Friday, April 1, 2011

How do we sell books? One at a time!


How do we sell books? One at a time!

© Raff Ellis 2011  all rights reserved
A wise author friend once said to me: "You know how I sell books? One at a time!" This is one of those truisms that should cause every author to think and yet, many do not.

I've been promoting and selling my first book for over three years now and I've learned some dos and don'ts. But one thing I didn't have to learn was that everyone is a potential book buyer, and if you treat them well they may just buy yours. If an author believes in his/her product then he/she shouldn't be bashful about promoting it and soliciting sales.

Admittedly, most authors suffer from insecurities about their writing and are many are introverted. As a result they are unsure whether their work is good enough to openly promote. But after the initial validation arrives, such as being published by a reputable press, they should be unabashed about putting themselves "out there" to solicit sales. Authors shouldn't be timid about offering their book(s) to others in a nice, unobtrusive way. Let me tell you about some of my experiences in this regard.

Whenever I'm seated on an airplane next to someone who is reading a book, and when the occasion presents itself I venture to ask, "Is that a good read?" It has never failed to get a response and always initiates a pleasant conversation. I then ask, "What other kinds of books do you read?" This normally elicits the response, "Oh, all kinds." I then offer, "Could I give you a recommendation?" "Sure," they invariably say. I then give them my business card, which has the cover of my book on one side and one line reviews and where they can order the book on the other (a card I designed myself, and which several authors have mentioned they wished they'd have done that). Oftentimes, if I have a book in my carry-on, I sell it to them on the spot.

Once I met a little old lady on a flight and we enjoyed a nice conversation—in which I mentioned that I was on my way home from a book appearance in Austin, Texas. She said she'd like to buy one but the only copy I had was in my checked luggage. Unfortunately, she hadn't checked any so we parted ways in the terminal. "Darn," I thought, "There goes a sale." About a month later I got a letter from the woman telling me that she had ordered my book from Barnes & Noble and loved it. "You probably don't remember me..." she began, and related our trip together on that plane. Of course I remembered.

Many people have never met an author face to face and getting a personalized  autographed copy from one can be  considered a thrill. Venues where I've sold books will surprise many an author. I took a bunch of mail ordered books to the post office to start a conversation, and sold one to the postal clerk. When being checked into a hospital for surgery, I sold one to the admitting nurse. I've sold books at a bowling alley, a funeral dinner, to a cashier at a restaurant, to my doctors and dentists and their receptionists, at cocktail parties, once while out for a walk, and in a hotel bar while having a drink. I always carry business cards with me and hand them out at every opportunity. Everyone is a potential book buyer!

I believe in answering all my emails and treating people with respect. I met an author via the Internet and even bought one of her books. I tried to correspond with her but she never answered my inquiry. Do you think I'll buy another of her books? Underneath it all, everyone is a potential book buyer and you never know where your next sale will come from.

After all, we do sell them one at a time.



Raff Ellis is a former computer industry executive and prolific writer of short stories, essays, and political commentary. His first book, Kisses from a Distance, was published by Cune Press, Seattle, Wash.

A graduate of LeMoyne College with a BS in Pure Science, Mr. Ellis also has a MBA from the University of Central Florida. He spent his entire business career in the computer industry, rising from the ranks of computer programmer to CEO of an Information Technology R & D firm.

He lives in Florida with his wife Loretta.


Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Hi, Raff! Thanks for being on MB4 today. I love the photo of you and your dog - he looks like a true blue pal. You are a wonderful example for all of us re. promoting and being out best sales person. I try to do the same as you, although I think you have me beat. I've sold books on airplanes and in dentists offices, but never did it before getting checked in for surgery. GREAT job! Good luck with your book and come back often.

Kim Smith said...

Nice to have you here today Raff!

Raff Ellis said...

Hey, folks, it's my pleasure to be on your site. We authors have a wide range of common interests, and I try to befriend as many of you as I can. In fact I clip articles about the ever-changing writing, publishing, and book marketing arena that I send to my authors mailing list. So, if anyone wants on it, send me your eMail address. Raff

So many books, so little time said...

Hi Raf, I just stumbled upon your blog. I absolutely love this post and the story of the wee lady at the airport.

It makes such a difference to hear about stories like this, it probably made that wee ladies year and she now has a story to tell everyone behind her book. It also has probably helped for a few sales too as I know if I was her I would be shaing the story with all my book sites and friends and encouraging them to get a copy.

Loving the picture of you and your dog <3 animals and alastations and german shepherds amoungst my favourtie.


Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Hey, Raff. Add me to your list for the newsletter - great idea!

Raff Ellis said...

Hi Lainy, I have often said the most powerful marketing tool is WOM, (word of mouth). Numerous orders have come in from references, and I encourage all who write me, to tell friends about their experience (and I write back to them, no matter how they contacted me). How many times have you gone to a movie or a restaurant because a friend told you about them? In a cluttered marketplace we have to sieze every opportunity. Go get 'em, I say. Raff

So many books, so little time said...

Well I have left a wee note on my blog and a few of the girls from our reading group pass through :)

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

You are absolutely correct with everything you said in your post.


Marta Stephens said...

Welcome to Murder By 4, Raff! Very to-the-point article. For me the best sales are the unexpected one. I work at a state university that has a huge facilies area where all the shops (carpenters, mechanics, plumbers, mechanics, etc.), work. One day, one of the men who I wasn't that familiar with called me on his break to tell me how much he and his wife enjoyed my book then went on to tell me about his favorite parts. I was really touched that he took the time to call.

I second Aaron's comment about your dog!