Thursday, 9 August 2018

Where to Sell Your Books


Not so long ago an American picture book author wrote an article about places where she managed to sell her books. She provided a long list which got me thinking about places I’d sold my own remainders and other children’s and adult books over the past 35 years. This does not include where my books have been sold through the regular outlets, such as bookshops (specialist and general), and discount stores such as Target and Kmart and department stores such as David Jones and Myer.

It is a fact that the same diversity of selling venues that are possible with adult books is equally available for children’s picture books and novels. It’s all about knowing your niche, creating a quality product, and marketing, marketing, marketing.

Once, just to check whether it was possible, I stood in the street down near Circular Quay where people were streaming by on their way to an event at the Opera House, held up copies of my remaindered book and tried busking (I only sold three copies), so I have gone to extremes! Many of my books – thousands of them -- I have sold in schools through book fairs I’ve organised (with extra stock bought directly at discount from publishers and from remainder warehouses). Over a two year period I held about 15 book fairs, but found it difficult to get most school librarians to commit as they were already brainwashed into running book fairs for the multi-national Scholastic Australia company. However, overall I made a substantial profit and eventually, when I decided to go out of business, I sold all remaining stock to a discount bookseller.

When my author husband, Bill Condon and I worked as schools’ entertainers, Bill would perform in the infants’ department while I was performing in the primary department: at lunch-time we would team up together and frantically sell hundreds of our remainders from tables set up in the school library or playground. Generally, the children’s parents would have received a flyer from us noting the titles (and brief descriptions) of books we were offering, as well as their prices. Most of the younger children would present us with envelopes with the books requested written on the front and the correct change inside.

Years ago, I published a coffee table book of poems and black and white photographs of the places in the NSW South Coast: I spent the following six months visiting every possible outlet and placing copies there. This included gift shops, museums, art galleries, newsagencies, tourist information centres and general stores as well as bookshops. I learnt a lot then about how books sell – or not. It was jolly hard work, let me tell you! Children’s books are a lot easier to sell than poetry and photography books.

Children’s authors I know sell books through venues which are directly related to the subject matter of their books. For example, Felicity Pullman sells her novel Ghost Boy at the store at Sydney’s Quarantine Station which is the setting of the book.
Goldie Alexander says, “I sell books off my website www.goldiealexander.com and all my books when I talk at senior and business clubs. I have sold my adult culinary murder mysteries at the site where those imaginary murders took place. Schools and libraries are great and I will be promoting two new books very heavily in the next few months: Lame Duck Protest, a story picture beautifully illustrated by Michele Gaudion, and my latest collection for older kids, My Horrible Cousins and Other Stories.  Later this year I will also be marketing the first of a series of mysteries for kids A~ZPIs: The Hedge-burner Case illustrated by Marjory Gardner. But I’m not up to selling at markets like some authors.’

Vashti Farrer says if you want to sell non-fiction books or books with specialist backgrounds, to approach niche markets. For example, she sells books via the tourist historical attraction Sovereign Hill for her book on Eureka Stockade and Port Arthur for the book on Point Puer. But, she says, ‘since most authors don't write about particular places and events, that won't be of much help, in other words, Sovereign Hill is not going to take books on dinosaurs or gardening!’
Recently, Vashti says, she sent out a flyer to lots of librarian contacts: although it cost her over $90 in postage, the first two orders covered that so I'm no longer in the red.

She adds, ‘I also keep my ears open for coming events that could be relevant, for example, I approached the State Library when I knew they were holding a Horse in Australia exhibition and managed to get my books Walers and Archer into the SL shop. 

Vashti’s advice is to decide where the topic would fit - if it's historical, then where did the event occur? Is there a gift shop or museum that would cover it? (Vashti’s Archer sells at the Racing Museum in Melbourne and Walers and Feathered Soldiers at the war memorials in both Melbourne and Canberra). 

‘If it's a gardening book - try nurseries with shops attached, or gift shops if it's a glossy book, or the Garden Show at Homebush,’ she says. 

‘I know one author who had a collection of short stories which included recipes that sells at her local coffee shop. 

‘Send flyers to relevant people or places. Send copies for review to relevant magazines. I have a friend with a thick tome on the horse in Australia and he got sales from a review in The Land newspaper.’

Finally, Vashti says, ‘The niche market approach is comparatively easy for niche topics, but general fiction is much harder to place.’ 

Pro-active author Hazel Edwards (www.hazeledwards.com) writes many books about subjects which lend themselves to specialist sales’ points (and to publicity in specialist magazines and newspapers). Hazel says, ‘The main hint is to find the issues within your book and link that.’ Cycling shops, for instance, are likely to sell Cycling Solo Ireland to Istanbul, co-written with her son, Trev. Hazel’s many books include Gang ‘O Kids (orienteering), Flight of the Bumblebee, Antarctic Dad and Outback Ferals. Think about where these titles might sell!

Here are other ways and places in which I’ve sold children’s (and adult) books:
  • directly from my website
  • Barnes and Noble.com
  • various other on-line bookstores
  • to libraries via library suppliers
  • at talks (community groups and so on)
  • at book signings
  • as fundraisers for non-profit organisations
  • primary and high Schools/school visits
  • gift stores
  • historical museums
  • at writers’ conferences
  • commercial and specialist trade magazines
  • via librarians’ list-servers
  • Trash and Treasure markets
  • at book launches
  • from a table outside local bookshops
  • post office agency
  • newsagency
  • through writers’ centres
  • through direct approach to people on my email database
Depending on the type of book and the opportunities, here are some other places in which more competent and/or computer-savvy people can sell their books:
·      Amazon
·      directly to adoption agencies
·      kids Fairs
·      children’s educational product catalogues
·      science supplies catalogues
·      Library Association Conferences
·      children’s charity benefits
·      children’s Museums
·      National and State Parks
·      aquariums
·      lighthouses
·      pet Stores
How about you? Where have you sold your books lately? How has it worked out for you? Or are you waiting for your publisher – who has hundreds of other titles to market – to sell on your behalf? Or are you being (sensibly) proactive on your own behalf?

© Dianne Bates     
                                                                                           
Dianne (Di) Bates is the author of over 130 books, mostly for young people. She is also the founder compiler of Buzz Words, an online magazine for those in the Australian children’s book industry. To get a free copy, go to www.buzzwordsmagazine.com

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