Saturday, October 3, 2009

The art of selling books at a big event

I have over the last two weeks spent many hours at the Big E, the North England Fair that runs for four weeks in Springfield MA, as one of the CAPA (Connecticut Authors and Publishers) trying to sell their creations in the Connecticut building.

It is my first time at the event let alone selling my book, and I learned several lessons over the period.

If you do not know, "The Big E" is a huge event with upwards of 150,000 people a day vising the various building, stall, events over the four week period. While the top visitations are over the weekends, even the days I was there between 60-80,000 attended.

As normal at such large state fair, there are a wide range of places to visit and items to see, food stores of every shape and kind from the cheeseburgers in a doughnut, to bacon covered chocolate. From giant jacket potatoes to beer from each state in New England. You can ride an elephant, get a cartoon picture of you even purchase some Sham Wows. Basically anything and everything.

So, what did I learn?

There were four authors signing at the CAPA book store at any one time, each author had about two foot six of table space (see picture), with hundreds if not thousands of people passing you buy during the day. The Big E is an event for all ages and many family's with young children of all ages visit. This will mean that there is a market for young childrens books, being purchased by grandparents and parents.

It really helps if you have an author selling such books signing next to you.

I mentioned "passing by" this will happen unless something is done to attract this flowing traffic into your booth.

An eye catching cover, a prop etc anything to attract the attention.

I was at least able to do something to help stop the flow and bring the people into our area.

Using my voice and English accent I was able to almost act as a "fair ground barker", asking the public to "roll up, roll up etc..." actually it was more like. "All books by Connecticut authors, over 90 authors represented come inside, have a look around.".

I can't say it helped my book, but it certainly "I think" helped bring people into the booth and made sales for many of the other authros.

Have a hand out that gives your book details, how to contact you etc.

It might not bring sales, but several libraries, book stores, teachers etc visit and might pick you up to appear at a school or library. (We actually had two librarians there last Friday who spent over $400 on books)

Be willing to talk to people.

Have a chat, even if it's not about your book. As with salesmen, you get a few people around an others stop to see what's going on.
Just think of the "rubber necking" that goes on when there is a car accident.

Make sure people know what your book is about.

A lot of people take one look at a cover and think they know what the book is about. I learned very quickly people thought "Across the Pond" was about baseball, which is just a small part. So the second time I went I had a board with headline snippets that stated more that the book was for "all ages" etc.

While I did not sell a huge amount, I did sell some, also made several contacts and had fun.

To me the latter is the real thing. Writing is not my livelihood it is a hobby, and even with all the costs involved let's face it... it's still cheaper than playing golf.

So Tips:

Make Sure you are noticed.
Say hello to anybody who will listen.
Be willing to chat about your book and anything else.
Make sure you have literature to hand out even if people don't purchase your book.
It helps if you are able to take credit cards.
Enjoy yourself.

And finally, ware comfortable shoes, clothes and some throat sweets... Beleive me standing for 6-9 hrs takes it out of you.


BARRY EVA (Storyheart)

Author of Young Adult Romance/Fiction book
"Across the Pond"

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