I keep detailed sales records so that I’m ready for tax reports at the end of the year. I track paperback books and Kindle books sold. I also have a category called Sold By Author. The books in this category are the ones I peddled at personal appearances. In most cases, I must collect state sales tax and turn it in to the state at the end of the year.
I’ve tried many ways to reach buyers this way because it is more than just selling a few books. It is a way of selling yourself. Some people may stop by and then go home and buy the Kindle edition. That’s fine.
There are book fairs where you rent space. Or, you may be asked to speak somewhere and then sell your books at the end of your presentation. I like this approach.
For the past year, a friend and I have had a book signing table in an area where people wait for a table at a popular restaurant. They charge us $30 for three hours. We split the cost. I may sale three to fifteen books and my friend, who has children’s books, usually sales twice as many. It is hard to find places like this, but if you can, it is worth it.
When you evaluate how to do this, consider the cost. I've found the cost often exceeds the benefits. For example, the annual Texas Book Fair (http://www.texasbookfestival.org/) is huge. It lasts for two days and draws around tens of thousands of people. However, that means it can charge huge fees. Much of the space goes to large publishers and bestselling authors. I managed to get half a table for a few hours one year as the result of a drawing held by the Writers League of Texas. I didn't sell enough books to cover the cost, but it was fun.
You may find some friends and get a table together and share the cost. It helps to have others with you anyway. I had a table in a book fair a couple of years back and managed to get it free for giving a talk to the group on selling books. Book fairs are only good if the organizers can get the customers there.
My friend and I set up a table at an annual Harvest Fest hosted by a church in town. There is no fee, but they expect us to tithe. That is, we pay them ten percent of our sales. Sales are good and I wish we had more opportunities like this.
Stand in front of the table if possible, to draw people in. Get the book into every visitor's hand if you can. If they turn the book over, be quiet while they read the blurb. I presign all the books to save time but will add their name if they ask. Have a similar pen ready.
We try to get email addresses from buyers, so we can add them to our mailing lists. One way to do so is if the pay by credit card. You can send them a receipt by email. Another way is to hold drawings for free books to get names and e-mail addresses.
Have displays and handouts available. I use business cards, bookmarks, flyers, posters, and other handouts.
A poster could be an enlargement of your book cover mounted on poster board. I use them at book signings to draw attention. Most print shops can make these for you. Business cards and bookmarks can be handed out at book signings, especially to those who didn't buy a book. I notice e-book sales increase after an appearance and I suspect some of those sales were due to the handouts.
I bought a tee shirt with the book cover on the front of two of my books. I’ve sold a few extra books due to the shirts.
Before you participate in a personal appearance check to see if it is okay to sell books after your talk. Next, learn how to prepare for such events. For my first personal appearance I did an Internet search on "preparing for a book signing event" and found many useful pages of information. Still, it is a challenge to be prepared for anything. I did a book signing in the historic Clarksville neighborhood of Austin and almost blew away.
I grew up in Clarksville and used the neighborhood in my books. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to participate in the annual event. That was when I only had one book. Exhibitor tables were inexpensive and there were several events scheduled to draw visitors. Suddenly a strong wind came up. The table cloth I had brought took sail. I grabbed it and held it down until the wind subsided long enough for me to find a few rocks to weigh it down. It wasn't pretty, but it worked. I only sold one book during that long, hot, windy day, but attending was worth it. I made a connection with the pastor of the church there and he has helped me with book sales since then.
At another book signing, this time at the Harker Heights Public Library, I met several writers who became friends. Watch for networking opportunities at all your book signings and other personal appearances.
One thing you may want to take with you to these events is snack food and a bottle of water. If the signing lasts for a long time, the hosts may provide drinks and sometimes something to eat. But, it wouldn't hurt to take your own just in case.
Take change with you. In Texas, we must charge sales tax anytime we sell books. What I do is change the price of my books so that the price plus the tax comes out to an even amount. In my case, my books sell for $10.00 ($9.24 plus .76 tax).
To compute the selling price so that it plus tax is equal to $10.00 I divided 10.00 by 1.0825 since our sales tax rate is 8.25 percent. You can compute your round-figure price by changing the 10.00 to what you want and dividing by 1.(your sales tax rate). Mathematically, the formula I used for my price and rate is:
X + 0.0825X = 10 (X is the new price for the book)
1.0825X = 10 (the tax rate is 8.25 percent)
X = 10/1.0825
X = 9.2378… (round this to 9.24)
To compute the tax, multiply 9.24 times 0.0825 and you get 0.76.
The price of the book plus the sales tax is 9.24 plus 0.76, or 10.00.
These special personal appearance prices are less than the Amazon price so the customer is happy and I still make a profit. I also am prepared to take credit cards. It is easy now to use a smartphone or a tablet with a credit card reader that is provided free. You do have to pay a fee to the company you're using. I use Square. There are other methods available.
Consider partnering with another writer. It is sometimes easier to sell another person's book. Some of us find it difficult to brag about our own.
Stick a bookmark in each book sold. Especially if you have several books. Have a handout ready for those who don't buy, perhaps something that emphasizes an e-book edition of your books that they may order later.
Don't feel disappointed if you don't sell as many books as you'd like. Part of the reason for a book signing is to build name recognition. You may sell books later as a result of the book signing event.