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18892965_10213701312467317_221280445819670687_nI’ve been looking at ways lately to increase my sales from festivals and other events where I sell books. I have been attending some of these festivals for years and have seen my sales plateau. Since these events cost money for the space and sometimes hotel and travel, I want to be able to maximize my sales.

Events like a festival are also great places to sell because you are generally selling at retail. You are keeping the retailer, distributor, and wholesaler cuts. I usually use some of that to create a deal that the customer can’t get in a store while still giving me more profit than if I sell the books through other channels. I make it a win-win to give them incentive to buy at the event rather than going home and buying the book off Amazon.com (which they still do sometimes).

So here are some things that I’ve tried or am in the process of trying to improve my event sales.

Keep Writing

My main purpose in attending these events is to do direct selling to my customers. It works, and I am happy to say that I have many customers who return year after year to see me at events and purchase my new books. That being the case, I’d better have new books to sell them.

You can’t rest on your laurels. You need to be continually working on a project. I work on multiple projects. I might be writing one book while researching my next. You want to have at least one book a year being released. Indie authors can generally do even more because they are not held hostage to their publisher’s timetable. 384472_10150370255946867_270838901866_8795042_317292409_n

Expand Your Genres

I generally write in the history and historical fiction genres, but I have ideas for other books. Two years ago, I decided that I would write some of these books under a pen name (J. R. Rada). The pen name wasn’t to hide who I am but to create a separate brand so my history readers wouldn’t be shocked to read a fantasy or horror novel.

Part of the reason that I finally made this jump was because I would often see potential customers looking over my titles and then say, “I don’t read history.” Now, when they say it, I have an alternative to point out to them.

I have to say this has been more successful for me online than at festivals. Festival attendees like the local appeal of a topic more, but I have been selling my horror, fantasy, and YA works. I expect the sales will continue to grow as I work more under the pen name.

Impulse Buyers

I’ve spoken with two other authors in the past few months who offer more than books at their festival tables. One told me it was profitable, but not a major part of his sales. The other one said that the additional products that he offers are the reason that horror conventions where he can sell 50 books are profitable for him.

I even saw an example of this in action this past weekend. My son attended a WWII weekend with me. On the afternoon of the last day (the slowest time), he decided that he wanted to go into business. He found a vendor at the event who also sold wholesale. He bought some Lego-style minifigure sets at wholesale prices and began selling them at retail prices ($3). He quickly started making sales. My estimate is that he could have made $400 if he had been selling during the whole event.

So I will also start offering $5 copper coins with a historical theme on them. In addition, a friend who deals in coins offered me a small box of tokens made from pieces of the Statue of Liberty. I’m hoping that this will add about $300 to my gross sales at my next festival. If it works, I will be expanding the variety of copper coins that I offer.

The key to offering other products is that it should tie into your genre. One author I know writes about the Civil War and also offers small lead busts of Civil War generals. The horror author I know offers horror character t-shirts and horror scenes in snow globes.

Other Buyers

Some festival attendees will walk right past an author tent because they aren’t interested in books. I can capture the impulse buyers with a low-price line of products. These products have a small profit margin, though.

I wanted something that could really help my sales while tying in with my books. I won’t say what it is now because I want to try it out first, but the retail prices are $5 to $25 for the products of which half is profit.

The big feature of a festival is traffic. You have thousands, even tens of thousands of potential customers. I want to attract as much of that traffic to my tent as I can and have something that will appeal to them to buy.

That’s how I plan on continuing to make festivals a profitable venue for my books.

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untitledI got a chance to go on television again the other week. The first time was last year when my co-author and I went on PCN’s PA Books to talk about The Last to Fall: The 1922 March, Battles & Deaths of U.S. Marines at Gettysburg. I’m not sure how much it boosted my book sales, but at least I got a chance to put it out there. I also heard back from some people who saw the show.

I was on the WHAG Sunday Newsmaker program on October 16. I got to talk about freelance writing and three of my books (although only two books made it into the clips on the web site). Here are the different clips if you’d like to take a peek. Enjoy!

Here are some other posts that you might like:

gaithersburg-book-festival-gaithersburg-mdI recently met another author at a festival where we were both doing signing. I was impressed when she mentioned the number of books she had been selling at some of the festivals in the area. Then she told me that she only made an average of $2 a book, meaning after she deducted the cost of the book and any promotions from what she received, she was left was $2.

She also said that her goal was to be able to be a full-time writer. I asked her why she didn’t raise her book prices then. She said she wanted to get the books out to as many people as possible.

I was struck by this. I am a full-time writer and I would like get my books read by as many people as possible. However, if I reduced my paperback prices so that I was making only $2 a book, I doubt that my sales would increase enough to make up the difference.

Here’s why.

My average gross profit per book is $10. So the author who I met would have to sell five books for every one that I sold. During our time at the festival where we met, I sold 17 books. Now I don’t know how many books she sold. It may have been more than 17, but I doubt that it was 85 or more.

Plus, we’re only talking about gross profit. You still have to consider booth costs, transportation, hotels (in some cases) and other business costs. No wonder she can’t make the jump to full-time. It’s doubtful that she’s making enough to cover her costs.

It also sounds like her publisher is making more per book than she is, which is sad, because it doesn’t sound like the publisher is doing much promotion for her books. She said that one title had sold 1,300 copies in a year, but she had hand sold 1,200 of them at festivals.

She definitely has the energy to do the marketing and is doing it. It has also paid off in more reviews for her books on Amazon. She is also getting her name out there.

I have a festival promotion that  I use, which is “Buy 2, get 1 free.” I’ve tried a lot over the years and that one works best for me. It encourages more purchases and I’m offering a better deal than the reader can get on Amazon or in a bookstore. Not to mention, that it’s a signed book. It definitely moves more books than I see other authors selling who offer no discount.

What are your thoughts about pricing of books? Should it be very low or competitively priced? Does selling physical books at deep discounts lead readers to expect all books to priced at that level?

The odd thing is I am all for using low-price promotions for e-books. For one thing, there’s no base cost that needs to be covered by the sale when you sell digital versions. Plus, low-pricing along with strong marketing has shown sales not only for your promoted book but also back list books at the regular price.

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Writing a book and earning royalties isn’t the only way you can make money from your book and it’s certainly not the fastest way. Even before your book hits the shelves, you can be making money from your research by creating articles related to your book topics. Not only will you create an additional revenue stream for yourself, you will help create interest in your book when it is released.

When you wrote your book, whether it was fiction or non-fiction, you most likely did research to make it authentic. That knowledge you now have can be turned into a number of different articles, each of which will earn you additional income, increase exposure of you as an expert on a subject that book explores and increase exposure of your book.

By using your research to create articles to help market your book, you’ll help increase your sales so that when those royalties come in, they will be larger than they otherwise might have been. The other way articles will help increase your sales is that they will increase your reputation as an author of topics in whatever field you write about.

For example, if you write a historical novel set during the Civil War, you can sell articles about the Civil War based on your research to regional and history magazines. Those readers will become familiar with your name and your writing style and be more likely to buy your books.

How Do You Do It?

The big question is how do you take a 100,000-word book and turn it into a 1,000-word article?

Serialize: The most-obvious answer is if your book is fiction, you can serialize it. You don’t see a lot of magazines serializing novels anymore and the serialization rights are usually part of your book contract so if you haven’t sold the book yet, you might be giving something away that could be valuable.

If you do serialize your novel, you can turn each chapter of your book into an article. Just imagine the extra revenue that could mean for you. Even if you run the article for free, you will still benefit consistent, regular and large exposure for your book. You probably couldn’t afford that much advertising.

A variation on this that has started gaining some popularity is serialization on the Internet, either through your own web site or an e-zine. Horror writer Doug Clegg serialized his novel Nightmare House on the Internet and by the time the serialization ended, Cemetery Dance Books had given him a five-figure advance.

Summarize: For non-fiction books, the most-obvious answer for creating articles from your book is to write articles based on one of the concepts in your book. It can be as easy as taking a chapter from the book, reworking it so it has a beginning and end and selling a stand-alone article. For books that don’t easily breakdown to one idea per chapter, you can summarize a concept or idea into an article. Jeff Guinn did this with an article he wrote about Bonnie and Clyde in Smithsonian Magazine that was based on his book Go Down Together. For someone interested in the article, he or she would also be interested in the book.

New Ideas: This method requires more work, but it can be more rewarding. Not all of your research on a topic makes it into a book, but it can be used to write articles. The article will still be about a topic found in your book. It just won’t be as directly connected to your book.       When doing this type of article, consider your research, not necessarily your book. What ideas did you have when you were reading up on different subjects? Chances are someone else could find it interesting, too.

Localize: Localizing your research is a technique that local news media teach for how to handle national topics. You find a local connection to a national topic. It requires additional research, but you already know the basics of the topic from your initial research. With a localized topic, you can market articles to every regional magazine in the country. There are two big advantages with this technique. 1) Even though your book may not be about the local area, it can create interest with local readers for your book by making a local connection. 2) It’s easier to create interest when you’re writing about something closer to the readers.

You Already Laid the Groundwork

The thing about using your book to develop articles is that it should be easier than coming up with a completely original idea. After all, you are familiar with the subject and enjoy it enough to have written a book around it. Because you are familiar with the subject, it should be easier for you develop the query letter and write the article.

Your article will probably be around 800 words, though the magazine editor will give you the word count that he or she needs.

  • Just like a short story needs to hook a reader early on, so does your article. Have an interesting fact or story that you can use to catch a reader’s attention.
  • Move into the main point you want to make and then move onto the lesser points.
  • Don’t make the article about you or your book, and don’t write in the first person.
  • Use subheads, bullets, numbered lists, etc. These things break up the copy and make it easy to follow.
  • Make sure to include your website at the end of the article.

 Reference Your Book

Though your article shouldn’t necessarily be about your book, you should make sure to get a reference it and/or your e-mail address into the article. This usually comes as an author blurb at the end of the article so that you can tie it back to your book or web site. John Kremer, 1001 ways to market your book noted that Tom and Marilyn Ross have sold articles based on their books and “In each case, they insisted that the magazine include an endnote telling readers where they could order the book.”

Within the blurb, ask the reader to visit your web site. In an ad, that would be a call to action. This call to visit your web site should be the only place in your article where you promote yourself.

Don’t Forget the Internet

Don’t overlook web sites as a location to publish your articles. If you can generate visitors to your web site, it can make a great place to serialize your novel. On the Internet, your author blurb will become an active link to take the reader right to your web site. You can also write articles as free content for other web sites to attract readers to your web site where you can hopefully entice them to buy your book and turn it into a bestseller.

In today’s marketplace where catching a reader’s attention can take some creative marketing, using your book to create articles will bring readers interested in your topic right to your doorstep. It will build your credibility in your field and increase your contacts with editors who might be willing to review or promote your books in other ways. Besides, how often do you get paid to market yourself and your books? Don’t miss out on this chance.

 

With the supposed arrival of spring, my busy time starts. I attend a lot of outdoor festivals to sell books. These can be enjoyable events when the weather cooperates. However, this year, spring has been slow in coming. The temperatures have been cool and rain has soaked to ground. Not the optimum conditions for an outdoor festival.

gaithersburg-book-festival-gaithersburg-mdI attended the Gaithersburg Book Festival this past Saturday. It was my first time there so I didn’t have any past experiences to draw upon for how I would do. I had heard that the festival had very good crowds and I could see that they had extensive and well-known roster of speakers. I went with great hopes.

The day before the festival was bright and sunny and I crossed my fingers that weather forecasters would be wrong.

They weren’t.

It rained all day during the festival. At least it wasn’t a heavy rain, but it was still rain, which keeps people inside side. On top of that, it was cool all day. I found myself shivering most of the day.

I was disappointed with the turnout, although I expected it when I saw the rain. I did manage to sell a decent number of books. This gives me hope enough to return next year and hope for good weather. If so, I should do a brisk business.

I have found that outdoor festivals are great places to sell books.

  • They get a lot of traffic. I attend not only book festivals, but craft festivals and Christmas bazaars, too.
  • People like to get an autographed book as a gift for friends and family.
  • Since I’m not a household name (like J. K. Rowling and Stephen King), my books tend to stand out as unique to festival visitors.
  • I’m independently published so I can offer great sales at festivals, which helps increase my sales. I experimented with different offers over the years and have settled on one that works best for me.
  • I always see an uptick in online sales and e-book sales after a festival. I understand the e-books, but I’ve never understood why someone who can get my autographed books at a great price at a festival, pass on that, to go home and buy an unsigned book at a higher price. I’m glad they do, though.

I’m always on the lookout for how to make my booths more attractive to pull in more passersby. Then once I get them to stop, I’ve got to find a way to get them looking at my books and interacting with me.

  • I have definitely seen big banners catch people’s attention. They stop walking to read the banners and look at the pictures. That gives me a chance to step outside my booth and speak with them.
  • I have expanded the types of books that I offer. For years, I sold only history and historical fiction. I have started offering a historical fantasy novel and I will be offering a young adult novel later this year. This should increase my potential pool of buyers.
  • I keep experimenting with counter displays. I am going to offer a larger book display rack that should hopefully attract more attention.

I know authors are always looking to do book signings, and they can be great. For independent authors, you can make more money and sell more books if you make the most of festivals. Don’t let the rain discourage you.

 

thI recently read this blog about the “10 things authors have to learn the hard way…”. It made me think. My first novel was published with a traditional publisher in 1996. By 2001, I had decided to make the jump to independent publishing and I have looked back since.

That doesn’t mean it has been easy. Far from it. Luckily, the independent publishing world is a community that is willing to help each other out. I’ve try to be open to new ideas that I’m not trying and evaluate whether they work for me. When I have questions, I can usually find someone willing to share their knowledge with me. I try to reciprocate when the opportunity arises.

So here’s my list of the things I had to learn the hard way. Some are the same as the other blog, but I’ve included my experience with them.

No one but you cares as much about your book  

I considered the traditional publisher I was first published with pretty good. I didn’t have any complaints at the time and my books seemed to sell well. Looking back now, I see there are so many things I could have done to make the book even more successful. I was new to publishing, though. I didn’t know about some of the things I could have done and my publisher didn’t suggest them. When I became an independent author, I found myself on the lookout for ways to make my book better whether it was writing, production, or marketing. No one has as much invested in your book as you and no one should want to see it succeed more than you. Unfortuneately, the way I’ve seen this play out sometimes is that the author is unbending in believing that anyone could help them improve their book. If you want what’s best for your book, sometimes that means getting help from other experts.

Traditional publishing is not better than self-publishing

When I started independent publishing, there a definite stigma to it. Despite this, I still considered it the best way to go my first project. I’ve seen that stigma slowly vanish, though. That’s because the quality of indepently published projects has gotten better and better. I used to be hesitant to say that I was independently published, but it no longer bothers me because it shouldn’t.

You’ve got to step outside your comfort zone

Many writers are introverts. So am I. I would rather spend my days writing, but I’ve learned about half of my time needs to be dedicated to marketing and administration. I do it because it needs to be done. I was pretty eager with my first project and did a lot of marketing, which helped the book. With my second book, I didn’t do as much marketing for reasons I can’t remember and the sales of that book reflected it.

Success is not guaranteed

I love reading the case studies about people succeeding in publishing. I even try to duplicate some of the things they do. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I certainly haven’t achieved the level of success that they have. I have become successful, though. My income continues to grow and I grow more comfortable with what I’m doing.

While success is not guaranteed, persistence increases your chances

As my income grows and my comfort level increases with what I’m doing, I find that I’m more willing to put myself out there and develop new approaches to writing and marketing. With traditional publishing, there’s a strong tendency to make a big splash quick before the publisher’s marketing attention moves on. With independent publishing, you can continue to market your old titles as well as your new ones and build you audience.

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