Saturday, July 26, 2014

How Authors Can Make More Money

As an author, do you purchase copies of your own books to sell in public? You should. When I sold a paperback copy of one of my novels on Amazon, I received slightly more than a dollar in royalties once I shared with my publisher...or less than three dollars now that I’m on my own (self-published). I got 84 cents for an ebook when sharing with my publisher, and depending on the price I list it for now, I get from 35 cents to about two dollars per book on my own.  I sell my own books in public for $10.00, which is two or three dollars off the listed Amazon price, and I make over $5.00 a book. I know there are starving artists out there who don’t think they can afford to buy copies of their books to sell, but I don’t think you can afford not to—because they’re easy to sell. That’s what you’re worried about, isn’t it? That you’ll have boxes of unsold books stored away, and instead of making money from your books, you’ll be losing it instead. If that’s how you’re feeling, then you don’t have a plan. Before I give you some ideas, do you realize that if you bought 20 books to sell, costing approximately $100.00, you could sell them for $200.00 at a reasonable price of $10.00 per book? Then you could buy 20 more books and never have to worry about losing money again.  Once you realize how easy it is to sell them, you can buy larger quantities and enjoy the profits.

So how do you sell them? Here are some suggestions.

1.       Call local libraries and ask if they have any events. These are usually free, and though I haven’t had large numbers of sales while selling at these events (which aren’t generally attended well), I’ve heard they’ve worked better for other people…and maybe the library will purchase your book.

2.       Call local bookstores and see if they will let you set up shop. Sometimes there are town festivals or art walks or other such events running, and the bookstore will invite you in to sell. Possibly, the owner will have you in just to try to drum up more customers. They will usually advertise your appearance. They may take a couple of books on consignment and sell them in the store. These opportunities are also usually free.

3.       Check the internet for author expos. There are readers who have a passion for exposing others to books. Colleges have author expos, sometimes libraries do, some art guilds do, and sometimes other organizations such as readers’ coalitions organize them. These are generally quite inexpensive to attend and may also be free.

4.       Get the word out that you’re looking for book clubs or writers’ groups. Volunteer to make an appearance and speak. Some groups pay to have speakers, and some just provide lunch or snacks and drinks. I’ve spoken to several groups that have purchased books at the end. Sales at my speaking events have been very good, and the more people, obviously, the better.

5.       Town festivals. Nearly all small towns and all larger towns have downtown events. People are wandering everywhere. They may not be looking for books, but if you’re willing to strike up a conversation, you’d be surprised at how many readers there are that are impressed to meet an actual author. And other kind-hearted people simply like to support local authors. These events are also generally quite inexpensive to sell at.

6.       Look up farmer’s markets and flea markets. If they aren’t advertised on line, try the local Chamber of Commerce or the City Hall for information. For somewhere between five and twenty dollars, in my experience, I set up a booth or a table under a canopy and sell a lot of books. People come to markets with cash in hand, fully expecting to spend money. Having an author in attendance is a curiosity. At a market, people are friendly. They stop and chat. They like a free piece of candy or a bookmark, and they’re all curious about the guy or gal that isn’t selling produce. If the weather cooperates, I’ve had lots of luck at the farm markets. I also tend to buy a lot of fresh veggies, so be prepared to spend some of your profits. Hey, it’s for your own health. The only flea market I sold at went pretty well; plus I learned that next time I’ll bring other things to sell too, since it turned out to be basically a huge garage sale. Maybe there’s a good flea market near you.

7.       Craft shows have been very good to me. Now we’re getting to the especially good events. These, in my experience, can be very inexpensive (10 to 20 dollars) or they can be expensive (like 75 to 150 dollars). I’ve sold over 50 books at craft shows numerous times. They are usually indoors, so weather isn’t a concern, and sharing a table is always a possibility. Do you know another author to split the fee with, or a crafter that will share his or her table? That’s a way to reduce the cost. Shoppers come with money to spend, and they generally spend it. Remember, lots of people love books. Plus I have an easier time not spending my profits on crafts than not buying those delicious fresh vegetables.

8.       Art in the park events are easy to find on line, and there are generally very few authors at those events, so often, they’re very profitable. They can also be expensive. I prefer sharing a booth with one of two author friends that I’ve made. Both Stacey Rourke and Julie Cassar (check out their books because they sell like hotcakes) are very outgoing and personable, and our books are different enough that we don’t invade on each other’s audiences, but when a few people stop, crowds begin to gather. Literature is art. Once shoppers realize this obvious truth, they also realize that your art is less expensive than everyone else’s. At least that’s my theory on why I’ve been so successful at these events. That and my smile and friendly personality. 

I’ve come back from events and my wife will ask me how many books I sold. I’ll sigh sometimes and say, “Only fifteen” or I’ll say, “I sold twenty-eight, but I sold thirty-five last year at the same event.” She’ll say, “How many did you sell on line today?” And my spirits will brighten. Interacting with people, hearing words of encouragement, creating smiles, making connections and getting invitations to other events—these are things that happen out in public, and I believe more authors need to take the initiative to step out and market their books in a way that happens to be fun and also works. I encourage all indie authors to locate some events and make some phone calls. Get your book into the hands of some readers. You’ll wonder why you weren’t doing it before.

Jeff LaFerney is the author of Loving the Rain, Skeleton Key, Bulletproof, Jumper, and Lost and Found