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Publisher, I self-published a 40-page sampler of my work that includes, scenes from my novel as well as published and unpublished short stories and comedy bits.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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