put in your name for next year. For those of you who don’t know, the Byward market has tables and an awning for authors to sell their wares, four times during the summer. It’s a great deal, plus you get to spend the day outside. What I’m saying is: use that time to get good at having customers approach you because you invited them to.
This is pretty much where I started last summer, with Liam Gibbs, fellow sci fi author and my kind of lunatic. We basically spent the three days we had together selling out novels by calling unsuspecting people over to our tables.
We would yell out things like: “Do you like sifee? Do you like Sky Fy? Do you like oxygen.”
For the most part, people don’t care what you say, as long as it’s civil, of course.
And we weren’t embarrassing ourselves, we were having fun. And the people who did join in to our lunacy thought we were having fun, too, and wanted to join in.
And they’d come to our tables, and we’d talk to them, and sell them our books, and that was that.