Assessing an Epic Journey to East Texas
The East Texas Book Festival was well-planned, well-organized, well-run, well-promoted, and well-attended. At any venue, I hope to sell (minimum) two books an hour. I actually record my sales by the hour. Having a goal is mental therapy for me. I don’t compare my sales to anyone else’s sales. I learned a mantra at a writers’ conference years ago: compare and despair.
Two books an hour doesn’t sound like much. But it takes time to sell a book. Readers aren’t lined up at the table waiting to buy. That happens to Nicholas Sparks and James Patterson. It doesn’t happen to any author I know. When a patron comes by, we talk – about them, then I tell them about a book. Then there’s questions, and the transaction, cash, check, charge. All that takes time. Rarely do I sell only two books an hour. So mostly, I’m happy! Attainable goals are important.
This event was 5.5 hours long. For that I drove 26 hours round trip. I sold twenty books. Was it worth it? My books are now in two Texas schools, three titles were accepted at Vicksburg National Battlefield bookstore, and I gave out 50 origami bookmarks to promote a book releasing 2016. Readers were so pleased, I believe some will actually be looking for and will purchase that book, and perhaps other books while they wait. Not all books sold today were purchased today! That’s true at every event.
From the very first book in 2010, I heard, “Authors have to sell their own books. Get out there and sell your book.” So I do. Now I have nine books published and 4 more under contract. And, I know that’s true. Publishers do not market books. Authors do.
One of my publishers is a university press. They put their books in a catalogue that goes to schools, homeschool markets and Christian bookstores. I’ve sold more at Civil War reenactments than they’ve sold in the catalogue. But, parents recognize the logo and have seen the books in their catalogue, and buy. So yes, it does help, but the “work” has to be done by me. Those books are in schools, libraries, bookstores and historical sites as a result of going to reenactments.
One company puts their books on their website. Actually they all do, but this publisher lists that as what they do to sell my book. And it really is all they do. The entire first run was sold by me.
Another publisher encourages and promotes her authors selling ebooks online. They all make more money than me! They give away their books free, or 99 cents, and they promote each other by running group specials. That’s nice, but I don’t give my books away, I’m not interested in the ebook market, probably because I don’t read ebooks. If I want to read one of their books I pay cover price for it out of respect for the author. If I like it, I promote it. One I chose for our book club which means I sold 12 books for that author. Recently I met a new author at her first signing of a darling children’s book. I promoted it and arranged for her book to go into the toy store next to mine. So I do support other authors, I just don’t twitter and tweet or read free ebooks.
I have one publisher who emails authors regularly with opportunities and unique marketing tips, which I appreciate. Another publisher closed her doors leaving my book on her doorstep.
Fortunately, my newest publisher picked it up. This publisher does the most to sell authors’ books. She’s created a unique publishing company that does things differently. Her marketing skills and knowledge of the publishing business excel in this tough business environment. That doesn’t mean I can stop doing what I do. I still have to sell my books. And this is how I do it. I take my books to readers, and I work hard.
A few weeks ago I took Rock and a Hard Place, A Lithuanian Love Story, to a Lithuanian Festival in Pennsylvania. Another long trip. I was interviewed by their local paper and TV and the book is being reviewed in Bridges, a Lithuanian-American News Journal. I met the president of a writers group in Philadelphia who reviews books in a newspaper column; he read it and loved it. I sold more than two books an hour for two ten-hour days. I couldn’t have done that sitting in front of my computer.
So, was East Texas worth it? Many authors were unhappy. I heard them say the foot traffic was light. I saw a crowded place, all ages and styles of shoppers. Some said people don’t buy books this way anymore. Sitting near the door, I saw families leaving with bulging shopping bags. I heard one author say no one is interested in real books anymore, no one stops at tables. But I was relieved to occasionally get a drink of water or stand up and stretch. I was busy and nearly hoarse from talking. Lots of people were interested in books and stopped at my table. One author yawned at one o’clock and said, “I’m ready to go home.” I was wishing it could last another day. So, was it worth the trip? For any author, the answer lies in what your expectations are, what you want to accomplish. What is your goal? What’s your sacrifice?
For me, it was worth it. I’d do it again. Ask another author and you’ll get a different perspective. Marketers have to figure out what works for them and work at it. This works for me.