Selling Books at Booksignings: The Top 4 Things a Potential Book Buyer Sees

If you’re an author who is planning on doing a book signing event soon, whether it’s for a self-published book or a title published by a major house, you’re likely going to experience a bit of anxiety. One of the most heart-pounding moments comes when a potential buyer saunters over and starts looking at your book.

Yikes! Don’t worry, be calm.

It helps to understand the thought process a potential buyer goes through when deciding whether he’s going to actually buy or not. Some people who walk up to your table are just being nosy and want to ask questions, but others are seriously motivated to buy your book. But they might need some convincing. You must pass four tests when selling books at a book signing.

Front Cover

The front cover is the main attraction. A good cover draws the book browser to your table. The title or the central image should be visible from at least three yards away. The quality of the front of your book cover is the very first evaluation point that a potential buyer uses when deciding to buy your book.

Back Cover

If you pass the front cover test, the browser will then flip it around to read the back cover. This is why it is so important to write back cover copy that sizzles and immediately gets the point. During the back cover review is your moment to throw in a few words about your book—a one-liner or what inspired you to write it.

Quick note: if the browser doesn’t pick up the book when he first approaches your table, put it in his hand, back cover first!

Inside Pages

The next action many book browsers take is to flip through the pages of the book. Now this is the turning point. Some people have already made their decision—they just flip through it to make sure it’s not written in another language, garbeldy gook or print so tiny they need a magnifier to read. Others will actually stand there and read a few pages (just ask them politely not to bend the spine back too much, yes some people do that). This is why it is important to have your book text professionally edited and formatted.


There is just one final evaluation a browser at a book signing will make before deciding to support your work. He will look at YOU. How you present yourself to the public is important in terms of both your appearance and your attitude. If you’re sitting back looking uninterested with a soda in your hand, that’s not going to motivate someone to buy a book from you—smile and be attentive yet not too pushy. Wear something professional and clean yet relaxed.

Knowing these four points of evaluation will help you succeed more when selling books at book signings. Take care to ensure that each point is as close to perfection as humanly possible.

How to Turn Your Car into a Book Mobile as a Self-Publisher

Since self-publishers don’t have the same funds as traditional publishers, you should always be on the lookout for ways to promote your book without breaking the bank. If you’re looking for inexpensive but effective way to advertise your new book, try a car magnet. You can turn your car or truck into a “Book Mobile” for about $40.

Car Magnets

Find a printing service that offers car magnets. These magnets are about 9 x 12 to 12 x 18 inches in size—they fit perfectly on the side of your car door.
Create the book advertisement in a standard book layout program (like InDesign, or even Microsoft Word). Keep the ad simple—all people need to see is the book cover, title, and maybe a short description of what it’s about. When you’re driving, all people are probably going to see is the title. When parked, people will have time

Position the book cover on the right-hand side of the magnet. Make it as large as the magnet’s dimensions will fit.

Type in a quick headline, preferably three to four words long, on the left side in large lettering. This will be the most difficult part, because it’s hard to summarize your book’s purpose in just a few words. Set the font to 72 point or higher—whatever size will fit the size of the magnet.

Type in your book’s website address or an 800 number across the bottom of the magnet so that people can contact you for more information. You may have to adjust the side of the book cover to allow room at the bottom.

Convert the document to PDF format or a TIF file (CMYK color mode) using an image editing program like Adobe Photoshop. Send or upload the PDF or TIF file to your printing service. Have 2 magnets printed—one for each side of your car. Now you’ve got a certified “Book Mobile!”


Some printing services allow you to design your magnet right on screen—just choose an overall format, add images, type in text, and make it all your own. This will save you the aggravation of having to lay the design out in a graphic design program and then convert it to PDF format.

Be sure to carry bookmarks and copies of your book in your car at all times in case someone asks you about the book while you’re driving around town.


How to Develop a Book Marketing Budget

To launch your book properly, it’s a good idea to sit down and start writing a detailed book marketing budget. The budget is a preliminary task that you should complete before you spend a dime on publishing your book. Some small publishers make the mistake of jumping right in and spending on their newly finished books before they get a full view of how much it will cost to properly release the title. Start typing out your new book marketing budget in a blank Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. Here are a few key categories that you’ll want to address in your budget.

Book Editing and Design Costs

Once you finish writing your book, brace yourself. Before your only investment was time and thought—now you have to start spending money to get the word out about your unique creation. You now have to hire a few people to get your book ready for printing and publishing:

  • Book editor
  • Typesetter
  • Cover designer

Book Printing Costs

A major initial outlay for a self-publisher is your book printing expenses. The traditional method is to purchase a set of books (about 250 to 1000 to start out) and then order more when you run out. The costs when you speak to a book printer include:

  • Book printing costs
  • Prepress fees
  • Shipping costs

You can also use a POD service like the one offered by Createspace to print your books on demand. I’m liking the POD option more nowadays because I sell most of my titles online. However, keep in mind that printing with a book printer may give you a lower per-book rate and also open more doors to potential distributors and brick-and-mortar bookstores to carry your book on shelves.

Book Advertising Costs

In 2010 and beyond, I believe self-publishers and small publishing companies will find the most success advertising online. But when you go on book signing events and the like you’ll need some other advertising materials. So be sure to include the following possible costs in your book marketing budget:

  • Putting together and publishing a professional book website. You can simply use a web building tool offered by your web host, choose a professional template, and add your book details, but you may want to hire a professional to handle this (I discuss book websites in my eBook series).
  • Building a newsletter list and using email newsletter services to get the word out about your book
  • Creating postcards, bookmarks and business cards for your book to distribute at events
  • Creating flyers and large mounted book posters to display at your events
  • Hiring a designer to prepare book marketing package materials (like your sell sheet and letterhead)
  • Buying radio ads can be useful for certain types of books

In addition to basic book advertising expenses, don’t forget to list the cost of putting together sales packages for potential reviewers, distributors and small bookstores who may want to carry your books. You’ll have to print professional materials and send them via an express mail service to your intended recipients.

Book Traveling Expenses

When you publish a book that gets some attention either locally or nationally, you’ll have to budget for trips to book signings, festivals, fairs, and other events. That includes:

  • Airfare, rental car, hotel
  • Vending table rental fees (if applicable)
  • Display tables, stands, tents and other supplies for your books if you’re planning on attending book fairs
  • Outfits for your book signings (you’ve got to look good!)
  • Cost of placing a few radio or newspaper ads in the other cities where you plan to visit to promote your books (people who may be interested in your book need to know you’re coming and why—they don’t know who you are yet!)

Book Selling Helpers

One mistake I made when I just started out selling my own self-published books was to try to do everything on my own. I probably could have made longer strides more quickly if I had just hired a few part-time people to help me out! You don’t have to hire on full-time employees as a self-publisher—obviously you can’t afford that just yet. Consider the following ideas for getting book selling helpers and add the cost to your budget:

  • Hire independent contractors, like virtual assistants, online (such as on Elance)
  • Talk to an administrator at a college nearby to see if there is an intern program you can join
  • Pay your working age kids or their buddies to be your helpers
  • Consider the cost of hiring a book publicist to help you get the word out about your book

Educational Materials

Before and after you self-publish a book it is very important that you read up on the process in detail. Gathering knowledge of self-publishing helps you gain an advantage in the self-publishing world. This is a small segment of your book marketing budget, but worth adding:

  • Invest in resources that teach you the basics of self-publishing a book
  • Invest in resources that teach you the specifics of how to sell and market a book
  • Attend seminars at book publishing fairs and major events to hear from other successful self-publishers and network

Use these suggestions as a starting point – obviously you’ll have more items to add your book marketing budget in the near future.

Are 99 Cent eBooks Worthwhile for Publishers? What About Readers?

I spent an evening browsing the Internet for articles on the subject of selling eBooks for 99 cents. This seems to be a popular and standard practice now in the self-publishing world, and since I write suggestions for self-publishers it’s definitely worth exploring.

One article stuck out of the pile. It is entitled Why Selling E-books at 99 Cents Destroys Minds by Chad Post.

This particular article caught my attention for a couple of reasons.

For one, Chad discusses how eBooks sometimes make the reader weary due to looking at a bright screen for a very long time. It’s not the same as cozying up with a book printed on lovely neutral-colored pages.

He then makes the point that when consumers have access to mounds of cheap 99 cent eBooks they become a commodity. Eventually the quality of literature that publishers put out suffers because they have to sell more to make a living. Thus the minds of those who read them also suffer due to the lower quality of reading. (Correct me if I’m wrong here Chad).

Chad refers to these 99 cent eBooks as “disposable entertainment,” similar to buying a game app on your cellphone. It is not something you cherish or ever look at again when you’re done reading. It’s partially due to it’s low price (you order a bunch but never get around to reading them all) and sometimes due to the lower quality.

I read another article on the subject that made a point that the type of people who are buying 99 cent eBooks are “disposable” for lack of a better word. They aren’t committed, loyal readers who will come back time and again.

This also brings up another point along the same lines. When someone buys a 99 cent eBook but just looks at it as a disposable piece of entertainment, this lowers the chance that he’ll refer the book to others.

Recently I downloaded a short, cheaply priced eBook on the subject of sales and marketing on my cellphone.

When you write and edit 10 to 12 hours a day it is difficult to find the time and concentration to read other works period, but I committed to reading this one.

About halfway through it my brain shut off. At that halfway mark I hadn’t really learned anything. Most of it was fluff, promotion.

I tried to come back to it the next day and just couldn’t focus.

For over two weeks after that I just could not finish the book. Finally, one night I forced myself to finish the book off. It turned out that in the end I got a few golden nuggets from it, but why did it take me so long to get through this very short eBook?

Could this be due, as I mentioned early, to my low attention being a writer myself? Maybe.

But could it also be due to the fact that I’m reading it on a small electronic device (in this case my smartphone screen)?

Or is that I purchased it so cheaply that I don’t really value its content as much?

Do people buy cheap 99 cent eBooks just for the sake of buying them and feeling as if they got a deal? They should be buying them because they like the author, they’re interested in the subject matter or because it’s well-written.

After all, this particular eBook was far from encyclopaedic. It was written in simple quick prose. If it were a printed book I would have probably finished it in a few hours.

Anyone who has read my own eBook, which I initially priced at $9.95 (and still happy with that decision) knows that the original goal was to help traditional self-publishers who were trying to sell print books. However, the latest update I put up last month includes a bit more on promoting both printed and electronic books. The next automatic update will likely have even more on eBooks now that I’m getting a more complete view on what works and what doesn’t.

So I’m curious… what has been your personal experience with 99 cent eBooks via Kindle, Mobi Readers and such? Add your opinion to the Survey Monkey poll below and a comment below if you have time.

Looking forward to hearing your opinion.


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Selling Self-Published Books: It Takes Money (and Planning) to Make Money

I was recently reading a few articles about breakout authors who have managed to sell millions of eBooks despite self-publishing. I noticed one thing that many ultra-successful self-published authors have in common – they had money prior to being authors. They also got into the eBook game early, when the Kindle craze began.

For instance, Darcie Chan was a lawyer prior to selling 400,000 copies of her books. She likely had some money budgeted to promote her work properly.

Of course there are exceptions – Amanda Hocking worked at group home prior to becoming a best selling authoress according to Wikipedia. But in many cases, people who have a solid marketing budget available to invest in their books are more likely to succeed as self-publishers.

There are two reasons why it’s really helpful to already have money in the bank if you want to become a successful self-published author.

  • You need plenty of money to sustain yourself while you’re promoting and writing books. If you’ll notice, most high-selling authors have written 10 or more titles. They can keep pumping them out because they have cash to fall back on and pay bills in the meanwhile. Many other self-published authors don’t have the ability or time to write 10-20 pages a day while still juggling a job and everyday bills.
  • Money opens doors that aren’t open to others in the publishing industry. For instance, a book table at one of the major book expos costs over $1,000. Buying advertising on top book websites costs thousands per month. Professional editors and book designers charge thousands. Some services allow you to pay for high profile reviews.

As this WSJ article confirms, authors who already have a large following are the ones who are most likely to succeed.

So where do these authors get that following? It’s either from time served (they’ve been writing for years and developed a large fan list over those years) or money (they purchased ads or reviews and gave away plenty of books to develop a following). Not to mention, their writing has to be pretty good to keep people interested.

So if you’re a brand new self-published who no one has ever heard of, with little to no following who doesn’t have much money, is it really a mystery why you’re not selling any books?

I’m Pretty Broke — What Can I Do?

The first thing to do is to be realistic as a brand new self-publisher. This is one of the top points I try to get across in my eBook and articles. Be realistic and take measured steps toward your own personal success. Stop looking at the success of others as a gauge of whether you yourself are successful.

Some people look down on this advice as pessimistic, but I call it realistic optimism. You have to be realistic yet determined about the approach you take to self-publishing if you want the best results. About 130,000 books are self-published each year. According to Para Publishing there are about 86,000 self publishers. Only 12 self-published authors have sold over 200,000 copies of their books as of the first publishing of this post. That’s roughly .01 %.

The other 99.99 % of indie authors don’t get these stellar results. In fact, the vast majority of self-publishers sell about 150 copies total.

So What About the 99.99%?

It’s best to be realistic about what you’ll sell and invest accordingly. Then if you happen to join the ranks of million-selling authors (which is largely a matter of luck and partly due to writing an amazing story), party like it’s 2099!

The next thing I would suggest is to consider taking time to hone your craft and save up some money to invest in your book if you’re really serious about self-publishing as a career. Or at least as a consistent source of residual income.

Finally, invest in affordable, effective advertising. Avoid places that are just trying to rob you of your money as an eager self-publisher. You know, the $5,000 a month retainer publicity agents and $5,000 tables at book conferences. Find your niche audience and advertise to them with inexpensive yet well-placed promotions, reviews and free copies of your book.

Of course I have more tips for self-publishers which I detail in my eBook. Your book is a product, and you have to become a bit of a marketing genius in addition to a writer.

You have to think of this as a business—selling isn’t very fun. Making money is fun. And the old adage rings true—it does take (some) money to make money.

Book Marketing Tip: Respond to Your Fans

One time, I found an article online that I really related to from a personal standpoint. I found the writer (who happens to be the author of a self-published book and a motivational speaker) online and sent her a bit of a heartfelt email relating some of my own experiences and thanking her for the article. I also tweeted the link from a personal account at the time and promoted her business on my timeline to hundreds of followers.

In response the author simply added me to her newsletter list. I know this because I received a generic email newsletter issue days later. I promptly blocked her email address.

Your Fans Are Important

I have to look at this situation from a book marketing standpoint. It made me wonder why someone wouldn’t use this type of opportunity to build a relationship and possibly get a book sale. I don’t know?

I would say lack of time, but in the time it took her to add my name to her newsletter account she could have written back “Thanks for your email. FYI, I’m coming out with a new book soon that expands on the points in that article…” That might have led to a prompt purchase or pre-order.

What happens is that sometimes authors and entrepreneurs stop looking at people as people, and start treating them like customers. That’s just not a luxury of a self-published writer — vocal fans who take the time out to contact you are your bread and butter. You should make every effort to respond to them.

Respond to Your Fans

So my book marketing tip #201 is really simple: respond to your fans. I think this is common sense to the majority of unknown authors, but not all. It is extremely hard to get someone’s attention online these days long enough to get a response to what you’re selling.

When I wrote my first novel almost a decade ago, one thing I committed to was promptly responding to emails from fans and inquiries from them about their orders. It paid off, because many of the sales I received were from positive word of mouth. People appreciate it when you take the time to connect with them. I’ve also carried this into my client dealings—I respond to just about every inquiry, whether it is a sale or a general question about book marketing.

So the moral to this story is, if a fan or potential reader takes the time out to email you, email her back.

And build a relationship with that reader beyond just “buy my book.” Respond to her query and tell her a little about yourself and your story if she asks. Ask her about herself too. Remember, it’s not only about you.

If she’s read your book already, thank her for supporting you. Ask her to tell her friends, join your newsletter for updates and add a review to Amazon. Offer her a discount off of your next book or even a freebie—after all this is going to be one of your loyal readers who will most likely spread the word about your books. You can afford to give her a free copy.

You may be surprised at the benefits of sending back a little (love) to people who contact you with positive feedback over time.



How to Sell Books… It Depends on What Kind of Book You’re Selling

Obviously the top question I get from visitors to the How to Sell Books website is “how do I sell my self-publishing book??”

Well the first two questions that I have are: “what kind of book are you trying to sell in the first place? And to whom?” Many new self-publishers don’t really know the answer to those questions.

Not only do many writers fail to explore the basics of the 4 Ps of marketing (product, price, placement and promotion) they also don’t really know their target reader.

  • Is your target reader a housewife looking to make an extra income to support her household?
  • Is she a bored college student who wants something interesting to read in between classes?
  • Is he a social studies teacher who is looking for a way to interest his students?

What is the target reader’s age? Occupation? Interests? How does she buy her books (electronic or print)?

Simply put, the target reader is the person who is most likely to purchase a copy of your book. As I write in my eBook series, “A book buyer is only motivated to purchase a book if it will make him money, make his life easier, educate him on something he was curious about, or make his life more fun and enjoyable.”

Know Your Audience

I have been fairly successful selling my tightly niched novels because I have a very strong idea of who my target reader is for each one. For three years I hit the streets of NYC and sold my novels hand-to-hand.

I got to meet thousands of people who fell right into my target audience back then, so now I know who they are whether I’m tweeting them on Twitter, reading their posts on Amazon or talking to them at book signings. I understand their motivations, interests and how they go about buying books.

eBook or Printed Book?

Another important issue I think is crucial to consider right now (circa 2012 and beyond) is the book format that your target reader will prefer to purchase. I recently read an article that revealed that most people who read novels prefer eBooks (electronic books, mostly on Kindle or iPad devices) while people who read non-fiction titles prefer printed books that they can carry around and mark up for future reference. That is extremely important information for you to keep in mind if you’re trying to sell books.

Do People Really Want Your Book?

I’m quite possibly the last person on earth to discourage someone from writing and selling their own book, but you have to ask yourself: who, if anyone, wants your book?

Some writers make the mistake of writing and publishing books that have virtually no market —no one desires or needs the book. I learned that lesson first-hand when I published a book of photography (my very first self-publishing venture). Talk about bombing.

So if you are serious about succeeding as a self-publisher and selling copies I suggest that you do some personal reflection about your book before you proceed. If you’re having a hard time identifying a target reader, does the book have one? If the answer is “well no, not really” just start a new writing project but this time make sure that you have a clear-cut idea of who is actually going to buy it when it’s finished. Selling books is as much about strategy as it is about the writing or spending money on advertising.

Time to get to work!

Quick Book Cover Design Tutorial

The design of your book cover is key to the book’s success. When a customer picks up a book, she will immediately start thinking about your title. If the title is interesting and easy to read, the next thing she will do is get more detail about the book on your back cover. Something as small as the size or font of the text could be the difference between a sale or a pass. This is why it is so key to have a professional designed cover that will grab and keep the attention of potential readers.

Preliminary Steps

Before you start to design your cover, first sit down and brainstorm a few details. For one, you must know and understand the target reader before you start creating book cover. If you are not the writer, you should read or at least skim the book to gain a better understanding of who would most enjoy the book.

Front Cover

For your front cover, keep everything as simple as possible. Avoid inserting multiple photos and many different fonts and colors on your front cover as this will distract your reader and your title could get lost in the confusion.

Instead, just add a simple (preferably neutral) background color, one photo (no more than two), your title, and a small line of text for your byline (author name). The title should be either centered on the book or located towards the top of the book to draw attention to it first. The photo can be a backdrop image or a photo placed to the side or bottom of the text.

The main element that you will be working with on your front cover will be your title text. Play with fonts and font sizes until you find the perfect selection that stands out and matches the tone and theme of your book.

Back Cover

Your back cover should be even more simple than your front cover. This is purely for reading—think of it as the very last page of your book. Choose a white or very light background for the back cover and use black text on top. Avoid dark background colors as this makes it more difficult to read. Use the same or a similar font as what you used for your inside book text.

Programs to Use to Design the Cover

Use Adobe Photoshop and InDesign or a similar program to design your book cover. Generally, you will create your background images in Photoshop and then layout the cover in InDesign. This is because Adobe Photoshop allows you to make extensive edits to photos, colors, and other elements that will be inserted into your final cover file. InDesign gives you more flexibility for inserting and editing text on top of your background images. It is also possible to create your book cover design using Photoshop alone, though it will be more difficult to make text edits.


Fred Showker “Book Cover Design Tips & Tricks” DT&G Design

Archive of Book Cover Designs

Resource on How to Design Book Covers That Sell

A Design Resource for Novices


Raise Money to Get Your Book Printed as a New Self-Publisher

Looking for a way to help pay for your first run of book? Sell advertising at the back of your book.

If you’re a new and fairly broke self-publisher who’s trying to raise some money to get your book printed, you may have to get a little creative. If the bank isn’t biting, low on cash, and your cards are maxed out, why not try to sell some advertising space at the back of your pre-published books as a way to get your book printed?

Think about it—you’re going to be printing multiple hundreds of books and pushing them to a highly targeted group of consumers. For instance, if you have a book printed about starting your own small business, you know that there are a whole crop of advertisers out there hoping to reach new small business owners.

How this Idea to Get your Book Printed Can Work

This idea for getting your book printed will work best for a non-fiction or self-help book that provides valuable information. For instance, if your book is about relationships, tap local matchmakers and the countless dating services (both off and online) that are trying to get off the ground. A real estate agent might also pay to advertise in the back of your printed book offering advice on buying a new house.

As you can imagine, this plan to raise funds to get your book printed will work best if the advertiser has a website and ships products or provides a service to people all over the country. But if you plan to push your book heavily in your own town or city, a local brick and mortar business can benefit from this type of advertising.

Ask Your Buddies

What about other authors? Many self-published and even traditionally published authors have an advertising budget (don’t you?). Ask your author buddies if they’d like to advertise their books in the back of your printed book.

And what about your other buddies? Surely you have a friend or family member who is trying to get a new business idea off the ground or works for a company that places local advertisements. Instead of asking him for a cash investment to help get your book printed, sell him ad space in your printed book instead.

Be reasonable with your advertising rates, especially if this is the first time you’re trying this method of gathering funds to get your book printed. About $100 per half page ad sounds reasonable. Once you start to see a positive result from these book ads, then you can raise your rates and make it a more exclusive situation for possible advertisers.

Additionally, offer to include the ads on your book website as well. Even if your printed book doesn’t sell well off the bat, this will at least assure that the advertiser gets some online exposure from your book project.

Cross Promotion Opportunities After You Get Your Book Printed

Now before you say, “I don’t know if that will work,” think about the cross-promotion opportunity as well. If an advertiser knows you’re pushing his company name and maybe even his picture in the back of a published book, he’s going to be even more fired up about getting his own friends, family, and contacts to buy it—maybe even in bulk. Always off two free copies of the book for the advertiser to keep.

One last thing before you get the book printed—make plans with the advertiser to offer a discount to the customer if he mentions that he saw your ad in the back of your book. If the advertiser’s product or service is on a website, arrange to have the advertiser set up a special landing page or discount code so that he can tell where the traffic came from. This way the advertiser will see the value of promoting in your book, and possibly pay for more ads in future book printings or releases. Always think ahead.

Can’t Hurt to Give This a Shot!

So if you’re struggling with how to get the cash you need to get your book printed, consider taking a galley of your pre-published book and the cover around to your local businesses to try to sell ad space. If you’ve got positive reviews in already, bring that along with you as well.

Good luck to you on your self-published book. When you finally do get your book printed, then comes the really hard part — selling them!