Saturday, July 3, 2021

Marketing for Writers: Selling Books at Live Events

Selling books needn't involve begging


Last week, I did my first live reading – in front of a live audience -- in more than 15 months and sold three books. That's more than I sold doing 20 Zoom readings in 2020. 

If libraries, bookstores, and art events are opening in your area, you may have more opportunities to sell books. Here are some tips for making the most of those opportunities.

1) Ask the event organizer or library if you can sell books at the event.

2) Offer books at different price points

- I offer the following: hard cover for $20, a paperback for $15, and a chapbook for $5.

- Note: my publisher, the Permanent Press, typically prints hard covers, which is what most libraries want. However, they also produced a paperback galley copy to send to reviewers. I bought galleys from the publisher that I sell as paperbacks, which cost less than the hard covers. The publisher tweaked the cover to say "Preview Edition."

Galley proofs my publisher let me sell as low-priced paperbacks.

- If you don't have a chapbook you can sell for $5, create one. Using Microsoft Publisher, I self-published a 40-page sampler of my work that includes, scenes from my novel as well as published and unpublished short stories and comedy bits. 

Some tips for creating a chapbook:

*create a simple cover that will be printed on card-stock (heavy paper that fits in an inkjet or laser printer.)

*for the body of the book, use or request standard copy paper.

*get pricing from smaller local places (In my experience, Staples was twice as expensive as the print shop at a local university. Yes, call the print shop at a local university to see if they'll take jobs from the general public. My 40-page chapbook cost me $3 to print and I sold copies for $5.

- Download a free PDF copy of my chapbook

My self-published $5 chapbook




3) Display your book like a retailer

- Ask the event organizer for a table to display and sign books.

- Buy a book stand so your wares are easier to see.


Display your wares with a $5 book stand.


- If possible, spread them out on the stage before you read.

- After the event, have a book in your hand as people are leaving.

- Create different size signs with title, prices, and Venmo and Paypal accounts so people lined up can pay ahead of time (assuming you have a line). Be sure your Paypal and Venmo accounts are set up to email you when you get money.

- If you're at a table with other writers, mention one of the other writers' books after someone buys yours.

- Provide a sign up sheet for people who want to get on your mailing list. 



4) Give away something after your talk or reading

At the end of my reading, I offer a free chapbook to the first person to answer a simple question about my talk. In most cases, the winner also comes up and buys a book.


5) Offer multiple payment options

- Bring cash

- Use Venmo, Paypal, etc

- Anticipate problems with your credit card swiper. I use a PayPal triangle and it generally requires several swipes to work – when it works at all. 

- Be sure to include your Paypal and Venmo info on your book signs.

Some other options:

*enter the credit card number manually

*Paypal now offers a QR code that someone can scan and use to pay with their own phone. (I have it set up but have yet to use it)

*test out your Paypal or Paypal Here before the event. (assume you won't have wifi)


6) Close the deal

- When someone approaches, give your elevator pitch

- Ask the person a question – most people want to talk about themselves as opposed to listening to you.

- One way to close the deal if a person is hesitant: "I'm happy to sign one for you."


If all else fails, beg.






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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Marketing for Writers: Tips for Virtual Readings on Zoom, Facebook Live, etc

Read your work, sell books
Read your work, sell books, get paid, increase your visibility, but please, wear normal glasses


Events, such as readings, are a good way to raise your visibility and, occasionally, sell books.

 Among the benefits:

- If you're reading for a library or other organization, they will often handle the publicity and generate an audience.

- You may get paid. (In the Boston area, most libraries pay between $150 and $300 for a reading. Some don't pay at all -- I avoid them.)

- You can ask the library to stock your book.

- If the organization records the event, you'll get a free video. (I've done events in which the library has brought in the local cable TV station.)

What follows are tips I've gathered over the last 15 months reading on Zoom. Contrary to popular belief, most venues still want virtual events. Live in-person events may be widespread in the fall -- or not. 

(In the coming weeks, I'll offer tips on live, in-person events -- I'm doing my first live gig in 15 months next weekend)

I) Zoom (my preference) and Facebook Live, etc.

1) Elevate your web camera so you can stand up, which gives your more energy and movement. 
- The camera should be slightly above your eye level, tilted down slightly.

- If you're using your phone camera get a tripod and clamp for holding your phone.

- If you're using the camera on your laptop, elevate it on a small table.
(Right Click to enlarge)

- Don't use Wifi to connect to the Internet -- it can be flaky. Instead connect directly to your cable modem, if possible.

- Don't wear clothes with stripes or crazy patterns – test out your out fit and rig with a friend on the other end of a practice Zoom session. (Yes, you'll need your own Zoom account)
My seer-sucker striped pants looked weird on camera.

2) Background: Test them out before your gig!

- The backgrounds included with Zoom can cause you to fade in and out during events.

- A better option: Set up your office with a good background. A blank wall with a Japanese screen works great. I've created a black background with a windsurfing mast and some black tarps.

(Right click to enlarge)


3) Lighting: critical!

- Quick and dirty: Buy a ring light
- DIY: use exiting floor and desk lamps

Right Click to enlarge


- Much more than you need to know on lighting:

4) Reading

- Print out what you're reading in large type instead of reading directly from the book.

- If you're reading a scene with dialog, rewrite it with attributions in front of the dialog, not after it.

- To avoid reflection of your monitor in your glasses, try tilting your glasses down at an angle.

- Read into the camera not to the audience on your screen. 

- Limit big gestures as they can appear blurry on audience's screens. 

- Bonus points if you can memorize some of what you're going to read. That way you can look at the audience.


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