At a recent writing festival, a colleague expressed her concern about the poor turnout and sales. She also mentioned that another writer told her that he’d attended many events and sold, on average, one book per event.
I’ve participated in half a dozen writing events so far this year, and because my mystery, The Opposite of Dark, was released six weeks ago, I’m just getting started. Every event I’ve attended has been reasonably well promoted in print and online, but the truth is that you never know how many people will show up, or whether any books will be sold. Sometimes, I’ll present at a well-attended workshop and sell nothing. On other occasions, I’ll read and discuss my book, with maybe seven people in the audience, yet I’ll sell books.
A lot depends on the nature of the event. For example, in my experience, people generally don’t buy books at the workshops I and my co-presenter give, although we’ll have perhaps thirty or more attendees. On the other hand, if I give a reading or am on a panel, my audience is usually much smaller, yet I’ll sell books.
As I write this, our city’s beloved Vancouver Canucks are in the midst of playoffs. If any of my events are held on a night the Canucks are playing, turnout will be small, which makes it difficult to plan events until their season ends.
Event location is also crucial. This week, I had the pleasure of being on a panel with four other writers to discuss mysteries and announce the shortlist of Arthur Ellis Award nominees, but the Canucks were playing that night. In fact, the stadium is in the same neighbourhood as the library hosting our event, and yet the turnout was great. The reason is that the Vancouver Public Library always has a lot of patrons, they happened to be holding a book sale, and announcing our event on their PA system.
Lately I’ve been selling more books in cafés than I have in bookstores. Who knows why; maybe coffee and cheesecake makes people happier and more receptive to buying. The point is, timing and location can certainly help sales, but it doesn’t guarantee anything. What’s important is that one keeps participating and meeting new people, and having fun along the way.
I’d love to know about your bookselling experiences. Any surprises? Disappointments? Huge successes? Please share your thoughts!