When I was 19 I had a job selling cleaning products door to door. The product was called Dussall (or was it Duzzall?) because it does all. I hated it. I travelled as far west as Mt Isa and as far north as Emerald living in motels and turning up cold turkey and saying ‘have you heard of Dussall? It does all.’ I had to draw on a piece of fabric with a pen and show how Dussall even cleaned the pen marks off of the fabric. I hated it and I never got paid my commission. Luckily I was couch surfing on the weekends (when not on the road!) and did not need to pay rent.
The point is, I was outside of my comfort zone but I did it anyway. My sales were not high, but I did sell that darn cleaner to people.
This last weekend I spent at Supanova Gold Coast selling my book Cassandra (and the books of other Odyssey Books authors). I am selling something I believe in (The pen marks only came off the fabric because it was fresh. It did not work on old pen marks) but I am still outside of my comfort zone because like most writers I am an introvert. If we liked talking to strangers in strange places we wouldn’t be holed up at a desk inventing strange stories.
The thing is when I am shopping at markets or in stores I don’t especially want the salesperson to start chatting with me. Firstly, they are getting in my space and secondly, it increases the obligation I feel to buy something!
But on the selling side, chatting to the customer is what you need to do.
These are my tips after two days at Supanova – bearing in mind there are over 30 titles on our table.
One – Stand Up
Some people just walk past – you are invisible. They are not looking to buy books. They might not know what a book is. They might have a pile of unread books so high that they refuse to engage with books in case they buy books. They might be allergic to books. The best you can do is stand up. Look interested. Don’t sit in your stall staring at your phone. (Unless you are doing Number Four.)
Two – Scanners
Scanners are the people walking by and slowing scanning…noticing there are books but not really intending to stop. Offer them something for free. We had little mini books with the first few scenes of sci-fi Hero and the first chapter of fantasy Altaica. They were way cute and cost about 12 cents a book to make. Belinda Crawford can help you with the ingredients to make your own mini promotional books.
Most people find free things irresistible. Once you have their attention you can engage them in a conversation which may or may not result in a sale there and then. It’s possible they will go away and read the sample and either come back for the book or with the clever use of a scan code, buy the book online.
Three – Zoning in
Some people walk up to the stall because something has caught their eye. Which book? It helps to know the books and to have read them. A cover and blurb will only do so much. If you can tell them more about the book they have shown an interest in hopefully their interest will increase and they will hand over their hard-earned cash.
Four – Tap into the Tribe
Cosplayers are amazing. They want you to take their photo and post it online. That is why they put so much effort into their costumes. Vacen Taylor (author of the Starchild series) was our social media tart on the day. Perhaps the only extrovert at our table she loved chatting with the cosplayers and takes a good photo. With the proper tags, your attendance at the event is out there.
If you are not at a pop culture event there will still be a tribe to tap into. Every market has its intended audience (vegetable buyers, crafty enthusiasts). Tap into the vibe of the people and use this as an opener for conversations.
Five – Refresh
We should all know our limits and when the day or days of selling are done we need to refuel our energy reserves. That is why I drove home on Sunday, had a shower, a cup of chamomile tea, some liquorice and watched the latest Dr Who episode before sleeping the good sleep.
Postcript: This introvert would be happy if you went to your favourite online bookstore and bought her book. She will just hide in her nest while you do.