Sunday, October 14, 2012

Rolling With the Punches – Each Event Presents a New Challenge

   Saturday I had a signing at a nationwide chain bookstore where the author provides their books for the event.  This is the third time I have been a guest author with the chain and have found each store to be a different set-up.  I make a point of arriving ahead of the scheduled event time to prepare my presentation of the books (product) to the best advantage.  Each time I have found the staff to be friendly and helpful within the limitations the various stores presents.
Visibility is everything – the rest is up to me.
   Providing the books also involves paying the bookstore a percentage of each sale.  It’s a little like renting a booth, however, the cost is based on the number of sales made and that depends on how much advertising is done for the event.  The store is going to sell their products whether any of my books are sold or not.  The customers are coming because of the store’s variety of specialty books and other items related to their market niche.

   Since the books are sold within the store they must pass through the store cash register sales for the day where state sales tax is calculated for the books sold and charged to the customer.  That said – it doesn’t affect the author’s percentage of the sales.  I paid 40% of retail cost to purchase the books from the publisher and pay 50% of sales to the store, giving me 50% back on the retail purchase price of the book; so my profit is 10% on each sale (40% to purchase, 10% profit, 50% t o the store = 100% of the retail purchase price).  This isn’t a large amount of profit (not quite free – but close), but I did rent the space in the store based on sales.  If there were no books sold, I would not be charged for the space.
   So why try to sell at a chain store niche market – it’s within the niche market that I target.  It is also exposure to the public outside of my 50 mile radius of home.  Each time I have store signings I learn something new in how to communicate with the public and what approach is the most fruitful when trying to promote interest in my writing.  While Christian based, my writing is historical/fiction/romance giving me a wider base to draw from and an opportunity to talk with people about writing, history, fiction and sometimes even current events.  A moment in time allows me to engage the person in conversation, present my book for that person to read the back matter, and present my card in a friendly manner that contains all the information needed for the customer to purchase at a later date when no sale is made.

   Remember I said sales and audience hinge on the amount of advertising done previous to the event.  A press release to the local newspapers and radio stations is free and effective.  I learned on Saturday my book was known to a customer visiting the area that purchased the book who heard about it on her local radio station from the other side of the state.  I have to thank my publisher for that advertising.  Also if a poster is available to send prior to the event for the store to put in their window with the event date and time customers will know that an author will be present to sign a short personal message on the first page just for them.
   We all want to have higher sales and become known to a customer base.  Each time an event is scheduled our names are introduced to new people.  Even though this is my second novel, it has regenerated interest in the first simply because people that read the second novel now want to read more of my work.  They show an interest in the first novel and the upcoming sequel to that work now in the final stages prior to submission to my marketer at Tate Publishing. 

   My husband and I travel throughout the winter and this offers an opportunity to seek out new markets and fairs to attend with the intention of selling – which involves letting my marketer know where I’m interested in being a guest author.  This builds from researching the available market, following through with my marketer and once interest is shown by a store, library, local clubs, etc, and following through once again by making personal contact with that local entity.
   It is now time for me to create the list and contact information, send it to my marketer, and follow through.  But how will I ever get it done?  I schedule small units of time to make the lists and within a few days have the places I’m interested in being a guest author and submit it to my marketer.  I then allow him to do what he does so well.  I know that many self-published authors rely upon themselves to make these contacts; however, I have found a professional marketer is able to open some doors that otherwise may not have swung in the right direction.

   It is up to me to make the personal contact once my marketer sends me a list of places interested in having me as their guest.  It is the same as engaging a potential customer, but this time it is a place where I will be the guest author/presenter.  About three weeks prior to the event is the right time to send out the press release and supply the poster that has a picture of the book and the event information to a store when supplying the books for the event. 
   Each event is unique and holds a certain thrill when a total stranger picks up that book I wrote and says, “This sounds interesting, I think I’d like a copy.  Will you sign it for me?”

Viva-la Sales!