I’ve sold from tables, booths, tents and a Barnes and Noble “meet the authors” event where a group of us shared a couple of tables. I’ve sat on panels at bookstores and writers’ conferences where the panelists move to signing tables after their session. I’m not much of sales person and some of my author friends encourage me to speak out more at these events.
Will I? From my consumer experience, it’s unlikely. At various times spanning most of my life, I've hung out at places where books were sold at manned tables or booths. I’ve always been interested, but I’ve also noticed my reluctance to approach when the author or authors are present.
Why? I’d like to look over the books without feeling pushed. And the “feeling pushed” comes from within me. If I find out someone is manning a booth who has not authored any of the inventory, I feel freedom to peruse, to buy or not to buy. No pressure. But how often is anyone other than one of the authors going to be selling the books?
Rare, but I’ve seen it happen. I did it a few times myself before I became published, manning the local Nashville Writer’s Meetup Group tent at the Southern Festival of Books. Of course, I had a free handout about my own work in progress to give to anyone who’d take it. When folks came by, I’d say something like, “I’m giving the authors of these books a break.” and thought they showed signs of relief. I’ll never be certain whether their relieved looks were real or just my interjection of what my feelings would be if in their shoes.
Books are expensive and open wallets aren’t rambling around the Nashville area waiting to make authors happy. And books take a while to read. Even those who can afford to buy often have an unread stockpile at home pressuring them with guilt.
Yes, the person selling books from a table or booth is normally the author of at least one of them. If they are friends of mine, then I’m torn with buying from one and not the other. I still gut up and go to these places and when I do, I’ll buy from one and not the others. Although this is still awkward for me, it’s the reality of shopping books and they know it too. Sometimes I don't buy any.
If you’re not James Patterson or Lawrence Block, table or booth selling is a tough, slow way to sell your books. Is it worth it?
I think so. You’re marketing yourself and your work and there’s always the chance for something big to happen, and I’ve seen it happen right here in my town. An author friend of mine, was manning the Nashville Writer’s Meetup tent a few years ago at the Southern Festival of Books. A video editor who was at the festival scouting talent stopped by and asked my friend about his only book, his debut novel. The agent bought it and not long afterward, this author was signing an HBO TV movie option for $$$. That may have been the only book he sold, but I’m sure he was glad he showed up. That’s what authors do.