Tips for Authors Selling Books At Events
When you’re a self published author you look for opportunities to promote your book and there isn’t always a handbook for what to look out for when you’re taken advantage of. So I hope to share my experience to help others and give them a game plan when asked to participate in an event.
The first experience happened years ago when I was asked by an organization to participate at the main library in San Francisco with a panel of female authors. We would take questions by a well established owner of a bookstore in the community, also answer questions from the audience and then afterwards have the opportunity of selling our books. I had gotten change for the sale of books, asked my sister to assist with selling, and was prepared to sell my own books. This was my first book and I was so excited that when they asked how much was the book I told them the price and the same book owner upped the price. We were instructed to take our seats in a conference room behind tables, the facilitator was now the seller of our books, and we could sign books after they were purchased. She gave everyone their net profit after she took a commission and when it was time to give my money to me she had run out of funds and would get back to me. I felt defeated not only had I brought my help, my books, and change to make for the sale of my books I was walking away empty handed and she had made my money!
Weeks later I complained to the organization that had recruited me to participate about my experience, the lack of communication from the bookstore owner and they ended up sending me a check.
Years later I had written four books and had forgotten about that experience and had received an invitation via social media to participate in a meet and greet for authors and readers. There wasn’t much to the invitation with details except that it was to meet authors and greet readers. It was private so I couldn’t share it with friends and family. So I ventured out not knowing what to expect and I am greeted by the organizer. She is setting up a camera to record the event, there is four other authors showing up and each doesn’t know what to expect. She had a table set up with all of her books and she asked one author if she brought books and she handed her a few to have on the table. Authors are competitive what you do for one we expect the same for us so I dug into my bag and handed her four of my books. She asked “how much are your books?” and I said the price and she said a higher price. A flag should have gone off in my head but my thought process was so no one would have to make change. I am nervous also because she is now explaining the details we are to introduce ourselves, what inspired each to write their books, and then read an excerpt. My mind is going in a thousand directions as well as how I am going to record my sales in my device with the new price. The event was very successful and the organizer told those interested in purchasing the books to see the cashier at the café and then go to the author to get their books autographed. Again the red flag should have been waving that something was aloof. Here is when it slaps me in the face the event is coming to a close and the organizer takes a 45% cut of the sale of my books.
Now this should have been discussed up front and the decision could have been made if I wanted to participate. A couple of suggestions were given to me by other authors. A contract could have been drafted and explained in detail what was expected of each party involved. A price would have been agreed upon and it would not look like I the author was gouging the reader with an increased price of my book. In the invitation the organizer should have stated that if an author is interested that they could call or email her for further detail. The author when asked to do a reading anywhere should ask questions because no matter who, what or where it is a business and majority of the time we forget to ask questions first before committing to the event. If you want to get the exposure you can participate and choose other ways that the reader can connect with you by giving out business cards, bookmarks, and other information about you as an author. Remember treating your time and your book like it’s a business when making appearances.
Some might feel but you sold your book? Why are you complaining? Taking a large percentage seems a bit much. I have found that retailers normally take a 40% cut and the organizer was another author who set up the event at the café. It wasn’t discussed prior and if majority of the authors are new to the business they won’t know that it’s not normal practice. I sold books to readers who I hope enjoyed the experience of my reading and hopefully will follow me on social media to be able to purchase direct from myself in the future. I am more knowledgeable now than before to make sure that before I agree I ask questions. Even if I commit to an event and purchase a table to sell books I am asking if there is anything expected at the end for example a percentage of my sales. I am asking if I have an appearance can I bring an assistant to handle my sales for me. Someone said if you take 6.75 per the number of books sold if it less than the vending fee than I made out ahead. If it is more than what I would pay in vending fees than I am at a loss. So I did make out ahead. Vending fee can be when you’re paying hundred of dollars for a table to promote your books at an event and only sell a handful of books. Knowledge is power and hopefully this will help another author to not make the mistakes that I have in the past. Here’s to promoting yourself, your books, and asking lots of questions!
Patricia A. Saunders, Blogger, Author, Poet