Writer Wednesday—Book Events

Yeah, here we go again. But I read something the other day that said book events can cost an author $500, and that’s just not accurate.

Well, unless you count the therapist bills before and after . . .

Most authors are absolute crap at selling their books. The biggest reason is distribution, if you’ve self-published. You’re competing for shelf space with professionally produced books, but even if your book is very well done, those other books have distribution. Booksellers can pull up a website and order them in about five minutes, and that’s after they’ve seen the book in some publication or other and decided their customers might like to read it.

You, however, have to depend heavily on yourself and other people, most of whom are not book professionals.

If someone tells me his book is great, I’m going to take it with a grain of salt. Of course you think it’s great, you wrote it! If your mom or your best friend tells me the same thing, again, grain of salt. If someone whom you’ve paid to read your book, or exchanged books with, tells me it’s great, re-read the first two sentences in this paragraph.

Your cover, front and back, will tell a bookseller that your book is interesting, or not. The interior formatting will tell him if it looks professional; the story will tell him that it will sell, or not. And all that has to be damn good to get your book on a shelf in a bookstore.

Of course, you can sell your book other places, and this is where a book event comes into play.

Contrary to the article I read, you seldom, if ever, have to pay to host a book event. Most bookstores will do it for free, IF your book meets all the above criteria: cover, interior, story. Some will do it anyway. If you want to do an event elsewhere, sure, you might have to pay a nominal fee.

Your other costs are purely optional, like swag, cards, bookmarks, posters. Some will help, some won’t. Depends on a number of things.

And of course, books will cost you because often you have to provide your own copies and work on a consignment deal.

If you self-publish, and your books cost you $5, you can sell them directly for $10 and make a nice profit. If you’re doing consignment, you’ll only get a percentage of that $10—on average, 60%. So you make $6 and pocket that extra dollar.

Does that sound painful? Not really—authors under contract with a publisher would make about the same in royalties. This is not a get-rich business, this authoring stuff.

If a bookstore takes 40%, and your publisher gives you a decent discount on your own books, you can have roughly the same result if you have to do a consignment deal. If your publisher gives you 40%, you’ll break even; any less than that, you’re losing money.

Maybe that’s where they came up with the $500.

Oh, right, the therapist bills:

It’s really, really hard for introverted authors to make calls and go into bookstores to schlep their books. Nerve-wracking, even. Therapist Bill #1.

It’s even harder and more anxiety-producing to talk to bookstore customers about your book. Therapist Bills #2-10.

But, sorry, you have to force yourself. Remember, a bookseller is not there to babysit you—they have customers, some of whom you hope to sell to, and they should, ideally, be busy ringing up those customers. So it’s up to you.

The best tip I can give you is to take someone along to that book event, a friend, or even another author. It’s SO MUCH EASIER to talk about someone else’s book—the two of you can switch off, and talk about each other to potential readers. Piece of cake.


Do make sure that you and the friend or the other author DO NOT SIT AND TALK ONLY TO EACH OTHER. In fact, don’t even sit. Stand, be approachable, smile, make eye contact, etc., etc. TO POTENTIAL READERS.

Oh, and something else I’ve noticed: don’t check your phone, don’t let it make noise. If it’s an emergency, they’ll keep calling and you can excuse yourself. That email is not important either. Focus on the here and now, on that potential reader.

And sell books.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s