On bookselling: you get back what you give

I’ve been selling at events for a while now. The first was The Caretaker of Imagination book launch, then craft markets, and finally bigger events like New Zealand’s annual zinefests and the NZ Book Festival. Not being a salesperson at heart, I’ve learnt a lot.

Last year, the NZ Book Festival almost didn’t happen. It was only in it’s third year, though, so we pulled a team together and gave it a good shot.

On the day I made conversation with customers, shared my story about how I got into writing, and repeated my ‘elevator pitch’ for books people were interested in dozens of times throughout the day (with plenty of help from my niece – thanks, Angie!). My setup wasn’t great and I was feeling a bit flustered but I made my stall fee back, as well as a small profit on top of that. Besides sales, I launched the second annual NZ Young Writers Anthology, met some wonderful people, and got to catch up with a bunch of my author friends.

It surprised me then how many people complained about their lack of sales afterwards. An author friend, Kirsten McKenzie, wrote this brilliant post about the do’s and don’t’s of selling. Read it. While I certainly didn’t have the upbringing that Kirsten did, I’ve learnt what she’s learnt: engage with your customers, don’t sit down, smile, have a tablecloth, a table full of books, and don’t play on your cellphone the whole time.

At most events I’ve been to, I’ve done well. However, at Tauranga Zinefest last weekend I broke most of my rules. The problem was that all week, and the previous evening, I’d been working on two new stories. I was still in creative mode, and I just wasn’t in the mood to sell or engage with people. And guess what? It showed. The organisers of the zinefest did an amazing job, but because I didn’t bring my A-game to the event, I didn’t do nearly as well as I usually would.

It reminded me how important it is to bring myself fully to every event I attend. No matter what mood I’m in, I need to be there for the customer and engage with them, and make sure that my stock levels and signage are what they need to be. I’m going to take this lesson forward for the rest of my events – onwards and upwards x

2 Responses to “On bookselling: you get back what you give

  • You’re doing great! Switching instantly between “creative” and “salesperson” mode is incredibly difficult. I find that it helps to think of sales as “education”, where you’re helping people learn more about what you do. In fact, that’s how some of the best salespeople do it. Learning something new from a friendly person doesn’t fell like you’re being sold to — it feels like you’re talking to a friend.

    • Z.R. Southcombe
      23 hours ago

      Thank you, Nick! You’re so right – it’s just a friendly conversation 🙂

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