Let’s say you’ve tried your darndest to get your foot into every bookstore in your area, in fact, in a fifty mile radius, but you’ve had no success. The gatekeepers have won. Is your book doomed to grace only YOUR bookshelf? Don’t lose heart. You can sell more books outside your local, or chain, bookstore by thinking outside the box. Let me give you some examples of where you can sell loads of books without ever stepping foot inside “the Gate”.
Anywhere where there are people, and I mean anywhere, is a good place to sell your books. Wait! Do you mean to tell me, Mr. Cormier, that I can sell books on the street, outside of church or inside a grocery store? You’re telling me that I can literally sell my book at the beach, a restaurant? Even in the Psych Unit of a Hospital? The answer, my friends, is not blowing in the wind, it is a definite YES! Need proof? I have done most of those things. HOLD ON, MR. CORMIER! You’ve sold your books inside a Psychiatric Unit of a hospital? I did. And to date it was my most successful outing yet!
Let me explain further. Have you ever left your local walmart, or grocery store, and been accosted by a person selling baked goods or candy or hand-knit potholders? What did you do? Maybe you walked the other way and tried to ignore them. But perhaps you ponied up a few bucks to buy their goods because the seller was there to support a charity such as a local church, Breast Cancer, the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts or a school function. In fact, if you did buy that hand made potholder you might have felt a little warm fuzzy knowing some of the money was going to a good cause. It’s an anti-consumerism, “finally I am spending my money not just to get something for myself but to give back to society”, thing. It works. It’s a win-win. You feel good, the charity earns money. You can do the very same thing with your books.
You might now be thinking, “Wow, this guy has sunk pretty low just to sell his books. He’s actully telling me to find a charity, arrange to donate to them via selling my books somewhere, find a grocery store or Walmart or insane asylum, and ask them if I can set up shop to sell my book about “who killed the senator who was screwing around with the President’s lover”, and plant myself outside, or inside, and sell sell sell. What a LOSER!”
Yes, that’s what I am telling you. If you approach the organizer of a charity, whether it’s theMDA, Boy Scouts, the local elderly center or what-have-you, you CAN arrange to donate proceeds to them via selling your book, and they WILL be eager to accept your donation, and they WILL give you their blessing on their letterhead (the letterhead is critical) to do so, and you CAN approach one of the vendors we have mentioned and show them that letterhead, and they WILL allow you to sit outside their facility and sell your books, and people WILL buy them knowing you are donating to the cause you are representing, and you MUST donate a portion of the proceeds to the charity, and the local newspaper WILL write a small blurb (preferably beforehand because you alerted them to what you are doing) about you selling your books at that location to support (enter your prefered charity here). And it WILL be a win-win for everyone.
Now read that last paragraph over to see exactly what you need to do to do this properly. It’s all in there, except for a few tidbits I’ll explain now. After you’ve arranged it with the charity and received their endorsement to donate on their behalf a certain percentage of the proceeds of your sales to their cause, and you’ve shown that letterhead to the manager of the grocery store and recieved their blessing to set up a small table outside (outside the door is best) to sell your books, you must make sure people will notice you. Signage is key. Let them know loud and proudly that you are supporting a cause with the sales of your book and that you are the author. (By the way, here’s where I’ll insert the amount you should donate. Whether you are a self-publisher or a Print on Demand author, you should donate “all profits” to the charity – and make this known. Figure out what that is and make it happen.ALLPROFITS! But that leaves nothing for me! Yikes! True. But you are looking to build readership with this, not make a living. But that means I’ve sat around for three hours and sold my book at cost? Yes, it does. But it also means that your book is now in the hands of 10, 20 or maybe even 30 new readers. If you’ve written a great book, people will tell others. The others may want to buy your book at full price (important here to mention that you should provide them with where they can do so by either inserting a bookmark with that info on it into every book sold, or better yet have that info already in the front material of your book). Also, if you’ve contacted the newpapers beforehand, or even afterwards, the publicity will be a free perk that will more than cover your costs.
Now for those tidbits. This type of selling is still selling. That means you cannot sit there behind your table and wait for people to notice you. The Salvation Army has a bellringer. You need a bellringer, too. That means greeting everyone, catching their attention, talking to them about what you’re doing. Here’s where good signage comes to play. It should tell them what charity you are donating to, that you are the author of the book, that you are signing books for the charity and that all profit goes to them. Then sell, sell, sell. Make up stickers, even if they are hand-made, that says “I support “enter charity here”, or see if the charity has stickers like that. Give each person who buys your book a sticker. Or put that on your bookmark. You will make many new readers.
As for me, I did sell my books inside a Psych Unit of a hospital. I donated the proceed to the hospital, actually it went to the patients. No, the patients did not buy my book, but the nurses and doctors did. I sold 32 books in 2 hours time. 32 books went to new readers! It doesn’t sound like much, but keep in mind that most Bookstore signings for self-published/POD authors net under 20 books sold. It was the strangest day of my life, selling books to the hospital staff while the psych patients milled around me. Unforgetable. But it was a win-win.
If you want to make money as well as new readers, then you might want to consider renting a booth at a fair or bazaar. More on this in the next post.
My Website: www.pineviewpress.com