5 Creative Ways to Sell Books

elle-marie-authorGuest Post
by Elle Marie

As authors, we’re often focusing on how to sell books. What about where? For seven years I’ve been trying various ways to sell my books with mostly underwhelming results. In fact, I’ve dubbed myself the Queen of Fails. However, when I thought to focus on WHERE instead of HOW, I started to see some success.

You never know where you might make a sale. Sure, there are your usual bookstore signings and online retailers. But it’s a good idea to keep a stash of hard-copy books ready in case an unexpected opportunity arises. Like these:

A book is a craft. Your books are one-of-a-kind treasures, so they could be a big hit at the right kind of craft fair. I pitched Living the Thin Life, about maintaining a healthy weight for life, at a YMCA event that attracted lots of people interested in health and fitness. After publishing my next book, an archaeology novel called Chronicle of the Mound Builders, I displayed both books at a Farmers Market that had a special booth dedicated to local authors. It’s a great place to meet people, as well as hang out with other authors. People may come to the market looking for fresh vegetables, but when they see the selection of books on display, they head over to check it out. And don’t forget holiday fairs. Books make great gifts and I’ve had lots of success selling books around the holidays (pre-wrap a few to make it even more enticing for harried shoppers!). Although surrounded by booths selling doggy picture frames and hand-knitted baby blankets, I still managed a few sales.

Everyone has to eat. Grocery stores can be a great place to connect with potential customers, both “officially” and unofficially. Many local stores allow people to set up a table at the entrance. I admit it’s usually a charity or Girl Scouts selling cookies, but why not an author? The bulletin board can be a resource, too. As people search for garage sales and missing pets, they’ll come across your ad and possibly be interested in buying a book. In addition to official advertising, I have found that the personal touch works well for me. Many times I’ve run into friends and neighbors while grocery shopping (and once, our mayor!) and sold a few copies of books I had with me.

What’s your demographic? Think of ways to target your specific audience. Since I’m looking for readers interested in fitness, I set up a display at my local gym and offered a free book for a contest. I also pitched it at a weight loss club by giving a presentation on weight management strategies.

People you do business with. In the first heady days after publishing a real book I could hold in my hands, I wanted to share the excitement with just about everyone. My enthusiasm sold copies to my doctor, my dentist, and their entire staffs.

Think like a tourist. Look for opportunities to sell at places featured in your books. For example, a key scene in one of my books occurs at the Gateway Arch monument in downtown St. Louis. I approached the Arch Gift Shop to recommend they carry my book. Although they turned me down (they only accept nonfiction), it was still a good idea. Next I’m going to try the Cahokia Mounds gift shop, where even more exciting scenes in the book take place.

So keep a few extra copies in the trunk of your car, your office, your purse or backpack. Once when shopping for new kitchen countertops, I sold a book to the salesperson who assisted me! Don’t be afraid to talk up your books at every opportunity and don’t limit yourself to traditional outlets for book sales.

What’s the most off-the-wall place you’ve had success in selling your books?

Elle Marie wasted tons of time and loads of money figuring out how to market her books. She has written both fiction and nonfiction and shares her embarrassing failures and a few proud wins in her book Sales & Fails: 3 Ways to Succeed at Book Marketing and 36 Ways to Fail. You can learn more about Elle on her website and her Amazon author central page.

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9 thoughts on “5 Creative Ways to Sell Books”

  1. Ooh, I’m gonna have to try the tourist thing! I live in Paris and my books are about Paris, so there’s got to be a way I can make that work. The downside is it means dealing with French shopkeepers, who definitely do things differently than in the US! Thanks for the tips 🙂

  2. Maybe you could look for places where ex-pats and English speakers hang out, like an American grocery store or an Irish bar. Or maybe one of the million or so souvenir shops in the touristy areas.

    Good luck with your sales!

  3. I recently sold 2 books at a funeral! To the pastors taking the service. They approached me because they had read my other work. So it all ended on an up-note for me.

  4. The ladies who work at the gas station where I buy my fuel are some of my biggest fans. They have bought copies of everything I’ve written and practically salivate over every new release. They give me great word-of-mouth too.

  5. I always take a few books to wherever I’m teaching, training classes or delivering First Aid courses; I even have a couple in my bag when I deliver a karate seminar or a self-defence class. My books have nothing to do with the subjects I’m delivering but if students find you interesting enough they’ll buy a book, to perhaps get a better insight into who you are.

    Good article, Elle.

  6. I am a substitute teacher, and, having written MILITARY LIFE – SERVICE OR CAREER A SOLDIER’S PERSPECTIVE, many high school juniors and seniors, and often even younger, are very interested in the military service in their futures. I have sold many books to them. If they are a little young, I give them a business card to send home to show their parents, and the parents can contact me.

    I also sent one of the men I used by name in the book, my old Vietnam platoon sergeant (I was his platoon leader), a free copy. He spread the word all over town to all of his friends and relatives. Half the town (minor exaggeration) wants a copy, now that he has made the front page of his local newspaper as a result. I sold one lady five copies a few months ago. That was a good move on my part for sure.

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