Wednesday, August 14, 2013

How to Sell Your Stuff

I have spent many hours lately trying to sell my book.  I have spent a similar number of hours listening to (or reading about) writers who are disgruntled at their lack of sales.  I've heard one million excuses.  "People just weren't buying."  "I had a bad spot."  "Such and such just hates the lit track."  Okay.  Maybe.  We do not live in a bubble and are therefore affected by extenuating circumstances.  That being said, I've also seen a lot of mistakes made by people whose living depends on the whims of others.  We are, none of us, selling anything someone NEEDS after all.  I'm not claiming to be an expert, but I will admit my sales have been above average.  Also,  I grew up watching my Dad as he made sales for the carbonated beverage company for which he worked for many years as well as traveling to various specialty shows with my mother.  I'd like to take a moment to share what I've learned, and what is working very well for me.

This is a 3 tier process.  The first tier is called "Grooming."

1:  Groom yourself.  Try to look nice.  I've been given a bit of flack because I wear costumes.  I don't recommend that for everyone, however I can't tell you how many salespeople are talking to me with woolly teeth or holey clothes or body odor like a wall. Take a shower, brush your teeth. and wear something nice,

2. Make your table or booth look nice.  This does not take much money.  Clean up your trash, make sure banners and signs are hung straight.  Make sure the table is not too crowded and that the items are lined up neatly.  A bunch of fresh flowers can make all of the difference in the world.

Once you have done that, its time to move on to tier 2, "Presence."  Remember, you are likely one attraction among many.  You have to show that you are present and engaged. So. . .

1. Stand up.  There is nothing attractive or eye-catching about a bunch of people slouching in chairs behind a table.  You look uninvolved and uninterested.  It is difficult to make eye contact.  It looks sloppy.  I understand that some people have physical limitations that prohibit this.  In that case, do what you need to do for your health.  But, if you are able, stand up.  I don't even take chairs to shows.  And I do it in 5 inch heels. It may hurt, but it works.  So, as I tell my children, get off of your boom-boom and DO something.

2.  Stop talking to each other; talk to the visitors instead.  Listen, I get it.  We are geeks.  Social interaction is not our favorite thing nor, for many of us, our strong point.  Also, we are spending time with like-minded people who we actually know and may not see as much as we like.  They are also people who are not likely to buy your book.  Also, regardless of your intention, what you are doing is rude.  Rude does not make people want to buy something from you.  So, face front and talk to the people who have money to potentially spend on you.  Chat with your friends later.

3. Get the "marks" attention.  Again, there is a lot going on all around us.  Many people are going to avoid eye contact because either they are afraid that we are going to try to sell us something and they will feel weird saying "no" (and let's be honest, we are, and we are going to try to make that 'no' a 'yes'), or they feel awkward talking to people they don't know.   We have to overcome that.  I've heard of people using a bicycle horn.  I'm sure that works.  I chose a different tack, though.  I choose freebies.  I have vampire fangs and glow sticks that I give out for free.  Once they have approached me and taken their gift, I start talking about their book.  You can get little gifts that emphasize some of the themes in your book for very little money and they are, frankly, invaluable.  NOTE:  Business cards are not freebies. No. Don't argue.  They're not.  Postcards of you or your book might be if they are a) well done and b) are actually postcards that someone could theoretically mail.  Pens are also a bad idea.  Promo pens rarely function unless they are from pharmaceutical companies who can afford the REALLY nice pens.

So, you're looking spiffy.  There are people at your table.  Now, you move onto tier 3 - The Pitch.

1.  You have to be excited about what you are selling.  More than that, you have to be able to emote or convey that excitement.  I'm going to use books as an example because, well, I sell books. If someone asks about your fabulous new Yeti book and you don't make eye contact and mutter something like, "Well, I wrote this 'cause it's about yetis but it's not really about yetis I just thought yetis would help me sell books but I guess nobody likes yetis anymore 'cause I haven't sold hardly anything but anyway, um, it's not really about yetis it's about this um main character named um McIntyre who is a drummer for an Irish rock band and um yeah," you are likely not going to sell any books.  After all, this is YOUR baby.  If you don't think your baby is pretty, no one else is going to.  Have a pitch.  Practice it so you can say it in your sleep.  Make it exciting and fun.  Then, when the nerves or the exhaustion kick in, the excited pitch is etched permanently into your memory.

2.  Finally, sweeten the deal.  Everyone wants to believe that they are getting something for nothing.  So, find another freebie that you will kick in if someone buys your books.  Passes to a local event, CDs, a code to access special items on your website, any little something to help the deal get sweeter.  Again, with a little bit of research this can be done cheaply and will help you make a good deal of money.

3.  No matter the answer, say "thank you."  These people gave you their time and attention; they are supporting the events that support you, so chirp a cheery "thank you" as they meander away.

So, here are my tips.  I hope they help!


  1. Great post! I've seen you practice what you're preaching, and even more impressive than your sales is how HAPPY people are to buy from you!

    Marian Allen
    Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

  2. Thank you so much for the insight into your success at sales! You're a rock star. I learned some good points from this.

    I'm an introvert, so a lot of this is very hard for me, bit I've been trying. I'm going to work on standing up and think about freebies. I'd already been working on my pitch and engaging people who aren't approaching me specifically. The postcards did help as a conversation starter.

    Thanks again, Ms. Davur