When it comes to promoting your book at a festival (or a bookstore event), the most important thing you can do is reach out to readers. Your personality is what sells your book. The more approachable and engaging you are, the more likely you are to attract readers to your table.
Your goal should be twofold—to meet and form a personal bond with readers, and to sell books. The reader wants an experience. Before your story has the opportunity to whisk them away on a literary journey, you can begin the adventure by making it personal.
This last Sunday, I promoted, signed, and sold my book, The Break-Up Diet: A Memoir, at the West Hollywood Book Fair. It was my second fair this year and I really had a great time interacting with the readers and writers who came to the booth. So, I decided to offer up some tips for successfully hand-selling your book.
The biggest mistake I’ve seen authors make at book fairs that I have attended as a reader and where I have displayed as an author is when the author sits behind the table like a chunk of driftwood. Just the act of being there in-person isn’t enough.
Smile and Say Hello
Greeting someone is the #1 action that encourages people to respond favorably to you. I often ask if the person is a reader or a writer. Book events attract both. If the person responds that she is a reader, I ask what she likes to read. That opens a dialogue where you both can discuss your favorite books and you can segue into telling her why you wrote your book. If the person responds that she is a writer, I ask what she likes to write. That opens a dialogue about the writing process which gives you the opportunity to talk about writing your book.
If Your Book is Informational Rather Than Narrative Based
Open with the same smile and friendly greeting, but ask about their interest in your topic. If you’ve written about anything “how-to” from Dealing with Aging Parents to How to Break into Modeling, you can engage the person by asking about their experiences. Sharing common ground and offering tips based on your book is a great way to invest the reader in your expertise. You have information they want/need. Sharing some of that freely in conversation will encourage them to learn more from your book.
That Little Thing Called Sales
Everyone has a different style and comfort level when it comes to selling and promoting their books. I’m not a hard-sell kinda girl. I enjoy meeting people and talking to them about my story. I’d rather they have a great experience, remember me as an author who is genuine, and then buy my book later, than have them walk away feeling hustled. But that’s just me.
Just by engaging the reader, you’ve established a connection with another human being and it allows you to share about your book. The aggressive hard-sell turns off the potential reader and doesn’t encourage a good experience or a willing book purchase.
In a previous post, Promoting Your Book at A Book Fair – Part One, I suggested promotional ideas to help you create a visually attractive display and included a comprehensive list to make sure you have all the items you need for a day at the book fair. Many of these promotional items can also be used to dress-up your table at bookstore signings.
What if They Looked but Didn’t Buy?
If someone is truly interested in your story or the information you have in your book, they will buy it in their own time. Make sure you have promotional materials they can take away with them. Many readers I encountered picked up a bookmark and said they buy their books on Amazon, so they can get the discount and free shipping. So, remember your twofold goal—bond and sell. If you’ve established a solid connection with the reader when you met them, and they didn’t buy immediately, the sale will come later when they are ready.
If you’ve followed my suggestion to have a guestbook on your table (Promoting – Part One), remember to ask the readers who buy your book (and the people who are interested in your story, but didn’t purchase a book) to sign your guestbook and leave their city and email address. Offer to let them know when you will be in their area and tell them you will let them know when your next book comes out. If you have a reading group type book, offer to do a Q&A with their group. For an informational book, offer to do a seminar for their group or organization. It can be in-person or a telechat.
Once you return home, enter their email addresses into your database and send them a quick note to say you enjoyed meeting them, include a link to your book website, and invite them to follow you on your social networks.
It’s all about making a connection. No matter where you promote and sell your book, you want to make sure to leave a positive and lasting impression on your reader. They will become your biggest word-of-mouth marketers and they will be there to support you when your next book comes out.