Do You Want to Sell Books?

This question came to me quite unexpectedly. I was trying to decide whether to spend several hundred dollars to be a vendor at a conference for home schoolers. The goal is to open up my market to a larger audience, because of course, I do want to promote The Writer’s Compass. I had already decided to spend the money and was in the process of filling out the paperwork when I realized I needed to get a sales tax license for the state of California. Okay. So I started filling out that paperwork, which required placing a call to the Board of Equalization where I learned I had to continually update every location where I sold books. Say, what?

Then I realized–wait a minute: How am I going to get paid for these books? Cash. But this isn’t a cash world. Checks? From previous experience I know checks are risky–especially when every sale counts to recoup the money you’ve spent. This is a credit and debit card world. Even I rarely spend cash. Now I have to get a method for credit transactions. But my booth isn’t going to have electricity or internet, so how do I handle these credit transactions without taking the same risks I would with checks? And how often and how much time am I going to spend doing this?

It suddenly occurred to me–I was going into the book selling business.

The question came up again on Saturday when I did a book signing at a book fair. I sold a handful of books. I didn’t mind the few sales, I had a good time and liked the people at the fair. So, why wasn’t I more upset. For one the booth didn’t cost me anything because I was an invited participant, so I wasn’t dependent on the book sales to cover costs. And two, the people were nice and I enjoyed the crowd. I sold to 75% of the people I talked to, most of the rest only had credit cards, and I suggested they go online.

Then it hit me. I really don’t want to be in the book selling business. Even at the office when people stop by and tell me they want to buy a book, I always suggest they go online because right now there are some good promotional sales on my book. A few days later, when they bring me their copy, I’m happy to sign it.

I also remembered refocussing on my dreams just before I got an agent. I love writing and teaching writing–that’s what I want to do. Book sales transactions aren’t really part of that dream. Who wants that hassle? If you do, you might be a good candidate for self-publishing. Now it made sense why I went the traditional publisher route with a built-in distribution system.

Aha! I don’t mind being in the book promoting business, I just don’t want to be in the book sales transaction business.

Next year if the book fair invites me back, I think I’ll offer to do a free writing workshop and let a local bookstore handle the sales of my book.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. londonchoirgirl
    Jun 27, 2011 @ 14:46:04

    Ian McEwan once said that promoting a book felt like being an employee of a former self…


  2. Shawn
    Jun 28, 2011 @ 05:47:31

    Isn’t it refreshing to be able to come to a decision after something has been weighing so heavily on your mind?! Now you can return to being creative without the nagging worry of having a book selling business.


  3. Patricia Anne Pierce-garcia Schaack
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 15:55:56

    So true, Nancy. I came to that decision also about my own books. I am a passionate writer who loves writing but I am definitely not good in the management that is why I am looking for an agent. I believe that everyone has certain strengths and since my strength is in writing that is what I will do. I’ll leave the book selling to those who do it the best.


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