Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Selling Outside the Box

By Chester Campbell

What do mystery writers do these days when bookstores are shuttering or cutting back, singing the blues about book sales? Following what many are doing, I’ve been looking for non-store events where I can sell books. A recent one, depicted above, took place at the Manchester (TN) Public Library as they kicked off their Third Annual Adult Reading Program.

Five members of our Sisters in Crime Chapter from Nashville took part. Seated from left are Jenny Bentley (a.k.a. Bente Gallagher), J.T. Ellison, and Scott Pearson. Standing are Beth Terrell and myself.

Manchester is about seventy miles south of Nashville, not far from Arnold Air Force Base, home of Arnold Engineering Development Center, the world’s largest complex of wind tunnels for testing all sorts of airplanes and space vehicles.

The library provided our lunch, tasty fare prepared by volunteers and staff, and there was a steady flow of Starbucks . There were twenty-four authors representing all kinds of books. We sold and signed from 10:00 till 2:00. The crowd wasn’t overly large, but we sold enough books to make it well worthwhile and met a lot of nice people.

I have another coming up a week from Saturday. Our grandson goes to Goodpasture Christian School, which is sponsoring its second annual Marketplace. After a Ladies Luncheon and Fashion Show, the Marketplace will feature more than fifty vendors selling all kinds of stuff. Fellow Murderous Musings blogger Beth Terrell and I will be the only booksellers on hand.

Since this is a private school, the ladies who attend the event will be people who can afford to buy what they want. Our job is to make them want mystery novels.

The next event on my calendar is the Southern Kentucky BookFest in Bowling Green, KY, about the same distance north of Nashville as Manchester is south. This one will feature around 200 authors lined up at tables in the Sloan Convention Center. It is sponsored by Western Kentucky University with books provided by the local Barnes & Noble..

Following my appearance at the Kentucky Book Fair last November (the top venue for bookselling in my experience), I received an invitation to the Estill County Reading Celebration in Irvine, KY on May 22. Designed to promote literacy and the love of reading, it will feature author signings and an awards ceremony for top readers from each school in the county.

Festivals and fairs and all sorts of events at libraries and other places with booths or tables make great places to sell books. It may take a little digging to find them, but it’s worth the effort. Tell us where you’ve been selling outside the box, i.e. the normal brick-and-mortar locations.

Check out Mystery Mania


Jean Henry Mead said...

I live in the outback so no longer travel long distances to sign books, especially during the winter. I find the internet a great place to promote books and I can do it in my p.j.s

Chester Campbell said...

Good for you, Jean. I've been doing a lot of promo online but don't seem to be selling much. I must not be doing something right.

Anonymous said...

Nice post. There are so many places to sell books,and it looks like you've found some of them. Libraries and fairs are really great.
Pat Browning

MJ Allaire said...


I am a fantasy author and live in Southeastern CT. I'm also a member of CAPA (Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association) and for the past two years in September, our group of authors has participated in the Big E (www.thebige.com), the largest fair in New England.

At the Big E, which is a fair for New England states (CT, VT, MA, NH, RI, and ME), there is a building along the Avenue of the States dedicated to each of the six New England states, each building showcasing specialties from each state (ie Vermont has a booth dedicated for cheese).

For the past two years, our CAPA group rented a space (booth) in the CT building and converted into a bookstore, showcasing all of our CT authors' books! I'm one of the lucky ones, because I currently have three books published in my YA fantasy series, and in 2008 I was the top seller. Out of 65 participating authors and over 100 books in the bookstore, I sold nearly 400 books over the 17-day fair!

Thank you for sharing your marketing experiences! I also participate in library events, craft fairs, local markets, and any other venue I can dig my marketing claws into! If I ever get a chance, I'd love to come down that way and participate in some of the events you mentioned!

Happy reading and writing!

MJ Allaire

F. M. Meredith, author said...

Like you, I like libraries. My launch for No Sanctuary this Sat. will be in the fellowship hall of my church which I'm decorating with wanted posters and crime scene tape.

I've had signings at recreation centers, a local Inn, a coffee shop, and a 4th of July event, and next month I'll have a booth at a Celebration of the Whales.

Marilyn aka F.M. Meredith