Five tips for selling books at cons and fests

I am no expert. I want to make that abundantly clear up front, but I’ve been asked to lay out some tips for an author attending her first book festival on how to attract readers. After attending a couple dozen to promote LOSING TOUCH, here’s what I think are the five most important things to keep in mind:

  1. Invest in your display. Even if you don’t have four-color posters or banners, things like book stands make you look more professional. Have something the reader can walk away with for free–bookmarks are probably the best, but I’ve seen people use postcards, business cards, or even fliers. Also? Bring a tablecloth that’s big enough to cover the entire table.
  2. Be ready to take payment. Nothing kills a sale like not being ready at the cash register. Go to the bank and get plenty of singles. And you never want to lose a sale because your customer doesn’t have cash, so invest in a card reader like Square, Inc., or a Paypal triangle. I’ve sold a bunch of books to people, even though they had burned through all their cash, because I was ready to take plastic.
  3. Stand. Don’t sit. Those dogs can get barking when you stand all day at the vendor booth–believe me, I know. Sit when it’s quiet. But you should already be standing when people amble your way. If you absolutely must be sitting, try to invest in a chair that will have you up a little bit higher–like a bar stool or something. If you’re more engaged, your customers will be, too.
  4. Have your pitch ready. Know what you’re going to say about your book, and practice it. You should probably have a couple of pitches down. Different readers will have a different entry point to your book. Emphasize the aspects of your book that they’ll like. Not sure what they’ll like? I usually start a pitch by asking: “What do you like to read?” Clever? No, but it does the job.

    Your pitch doesn't have to be "One for the Angels". Just have it down.

    Your pitch doesn’t have to be “One for the Angels”. Just have it down so you’re not struggling for words.

  5. The devil’s in the details. Bring Sharpies to sign your book. Pens and paper to keep track of your sales. Pack a lunch, too. You might get a chance to grab some food–or you might not. If you’re hungry, you’ll be focused on waiting for the event to end and not on attracting and closing sales. And try to stay off your laptop, tablet, or phone, unless it’s related to a sale.

These recommendations are hardly part of a secret formula–they’re more just the tentpoles of a common sense approach. Some people dread these types of events, but I can honestly say that I usually enjoy them. If you don’t, it shows, and if it shows, why are you even trying? Above all, have fun at these.

Christian A. Larsen is the author of LOSING TOUCH, featuring a foreword by New York Times bestselling author Piers Anthony, now available in paperback and ebook formats from Post Mortem Press.
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