A year of selling books and a future next to beef jerky
This year has had its ups and downs for me as an author. Books by Michael Melville hasn’t had as much upwards success of as what I had hope. Sure there were moments, a few periodic weeks where I felt like, “Ok this is looking good.” That being said, personal family issues, as well as financial ones, have kept me from the completing and pursuing avenues with book selling and marketing that I would have liked to. One thing I was hoping to do this year was to set up at art and craft shows, small writing con’s and other book events where authors like myself can sell print versions of their books.
Late last year when the release of All the Roads Home was near I was really excited about all the opportunities that were coming up this year. As the year has gone on I have become less and less excited about it. Most big name authors scoff at doing little shows like this, even some indie authors do as well and try and focus on books stores or just eBooks. One Facebook group for Indie authors which I am a part of really looks down the on the idea and practice of doing events like these. Now, I get their reasons usually but don’t always agree with them. They say it’s a waste of money and our time as authors and that time is better spent writing and marketing online to a larger audience. I get paying attention to the larger internet audience. Writing is the most important thing but so is talking to people about our books and let’s face it’s really hard and rather complicated to get our voices heard online with all the competition in this business we have.
However, if we as independent authors look at ourselves as small businesses (which we are) then that would also make us part of the local small business community. So, wouldn’t it behoove us to get out there and be a part of the community? Doesn’t it make sense to get out there and talk to people face to face about our books? Most any business got its success by being local first right? Just look at Starbucks. On my site Journeys & Life, I have occasionally interviewed other authors. Earlier this year I did a small series of blog posts where I just interviewed local Michigan Authors. It went great, I loved doing it and they seemed to as well but I found it a little impersonal and tedious. A lot of work goes into those interviews so I got burned out and It also took away from my own writing. But, it was great talking to them, getting to know them and hearing their thoughts about literature, the business, who they are and of course their books but in the end, I have to wonder how much of that translated into actual interest by readers and sales. I also wondered about its effect locally.
Occasionally I have run into local authors in person and we talk a lot about our books. One thing I have noticed is that any author but especially the local indie authors are dying to talk about their books. Not to be pretentious but because we’re genuinely excited about our books and writing and love talking to people who are even kind of interested in them. Just like anyone else who owns a small business. It’s for this reason that I really wanted to do some craft shows and book Con’s this year so I could talk to normal people about my books, not just authors.
It’s kind of an expensive thing to do these shows in upfront costs which are the other part of the argument against them from many authors. You have to pay for a tent/table/ or space which can run anywhere from $25-150.00 and sometimes more at a venue. You need (or should) have some swag like bookmarks and business cards and of course you need print books to sell and sign. The books are the expensive part. If I just brought Running Northwest and All the Roads (my first two novels) to a single event and have a minimum of 10 copies each it would run me in the neighborhood $145.00. That’s before bumping up the price to make some sort of profit and figuring in for sales tax. I sell my print copies of both books for $15.00 right now in person. Sometimes though at the end of the day or even two days many authors sell nothing or only a few which is not enough to cover their initial costs just to be there. So I get sometimes why many authors don’t bother.
Still, though I would like to if nothing else so I can meet and talk to people instead of pillaging the internet. So next year I am hoping our situation is a little better and I can try and have more print books in stock so I can do some of these awesome shows. I’m hoping for a better 2nd year for Books by Michael Melville. It’s a labor of love especially when we’re competing against delicious jams and jellies and grandma’s homemade pies…. oh and the beef jerky guy. I love that guy!
That all being said the next time you are at a craft show or hear about an author convention stop in and have a look at what some of the authors who are there are offering. Who knows you may be helping a future best seller like myself who will give you a giant bear hug! If any other authors read this and you do shows like these I’d love to hear yoru thought and tips and tricks.