Okay. Brace yourself. I might say some good things about Wymore in this post. If you don’t think you can handle that, I understand. I’ll see you next week. I’ll try to throw a “Screw you, Wymore” into the mix as well so you know I’m not a prisoner in his dungeon or anything.
So this weekend was my first post-release convention, and I went in on a booth with the Space Balrogs. It was an enlightening experience, to say the least. You see, I’m terrible at sales. I always have been, at least in any situation where I profit. I can sell the hell out of other people’s books. My own, well you might not guess it to hear me talk, but there’s a deep core of my personality that doesn’t like to brag. I boast constantly, but it’s always for entertainment value and I exaggerate just enough the everyone in the room knows I’m doing it for laughs, not in earnest. For instance, I rarely said, “I’m pretty smart.” I’ll often say, “I’m hyper-intelligent.” It’s all about making people enjoy themselves without actually becoming an ass.
So selling is hard for me. Very hard.
The first day, I barely tried to sell anything. If someone at the front of the booth found a customer who looked like they’d be interested in my book, I discussed it with them, but none of them purchased anything. That wasn’t surprising. Mostly I observed my fellow booth workers. James Wymore, Craig Nybo, and David J West were the most active salesmen and all of them made multiple sales that first day (Jason King was sick and Holli Anderson just collects customers effortlessly, without speaking—perhaps through black magic or pheromones). I know James best, and honestly I could hear his pitches better than the others from where I sat, so I spent most of the day just watching him.
The second day I started asking questions. He pointed out that he didn’t sell any more books when he had many titles to sell than when he had one. He also told me that my plan of having the potential buyer read from the book might backfire, as he had better sales if he kept talking until money changed hands.
I have a snarky and a non-snarky explanation for why that is, but my book is a comedy. People SHOULD read it and want to read more, but everyone who opened it told me it was very funny and walked away. My theory here is that the reader and the writer have an implied contract, and once the reader actually reads, that contract is fulfilled. I think it might be easier for someone to walk away from the sale of a book they read if they’ve read a sample, than from a book where that implied contract is still unfulfilled. I don’t know. I’m just spitballing.
With Wymore’s advice (and help refining my pitch), I sold two that second day.
The third day I had more success. My pitch worked. My patter was on. Despite the fact that I was in too much pain to stand much of the time and my voice was shot, I sold several books. At one point, I had three sales and Wymore had none, so when the next person approached the booth, I cold-read her and decided that I could sell her three books, not just one. I only HAD one, so I decided to break Wymore’s slump and I poured on all that fast talk I can’t bear to use on my own book. She bought the whole series and I chalked that as a win.
Holli Anderson tells me my best sale was to the guy who stated flat out he didn’t read books, but my favorite moment was when Wymore asked someone what they like to read and they said, “Editorials.” Without skipping a beat, he said, “Then you would love Bob Defendi’s book.” After giving him my best, “Screw you, Wymore” look I asked the guy if he liked Dave Barry. He said he did and I told him, “This book was greatly influenced by Dave Barry.” I didn’t make that sale, but at that point, I knew that I could roll with just about any pitch situation. Seriously. Editorials. Wymore is the worst.
I love him for that, though. I told Sandra Tayler I expected to sell less than ten copies my first con. I sold ten, so I beat that number. If I’d been selling on the first day the way I sold on the last, I might have broken even, which is way more than I have any right to expect at this point.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t about the quality of the book. The book is doing better than I had any right to expect in overall sales. (You know, the ones where I’m not directly involved). This is about the art of looking a potential customer in the eye and forming a relationship that ends with the exchange of money. There are best-selling authors that fall apart the moment a sale needs to be made. Writing is a solitary skill. Selling is a very public skill and it’s hard to master both.
I can officially say that I’m no longer absolutely terrible at it, and that’s pretty good after a couple days practice.
The next installment awaits...Slouching Towards Amazon: LTUE Post Mortem