October 9, 2012

Seven Secrets to Selling to a Stranger at a Book Event

by Julie Breedlove, Marketing Manager at BQB Publishing

I had the pleasure of working with several BQB authors at our booth during the Decatur Book Festival last month. Since BQB publishes numerous first-time authors, not many people were coming up to our table because they didn’t know who the authors were or they haven’t read their previous works. I quickly realized that while I was in the presence of great writers, their skills with words did not always correspond with their experience with sales. 

Thinking it through, this makes sense. Authors communicate in writing. Verbal communication, especially related to self-promotion, might not easily be their strong suit in the beginning. That’s where I come in. There were plenty of people at the festival, so it was a great chance for me to offer tips and watch as the authors learned how to interact with strangers and sell their books.

 I’ll let you in on some of the tips:

1) Stand, don’t sit. Think of your event as a social affair, not a book signing where you just remain behind the table with a sharpie in your hand. 

2) Don’t be shy or expect people to come to you. The ball is in your court to make eye contact and initiate the conversation. If you’re not a natural extrovert, bring someone with you to your signing who can help increase the energy and start conversations.

3) Use an icebreaker like a bowl of candy or a bookmark to begin the interaction. 

 4) Be prepared with a friendly question or conversation-starter. The goal should be to talk, not to sell. Begin with a simple question that is somehow relevant to your book. For a cookbook/healthy lifestyle program like Wellness 100, for example, the authors tried something simple like “What’s for dinner?” Even if people don’t buy the book instantly, that conversation stemming from a simple question might stick with them. Often, people will download an eBook or purchase the book online at a later time.
5) If the book isn’t appropriate for the passerby, ask if they have friends, kids, or family that might like a signed copy and remind them that signed books make thoughtful gifts. 

6) Use a discount or offer them a special price. People like to feel like they’re getting a good deal. 

7) Keep a positive attitude no matter what. Not everyone is nice and you’re bound to be blown off at one point or another. Don’t attach yourself to those reactions. Keep your chin and your energy up.

Signing events vary by the venue, attendance, and day, but these simple steps can help make your interactions more valuable and your time worthwhile. At BQB Publishing, we offer training to our authors on ways to make book events successful. I often find that authors gain comfort knowing these basic tips ahead of time and sell more books because they’re relaxed and enjoying their time meeting new people. Happy selling and signing!

Julie Breedlove is the Marketing Manager at Boutique of Quality Books (BQB) Publishing Company. With this independent hybrid publisher, Julie boosts book publicity, coaches authors, and guides marketing plans to bring today’s new writers and tomorrow’s best sellers into the hands of booksellers and the reading public. To learn more about BQB’s publishing process and marketing support, visit


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