Authors do two things: write books and mercilessly flog books. I got the chance to do the latter twice in the last week at two wildly different venues.
I started last Wednesday afternoon with the Ohio Writer’s Guild at Mozart’s Bakery. The place is large for a bakery, previously having been an oriental carpet store and a recording studio before that. We were given one of the larger halls that would have accommodated fifty to seventy five people. We were eight to ten authors and their significant authors. I had my film-maker friend Sheldon and Kit as my entourage.
We all sat, and sipped coffee or tea and stared at each other across the few tables set up with books. I was perhaps the second or third youngest author there. My novel of sex, magick and power tools certainly did not fit in with the multiple inspirational memoirs and family friendly books with poodles.
I think the only one who sold anything was the bakery.
Swinging over to the other pole, Kit and I spent last Saturday at the Printers Alley Lit Fest in downtown Chicago. The crowd with Post Mortem Press brought their best books and their “A” game to sell them. We had six authors Chris Larsen, Brian Dobbins, Cina Pelayo, Michael Matula, Max Booth II and the publishers Eric Beebe and Stephanie Kania-Beebe.
We were tucked beneath a tree on a sidewalk, situated between a vape store and the tent for the Mystery Writers Association. People who actual bought and read books paraded by in a steady stream.
Kit quickly demonstrated her sales technique refined in convention huckster rooms and our vintage/costume store:
“What kind of books do you like to read?”
It’s important to not give them a question they can answer “no” to like “Do you like horror books?” or “Do you like the weird stuff displayed before you on the table?”
Some answered, “I like all different kinds of books.” To that we could answer: “You’re in luck, these are some very different books.” A little probing and pressing finds the horror or mystery or non-fiction the reader needs.
If the potential buyer wasn’t overwhelmed with the beauty and quality of the product, Kit followed up with a second line of attack:
“We have the authors of the books here, and they’d be glad to sign their books for no extra charge.”
The authors would jockey for position, even offering to sign other people’s books. The buyer’s fate was sealed.
At the Lit fest, we picked up on Kit’s techniques quickly, selling each other’s books and outselling Post Mortem Press’s clearance bin.
As we experimented with new techniques, huckstering became street theater. I juggled to garner attention and Max made up a sign to pitch “Toxicity” along the lines of “I am poor and there is a big lizard in my backyard. Buy my book so I can feed it.”
One of the festival staffers approached me about “the weird guy” that was lurking near our table.
“Don’t worry, he’s with us,” I assured the staffer, “and it’s a weird book.”