Saturday, November 13, 2010


I love it when Sharing with Writers subscribers offer up their experiences for the edification of their fellow writers. Thus this week a little from Joe Dungan. Please note: You will find tips on making book signings--both at bookstores and far afield from bookstores successful--in The Frugal Book Promoter.  Having said that, I agree with Joe. Bookstores usually aren't the best place to sell books!

By Joe Dungan

After I self-published my first book, L.A. Nuts, I did what all dutiful authors do: I scheduled readings and signings. One of them was up the coast from here in L.A., in a bookstore in a little town called Morro Bay. The owner was most helpful. She submitted info about the signing to the regional newspaper, which filled half a page with a big picture of me. She scheduled it during the Saturday afternoon farmer's market, so as to take advantage of all that foot traffic. She had a nice sign in the window announcing the event.

And I went and sat at the little table and in two magical hours, I sold... no books. Could barely engage the few passersby who wandered in.
She was very apologetic about it, wondering if the chance of rain had kept people indoors. I told her that I appreciated her efforts nonetheless, thanked her, and left.

Then my brother -- who'd been traveling with me on the trip -- and I headed a little further up the coast to a winery. As we started sampling wines, the owner engaged us in polite banter: Where were we from, what brought us up the coast, etc. I casually told him about the busted book signing, and described the book -- a series of humorous essays about crazy people in Los Angeles -- with equal casualness. Wasn't wearing my salesman cap in the slightest.

Next thing I know, the owner says, "I'll take one."

I handed the car keys to my brother and asked him to get a book out of the trunk. Then a guy nearby who'd been tasting wine and had overheard the conversation said, "Make it two."

Two hours at a bookstore: no sales. Ten minutes at a winery: two sales.

Lessons learned:

Don't be afraid to talk about your book anywhere? Of course. Never underestimate the power of the extremely soft sell? Sure. But it also taught me to look for non-bookstore venues to sell books. Just because people aren't at a bookstore doesn't mean they don't read. Plus, there are all kinds of tie-ins you can find between your book and various retailers. Sometimes, as illustrated above, you don't even need a tie-in. All you need is to show up.

It all reminded me of a quote I once read: "Bookstores are terrible places to sell books." Make sure your book is available in bookstores, of course, but don't put all your eggs in those baskets. Start thinking creatively about how non-bookstores could sell your book. Even if you can't think of any tie-in, show up with a copy and see if they can think of something. If they can't, they might buy one for themselves!

Joe Dungan is a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader in Los Angeles. His first book, L.A. Nuts, won first place for humor in the 17th Annual Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards, a silver medal in Independent Publisher's IPPY Awards, and a bronze in ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Awards. It's available from Amazon (click on the widget to the left), and non-bookstores in L.A. and beyond. He and his book are also on Facebook if you want to join/like for occasional, allegedly humorous updates.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers including, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't; The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Some of her other blogs are, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor . If your followers at Twitter would benefit from this blog post, please use the little Green widget to let them know about this blog:

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