How Not To Sell Books At An Event #amwriting #marketing

So let’s pretend you’ve written a book and had it published, and a bad man in a mask holds a gun on you and forces you to go to a book-selling event and take your books out of the box, but you don’t want to sell any books. Here’s how to almost guarantee you won’t sell any:

  1. Put one copy of your book flat on the table. Do NOT put your book on a book stand or a rack or (assuming you fooled the bad man and didn’t bring your display materials) don’t prop one copy up against a stack of other copies. If people can’t see the cover, they won’t be tempted over to your table.
  2. Remain seated at all times. Do NOT stand up when you see people approach.
  3. Do NOT make eye contact. Do NOT smile.
  4. Never engage or attempt to engage people in conversation, not about your book, not about them.
  5. Never ask people what they like to read. If they reply that they like to read something you don’t write but somebody else in the room does, don’t point them to your fellow vendor. That might make the other vendor likely to point other people to YOU, and it might make your non-customer think I don’t like this stuff, but I know somebody who does, and this writer is so darned nice, I think I’ll buy this for my friend.
  6. Don’t bring and display bookmarks or business cards so people who don’t want to buy at the event can find your stuff later.
  7. Don’t bring a tablecloth with you; make your table as dull and unattractive as possible.
  8. Never bring a partner so there’s always somebody at the table. People can’t buy books if there’s nobody there to buy them from.
  9. Give no thought to what your book is about. Don’t come up with a one- or two-sentence tagline, a ten-second elevator pitch, or a slightly longer synopsis. If somebody asks you what you write, you want to say something like, “Oh, you know. Stuff.” Don’t be tempted to ask somebody who has read and loved your book to help you with these pitches.
  10. Complain out loud about all the drawbacks of the venue, the organizer, and the attendees. Continue to complain after the event is over, but offer no feedback to the organizer privately or in the appropriate forum. That way, you won’t be invited back to that venue, even if you bring your bad man with a gun with you.


Well, there’s a start on what NOT to do if you want to sell books. Like, don’t do this:

A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: A bad man with a gun comes to force your character to do something against their will.


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I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “How Not To Sell Books At An Event #amwriting #marketing

  1. Tony Acree

    April 11, 2016 at 9:10am

    Wow. No wonder I’m not successful at not selling my books. I don’t do any of these things. Time to step up and take control of my events so I can have people stop bugging me and leave me alone when I’m at a book signing. If you want to get high quality daydreaming accomplished, and I do, then I will start following your advice.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      April 11, 2016 at 10:35am

      LOL! Tony, you are absolutely one of THE WORST I’ve ever seen at NOT selling books. You might as well not even come to events, because you buy books and then, by the end of the event, you HAVE TO BUY MORE because you sold the ones you brought. It hardly seems worth it to you.

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  2. Joey

    April 11, 2016 at 9:14am

    Weekends ago, I encountered such a woman at the bookstore. She sat at the plain table with five or so copies of her book and some posters flat on the table. I said hello and she said hello and then she added, “Hello, you may have a poster,” as if this were my reward for good manners. I was tempted to say hello again, but I didn’t. I said, “Oh no thank you,” and she continued to sit there like a tree stump.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      April 11, 2016 at 10:38am

      Most writers are, by nature, rather solitary creatures. Face-to-face marketing without being obnoxious is a real struggle for almost every writer I know. Oh, and the “without being obnoxious” varies with the event, the venue, the individual you’re addressing, and your neighbors. Bleh!

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  3. Jane

    April 11, 2016 at 9:24am

    I think Callie will let Grigori handle the Bad Man with a Gun. Is that allowed?

    Loved your anti-sense advice. It works for me!

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      April 11, 2016 at 10:39am

      Oh, Grigori is a terrible thing to do to a person! But it’s definitely a scene I’d like to see. ~grin~

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  4. JazzFeathers

    April 11, 2016 at 3:25pm

    LOL! I’ve written down all the points. Would never want to sell a book by accident next time I’ll be to an event 🙂

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  5. A.C.Flory

    April 12, 2016 at 8:35am

    -giggles- You know I always wanted to know how to become invisible. You should bottle this. You’d make a fortune. 😀

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      April 12, 2016 at 1:54pm

      It’s easy to be invisible, Meeka: just try to sell somebody something when they don’t want to be sold. ~grin~

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  6. A.C.Flory

    April 13, 2016 at 6:58am

    Actually the only way I’ve ever managed to sell anything to anyone was when I wasn’t trying. -shrug-

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  7. Laura Roberts

    April 14, 2016 at 12:57pm

    I always wonder where authors get their table setups, as some can be quite intricate. Where do you find a good multi-level display shelf/rack like the one in that picture? I’m not even sure what to call it to Google for it… so I usually just bring a stack of books or a box, and then prop one book face-out against the rest!

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      April 14, 2016 at 1:20pm

      We get our wire book racks on eBay, usually. They can get pricey, so we look for used ones in good condition. We’ve made some nice multi-level displays by unloading the books, putting a box or two on the table, and covering the boxes with cloth. You can get single-book stands at Michael’s or Hobby Lobby. Plate stands will do in a pinch. We bought some Egyptian cat figurines (our logo) and some tiny little turtles (to tie into my fantasy series) online.

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