As an author you quickly learn that a big part of your job is marketing. Once you are published you are no longer just a writer – you’re a promoter, marketer, social media director, and even a traveling salesman. Many of us aren’t well-suited for standing behind a table and hand-selling our books at events, but it’s a skill you must learn if you plan on doing many events.
Hand-selling becomes easier as your backlist deepens. When I was a debut author with one title on my table – and, only in hardback for the first year – I might sell 7 or 8 copies at an event… and that was a good event. If post-apocalyptic survival wasn’t your bag, I didn’t have anything else to offer you.
This remained true for my second release, IN A HANDFUL OF DUST, as it was a companion novel to NOT A DROP TO DRINK. However, now that DRINK was out in paperback, readers were more likely to take a chance on a $10 paperback and a writer they weren’t familiar with, rather than shelling over $18 for a hardcover just out of curiosity.
It gets easier.
Now I’ve got a table of titles. I can push DRINK & DUST to readers as young as 13, because they don’t have the content that my newer titles do. I’ve also go that extra tag-on to add that DRINK has been optioned for a film – which never fails to drawn interest.
I snag older readers – and many, many adults, with A MADNESS SO DISCREET. Do you like mysteries? Historicals? Serial killers? Asylums? I’ve got all four right here, with a gorgeous cover that makes for an easy sell. And if I’m in Ohio I always add that it’s set in Athens, home of Ohio University.
No matter where I am, THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES continues to be my best seller, even though it’s only available in hardback at the moment. Teachers, librarians, booksellers, reviewers and bloggers have already done the work for me. I have readers arrive at my table knowing what they want already. And if you’re not familiar with it I’ll tell you it’s a rape revenge vigilante justice story… so it’s either right up your alley or it’s not.
If you’re a fantasy reader I’ve got GIVEN TO THE SEA fresh off the press, its eye-catching cover stopping many people who would normally pass on by. In my experience as a librarian, you either are or are not a fantasy reader, so I don’t have to push that one too hard. I simply say if you like fantasy, check this out, place it in their hands with the back cover facing up so they can read the summary – they’re either going to jump or not.
With this array – and more to come – I’m easily moving 50 to 60 copies at events now. Yes, it helps that I have established readers and a fan base now, but at many of my recent events I was out of state, and my returning fans tend to be Midwesterners. When I’ve got a reader new to my work in front of me, they often ask what’s the best one to start with, and I invariably hand them NOT A DROP TO DRINK.
It’s a good introduction to me – sparse, brutal, and honest. But it’s also got the least amount of objectionable content, so I can hand it to a reader unfamiliar with my stuff as a way to dip their toe in the water. DRINK released in 2013, and continues to sell for me. When I’m asked which titles I want stocked at events (most cap your table at 5 books, some at 3), I always make sure DRINK is listed. It’s a reliable stand by, a safe book to hand to a younger reader or a parent or grandparent looking for a gift.
And of course, it’s my debut. The fact that it continues to find new readers makes me happy, and it’s out there doing its job – introducing people to me.