The Ups and Downs of Selling


You’d think that after two years (or more) of writing, editing, rewriting and polishing a manuscript and actually getting the thing published that you’d be on easy street. You’d think that folks would appear on your doorstep, cash in hand, all atwitter to purchase your new book. Signed, of course.

You’d think that. Of course you would.

You’d be wrong. Disappointingly, frustratingly, and very sadly wrong. Nobody, except for your very closest friends, knows you exist, or knows that you have actually written and published a book. Or cares, for that matter.

Shortly after the glow of publication wears off (about fifteen minutes, on average), you begin to understand that writing and publishing are the easy bits of writing for a living. No matter the incredible number of hours you sweated blood to get your manuscript ready for the publisher, no matter the nights you lost sleep to doubt and insecurity, no matter the days you wandered and pondered, lost in plots and plans.

Harsh reality gets up in your face after those first fifteen minutes of utter joy and yells that no one gives a single, itty-bitty damn about you or your book.

They don’t know you, and have no idea your book even exists. What’s worse, they don’t care.

That is when you begin to understand that your job as a writer has now been placed way down on your List of Things To Do With Your Life.

Way, way down.

Remember the old saw about selling ice to Eskimos?  That’s you. That’s what you’ve got to do. You have to sell yourself and your book. Actively. There is no such thing as a passive salesman. You can’t sit in a bookstore with your book attractively displayed on a table, with your head buried in a magazine as people walk past and go home at the end of the day wondering why nobody bought your book. Well, you can, and some folks actually do that.

Time after time. Until they get really, really bored. Or depressed and very poor. At which time they go back to their real job, their precious book locked away where they won’t have to look at it ever again.

You have to get out, meet people, get them to like you and then help them to convince themselves they really want to read your book. You can’t sell a product to anyone, you know. You have to show them there is value in that book for them and then they convince themselves to buy it.

It’s what some folks call work. ‘Cause you have to do it for a living. Full time, overtime, weekends and holidays. You can write more stuff when you’re not selling. Or keeping your accounts, or researching new markets, or writing puff pieces for newspapers, or ordering more copies of your book(s) and hoping they arrive before your next sales event. Or setting up and maintaining your web site. Or writing a new post for your blog.

New writers are almost always reluctant to put themselves out there. Writers are usually shy and prefer to write in peace and quiet. They live through the the stories they tell. That’s a big part of why they write. But that does not sell books. Salesmen – or saleswomen – sell books, and develop markets.

Let’s get past the nasty bits of identifying the market for your work. Let’s assume you did that before you wrote the first word in your manuscript (as you should have done). Let’s also assume you’ve identified the price point for your book, and it’s set in stone. You know how much each copy costs you, including shipping, so you know what your gross profit will be from each sale. All that’s left is to identify where you’re going to go with your bags and boxes of books and your brand new marquee tent. And your smile, and your attentive look and pleasant demeanor.

And your fears of failure and rejection and your general nervousness.

I do a lot of personal appearances and book signings at independent bookstores and community fairs. I am open to speaking engagements, too. Not everybody can sell, and not everybody feels comfortable with public speaking. Not everybody writes books, either. But you did, and now you have to sell. First you have to sell yourself. then you have to give the person you’re speaking with a few good reasons to take a big chance on you and buy your book.

When a person approaches your booth, they are already curious. They want to know what you have out on your table. Stand up, smile, hold out your hand and introduce yourself. Look them in the eyes, and smile. Not everyone will give you their name, but most will. Be sure to remember it. Most people with take you hand, and return your greeting. People want to be friends with other people. People want to liked, and they want to talk about themselves. Find something about that person to compliment. Perhaps they’re wearing an NFL jersey, or carrying a very nice purse or wearing a lovely scarf. Get them talking. Find a connection for them with your book. Add value to your book by mentioning that connection.

Let them sell your book for you.

Let’s say you have two books. Make them an offer on the second book: “Look, I sell these books at $12.00 plus tax. Let’s say you buy both. I’ll knock $5.00 off the second book for you.” Almost always your new customer will go for the deal. He – or she – already likes you and likes the value they see in your product.

And then you sign the books, with a special note to your new friend.

You haven’t just made a sale. You’ve made a friend.

And you’ve just sold two books.

It’s easy. It’s fun. And you’re no longer alone. You’ve got a new friend. And money in your pocket. From your books.

Have a good week.


About Gary Showalter

Gary Showalter was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. He lived in Aruba, Florida and the Panama Canal Zone before joining the U.S. Army during the 1960s. Following his discharge from the Army, Mr. Showalter picked cotton in East Texas, baled hay in Ardmore Oklahoma, sold light bulbs in Los Angeles, California, and built cattle pens in Fallon, Nevada (during a blizzard, of course). After settling in Atlanta, Georgia, Mr. Showalter worked as a professional gardener before turning his hand to furniture making. In 1981, he moved to Israel, married, and raised four children while working as a furniture maker, silversmith, goldsmith, and ornamental wood turner. He served in the Israel Defense Forces Reserves for sixteen years, and when not on active duty he worked in government and private security. He has also served in senior management positions in two software development companies in Israel. During his time in Israel, Mr. Showalter published articles dealing with international terror and the Israel-Arab conflict in the Jerusalem Post, Israel national News and several political science web sites. Mr. Showalter returned to the United States in the fall of 2003, to care for an elderly parent. He published his first novel, “The Big Bend”, in the fall of 2008. His second novel, “Hog Valley”, is now in print. Mr. Showalter's third novel, “Twisted Key”, was published in the fall of 2011, and his fourth novel, "Lonesome Cove" is now available in Kindle format and should be published in paper near the end of 2012. He currently lives in Deland, Fl, where he is co-authoring "A Silent Star" with Tony Attanasio. "A Silent Star" is the true tale (though novelized, with names changed for security reasons) about the 4-person covert action team sent into Yemen to capture Osama Bin laden immediately after the bombing of the USS Cole in the Aden harbor in Yemen in October of 2000.
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