A Report On Handselling My Self-Published Books

I really must apologize for not keeping this blog as up to date as I would like. I’ve talked about a number of self-publishing processes and experiences, about our bookstore, The Book Barn, in Leavenworth, Kansas, and the status of my writing and preparing my books. I’ve also mentioned niche marketing and several of the eight public domain books I discovered of interest to people in our area. Now I thought you might find it interesting to learn of some of my in-person handselling experiences for both my books and these historical fiction/nonfiction public domain books in our store.

First I need to explain this time of year, between the graduating Command and General Staff College class at the fort and the arrival of the next year’s class makes for some serious down time. It can be as traffic ridden as a hot day in the middle of the Sargasso Sea—total doldrums. Given that, sitting at my table in the store and cheerfully greeting the few out-of-town visitors who come in has been an interesting experience. I politely ascertain if they’re new to the area. I then mention my historical book about how our community was founded if they would like to know more about it and offer them a copy to peruse. I also ask what kinds of books they like best and steer them toward those sections. Once they have a chance to scan the shelves, I ask if they like mystery series set in a particular locale. If they do, I mention my mysteries and show them a few. That ofttimes results in a sale of one or more. Then I ask them if they like frontier history. If so, I show them the public domain books. Again, this often results in additional sales.
If they have just moved in, I ask if there are any books they haven’t been able to find. If so, I do a quick search of Baker and Taylor’s data base and if I find them, I explain our speedy special order service where we get books in 2-3 days with a 10% discount and no s&h. Again, this often results in an order or several. When they come back to pick up their books, they often will ask for other titles, which means they should become loyal customers.
My wife gets so busy with the day-to-day stuff, she doesn’t always have the time to do all this; however, we’re finding it’s sometimes doubling and even tripling our daily averages. Having a real live author talk books with the customers raises the store’s credibility. They like getting their purchases signed and personalized too.
I am so glad I decided to go back into self-publishing because it’s having a positive impact on our store business. We are also raising the community’s awareness of us as folks who are interested in the history and day-to-day of our town. This is all to the good. It’s also beginning to bring me a few book packaging clients of people who can see we know how to do all this. It all pulls together the various aspects of book production and retailing so that while other independent bookstores are having a tough time of it, we’re surviving and even doing a little better. It isn’t about doing just one thing. It’s about doing many related things in a cohesive way. To round it out is our reading of many books which we in turn can recommend, again making us a valuable resource.
I realize not many authors/publishers own their own bookstore; however, examine how we use all these different elements and consider how your books could fit into such a model. Convince bookstore owners and staff that your book or series is worthy of their personal attention to recommend and handsell to customers. This is why a poor turnout at a booksigning isn’t a disaster. It allows you the interface and time to connect with staff and owners and become their friend. Ofttimes the real success of a signing is in the handselling that takes place later.


This is a reprint from Bob Spear‘s Book Trends blog.