Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Yep, you heard authors lament about never wanting to sell their books out of the back of their cars - uh, huh. That those poor Indie authors have to push books in this demeaning way, and hand-selling books is just too darned hard.

Well, not true, all authors should learn the art of hand-selling their books.


The art of suggesting books to people using displays, newsletters, postcards, reading groups, and casual discussions or even…in inventive ways. It is with independent titles that flourish through word of mouth. It can get your book into bookstores. It can get your book into libraries. It can get your book just about … anywhere. As well as incite others to hand-sell for you :-D

So, remember that PITCH, that HOOK, that LOG LINE you used to sell your book to LIT AGENTS...PUBLISHERS...well, put it to good use! Use it to sell to your readers too!


Believe it or not, bookstores do it. The sales people sometimes hand sell books of authors they’ve enjoyed. Readers do it, buy talking up a book they loved. Librarians do it. Vendors do it. Kids do it… heck everyone has hand sold something in their lives. And, authors do it – on the internet when they strike up a conversation about their book.


Well when I started really heavy in this book business. I wanted to try it all and see what worked and didn’t work for myself. One of the things I personally was nervous about was the in-person hand-selling. So my husband – long standing sales person – taught me the skill. I have to admit, he takes hand-selling, street selling, just plain sales to a whole new level.

The experiment was on my first book signing, he would sit at my table for the first hour. His goal – sell all of my books. You know what, he did. He sold 12 books in an hour. We had to go out to the car and get more for the store.

How’d he do it? Eye contact, a smile, a joke, bribery and a huge ‘thank you’ for support. You see our intent was different. Me, I wanted them to just see the cover and want the book. But he – he wanted to SELL the book. Now, he’d get them over to the table, had them read the first page or read it to them, and … the kids were hooked, the book was bought. (There’s that tip about starting out with a bang that really works!)


Okay, back to some author’s greatest fears – street sales, selling out of your car, etc. Well (*raising hand*) I’ve done it. I always have a small box of books in my car. Another tip from my husband. You know what he was right, because when people would ask me about my book, I wouldn’t have one. Now, I always do. That way when opportunity strikes, we are prepared. You know what, I typically sell out of the box a month. I don’t set out to do it, but for some reason when someone ask me about my writing, I let them see my book that I carry in my purse – then usually they will buy a copy of all 3 of my series!


I grew up with people hand selling books that I couldn’t find in the store. Street vendors in DC or Baltimore sell everything – including books. Also, authors hand-sell their books at colleges and universities, even churches! Think of some of the odd places you’ve bought books? Think of why you bought them.


Hand sell on the internet

Hand sell at book signings

Hand sell at odd places

Hand sell at book festivals

Hand sell at craft shows

Hand sell at events that compliment your book (where you happen to be one of few people selling books)

Hand sell with other products

Hand sell to bookstores

Hand sell to libraries

Hand sell to indies



Beth said...

Great post LM! Maybe, I can hand sell to an agent ;).


Loralie Hall said...

Great point and something to think about. And I love that you're selling books this way ^_^

Kelly Hashway said...

LM, you amaze me! You have such great promotional ideas and skills. Thank you so much for sharing.

LM Preston said...

I simply can't take all the credit, my guru sales person, DH aka publisher with the help of my nifty teens come up with lots of the ideas. I also watch authors that I admire, both traditional pub, indie and those that do both.

Catherine Stine said...

Good post, and something that everyone should remember. I always sell well when I'm able to talk up my books, because the passion comes through to the potential buyer.

A.M. Kuska said...

Wow. Your husband is awesome! I wanted to invite you to my e-launch party (on April 17th on my blog if you're interested!) Maybe I should extend that invite to your husband too... ;-)

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

You make it sound so easy and fun. I'm inspired. Gonna get busy. :)

Shooting Stars Mag said...

What a great post. You're absolutely right to. You should never stop hand-selling your own work...whether in person or online. It's always more exciting when the AUTHOR is talking directly to you.


Rebecca Ryals Russell said...

You're absolutely right--we should be able to hand-sell our books. But selling is a learned art and I have trouble just talking about the book, much less trying to get someone to buy it. Guess I have to learn how, though, or change professions.

bryandavidcohen said...

This post was really interesting to me, as I'm trying to think up new ideas for selling my books.

I was interested to see how you got permission to sell in most of these places. For book festivals, did you rent out a booth and get a permit or anything like that?

Summer is coming up for me in Chicago and I'd love to spend some of it outside peddling my wares :).

LM Preston said...

I usually am invited to speak - I send out feelers a year before the event. Also, I share tables with other authors. Like I'm going to BEA because my publisher is a member of IBPA and we can do signings there.

bryandavidcohen said...

Wow, very cool. Since I have absolutely no shame, I'll have no trouble "sending out feelers" even though I'm more of a self-published guy myself. Thanks again for the tips!
- Bryan

Writer Tank (Jacob Duchaine) said...

Wonderful post!

I was a little afraid I was out of my mind when I found myself wanting to hand sell my books. I wasn't sure I'd be able to make enough money that way to justify the time I'd have to invest. It's good to see I'm not the first person who's had the thought and wanted to make the effort. =)

One of the best ways to sell your books, selling more copies than some distribution channels do.

April Plummer said...

Oooh, great post! I feel like you wrote it just for me. That keeping a box in your car...that's great! I'm so going to use some of your ideas! Thank you!

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Elizabeth Seckman said...

You're so right. I have been a total fail in this. Thanks for the nudge.