For Authors: Table Sales & Hand-Selling Books

Let’s talk about something which is discussed a lot but often executed poorly — author tables and hand-selling books at a live event. Here’s a technique recommendation with data to validate my opinion.

If you’re one of those authors who hates selling — great. 

setting up my table (The Songweaver’s Vow will be displayed on the sheepskin)

One of the things I sometimes try to communicate to fellow authors is that they often kill their book table sales by overselling at live events. There’s a lot of used-car-salesman technique that goes on, and which gets mimicked because that’s what everyone else is doing, and it makes sales harder. It takes a lot of faith, but you can let your books sell themselves.

So here’s the story: I suddenly got an author table I hadn’t been expecting at a fandom convention where I was working. I had books and a banner in the car, but I didn’t have my usual table display materials and I didn’t have my full catalog of titles, just 8. I set up early and then went to help teach a thermoplastics for cosplay panel, leaving my table to be watched (theft prevention only, no sales) by the helpful staff overseeing the charity “flea market” setup. (Table rental went to a local hunger charity.)

I came back an hour later and immediately sold 14 books. One staff member bought every title on my table, the other bought 6. Why? They had felt free to browse, without a creepy pushy author asking “Do you like to read?” and other typically awkward questions. And when they browsed, they decided they wanted to read.

Then I settled down to half-ignore my customers and ultimately I cleared just over $200 in sales in one and a half hours using my patented brand of not-selling ;-) which does involve talking to people and signing books, but feels way less skeezy than “sales.” That was even without my full display or my complete catalog, and with a number of sales lost because I ran out of #1 in a series and they didn’t want to start with book 2. (I *should* have promised a free ebook of #1 if they purchased #2, but that didn’t occur to me at the time…. /facepalm/) And I didn’t accost a single person.

My message is this: If you’re one of those authors who hates selling — Great! you’ll be less tempted to do it wrong. You can sell books without being salesy! Don’t let the live events scare you. It’s not really about pushing sales.

This has been your Public Service Announcement. :) If you’re interested in more, check out the “Hand-Selling Your Books—Without Hating Yourself In The Morning” post I did for Realm Makers. Happy sales to you!

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  1. Yes. yes all of this. As a customer, the one question that drives me up the wall is “Do you like to read?” because it’s just so trapping.

    A very good article! <3

  2. Love this beside it has become my go to strategy. I feel waay more comfortable and ultimately make a lot more sales.

  3. I can do this. Do you recommend at least smiling at passersby?

  4. Yes! So I use to have to sell something or another for this company at a table inside a fitness center. I had made good friends with the department head whose office my table was outside of. I’d actually abandon my table about 7 feet away, to the backside of the consumer. If they picked up a flyer or stopped to read, I’d call over, “Hey there, I’m over here if you have any questions!” And I made more sales doing that than every sitting at the table leering at them.

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