Monday, April 2, 2012

A Novel Way to Sell Books

About a year ago, a mom at my church approached me with a bright smile on her face. "Hey, I was at the homeschool convention yesterday, and I saw one of the vendors selling your books. Just wanted you to know!"

"Wait, what kind of convention?" I asked.

"Every year there are special conventions just for homeschool families. You should check into them. You could sell your own books. Thousands of people come."

Check into them I did. Unfortunately, it was too late to get into the 2011 schedules. The closer ones were already history. However, I Googled until I found the right mailing list and subscribed. When the 2012 convention year rolled around, I discovered an unfortunate truth: Renting my own table to display my books would cost $175. Ouch. I wasn't sure I wanted to go the solo route. What other options might exist? Share a booth with other authors? Ask my publisher if they would be sending reps?

As it turned out, my publisher did have a sales rep planning to attend the Indy event. I posed the question, if I were to supply my own books, could I have about two feet at the end of a table to sell them? The sales rep was thrilled. She had already read my novels and would love to have me. In return, I promised to show up early and lend some muscles to set up and take down her four tables of books and supplies. To stand out from the other vendors, I wore my World War II Army Air Corps captain's uniform. Since one of my novels is a WW II adventure, it's an appropriate attention-getter. (Funny moment: a sixth grader asked, "So, um, did you fight in World War II?" Thanks for adding 40 years to my age, son!)

Selling books this way led to conversations with a variety of interesting parents and their offspring. Many young adults had already read my novels and urged their friends to buy them too. I autographed and sold 56 books, and I was even asked to pose with buyers for photos. Now I'm planning to do another guest-author appearance at an even bigger conference next month in Cincinnati.

I can't guarantee that all authors will sell as many books at such a convention. However, I can say that thousands of parents and youth were strolling the exhibit hall in search of wholesome reading, both Christian and secular. Even groups I hadn't expected (such as the Indiana Historical Society) were on hand to provide resources for this eager market. If your state has a homeschool association that holds such conventions, you authors owe it to yourselves to check into them.

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4 comments:

  1. Follow-up: On April 20-21 I attended the homeschool convention in downtown Cincinnati. Another 71 books sold, so I praise the Lord. I also got to chat with many shoppers young and old. A few shared interesting stories about family members who were in WW II. So, yes, it was worth my time, and I believe it generated some good PR for my novels, too!

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  2. Reminds me of my Starfleet Academy uniform days :)

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  3. I purchased your books through a homeschool convention. Definately a great way to get your books out to a hungry-for-good-christian-historical-fiction audience.

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  4. Leah, thanks for your note. I agree, and I'm encouraging fellow writers of Christian books to consider visiting conferences near them. Another fun benefit: one buyer invited me to go and speak to their homeschool co-op about history and writing. I went, and we all had a fun time. I hope I encouraged some students to try their hand at crafting stories.

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