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How to Sell More Books and Grow Your Fan Base at Author Events

by | Aug 4, 2015

When we talk about building your author platform, the inescapable challenge every author must face is marketing. Particularly, email marketing.

You need an email list, not just to sell your book to subscribers, but to build relationships with readers and other writers so they’ll support your work and become fans in the process.

In-person author events provide a unique opportunity to get more email subscribers — but only if you take some time to prepare for the event. Here’s a checklist that will help you walk away from your next author event feeling like it was a success.

Don’t buy more than 20 books to sell

Let’s say you’re going to some book fair that’s insanely popular with an attendance list numbering in the thousands. You’d think it would be a smart move to stock up on physical copies of your book, right?

Wrong. If you’re an unknown author like me, the fact is you won’t sell many copies at an event. I had 20 books on hand for my event and only sold a handful.

Sometimes readers need to time to research who you are, and they aren’t committed to buying just yet. “But what if I sell out?” you might ask. That’s great! Now you can tell visitors your book is sold out and possibly create demand due to scarcity — not a bad position to be in.

So don’t order 100 copies of your novel just to be cautious, or you’ll be stuck lugging those books around for a while.

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Use bookmarks as giveaways

On the list of things every author should have on hand: bookmarks. Bookmarks are like business cards for authors.

You can put your cover art on a bookmark, along with your website and any other details for potential readers. Get really creative with your bookmarks by adding a character sketch or a synopsis of the book on the back. Utilize QR codes and make it even easier for someone to access your website or your book’s sale page.

Having lots of bookmarks to give away at your event is more important than having copies of your book. A visual reminder of you and your novel sticking out of someone’s book is an easy way to get more sales and reach more readers.

Bring a poster of your book cover

This one is optional, but it helped me get more visitors than I expected at my last in-person event.

Dozens of people who stopped by my table remarked on how the poster of my book cover drew them in. If you’ve got a compelling cover, get a poster made and tack that bad boy on the front of your table or on an easel that’s easily visible.

Images grab people’s attention, so take advantage of that to increase foot traffic to your booth.

Smile and engage

This seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t look up from their laptops or mobile phones at these events.

You should always have your game face on when someone is remotely close to your table or booth. Simply saying “Hi!” can mean the difference between that person coming over to check out your book or skipping you altogether. Leave the texting and social media for later.

And finally: how to get those new email contacts

When you put all the tips above into practice, you’ll get an influx of people visiting your table, which creates a great opportunity for you them to subscribe to your email list.

But you’re not just going to tell them to do that… because they won’t.

Instead, you’re going to lay out an incentive. Create a compelling raffle where they can receive a free signed copy of your book, a gift card to their favorite bookstore, or a bundle of ebooks they can download. Create a sign-up sheet with spots for names and emails to contact the winner(s).

Don’t be spammy or shady. Explain in detail on the sign-up sheet that each entrant will be added to your email list and they can unsubscribe at any time. I added 100 subscribers to my email list at the event I attended.

Sure, there will probably be a few people who just want the goodies and then will unsubscribe when they don’t win the raffle, but to date, I’ve only had around five unsubscribes, which is pretty good.

Once you’ve wrapped up your time at the event, remember to pick a winner either through a drawing or a random number generator, then email everyone on the list with the results and send the prize promptly.

To minimize the percentage of unsubscribes, I also created a consolation prize for non-winners that included a free short story and a book marketing PDF guide. It’s always nice to receive a prize in a contest, especially when you don’t win!

Got any tips for getting the most out of an author event? Please share in the comments!