Sunday, May 01, 2011

The Ups and Downs of Writing Events

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 caf├ęs 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!

THE OPPOSITE OF DARK,, book trailer


mooderino said...

Very interesting insights. Thanks for sharing.
Moody Writing

James C. Wallace II said...

I've had similar experiences with my series of Royal Magician of Oz books. The one nice thing about writing for a niche market,(which is definitely what I would call the World of Oz) is that I can count on very good book sales at Oz festivals and gatherings. At our local independent book store, where my books are carried, I sell very few, even though I include local landmarks and characters from this area. At book signings, I average 4-5 books per event while at Oz festivals, 25-30 books is typical. I have yet to attend a book signing where I have not sold a single book, so I guess I'm lucky.
It's a good thing I don't write to get rich or I'd be considered a huge failure. As it is, I consider myself very successful as an indie, self-published author of Oz.

PK HREZO said...

Don't have any experience in that dept yet. But I'm wishing you much luck on yours! I've heard it said that even if only 1 person shows up, you treat that 1 person like they're the most important customer in the world. That 1 person can have a huge word of mouth effect. :)