Make Sales on the Spot

Welcome to my last bimonthly guest post. I started this series as a “those who can’t do, teach” writer with no books of my own. I am finishing as an experienced author and seller; my first book, Where Light Dawns: Christian Poems of Hope for Hurting Hearts, is now available by direct request at $10/copy. Online orders should be possible by 2011.

One thing I’ve learned from experience is that many people, shown an inexpensive book in the course of casual conversation, buy it on impulse. If your book costs $20 or less, you can hit a surprisingly high “casual business” sales volume at networking events, holiday parties, and similar venues.

Here’s how:

Don’t leave home without your book; the #1 secret to encouraging impulse purchases is to have something available for purchase. Ideally, take at least 3–4 books everywhere you go.

Keep receipt forms and a pocketful of change (including $1 and $5 bills) handy. Transactions will go faster and smoother if you have several “one-copy” and “two-copy” receipts ready with total cost and signature already filled in; then you only have to add customer-specific details. Being prepared to make change is equally important (although, in a quick-and-casual setting, many people will say “Oh, don’t bother with a few cents change”). Sales tax laws being what they are, it’s virtually impossible to set a price that comes out at a round figure.

Be prepared to accept checks. While many impulse customers pay cash, others still use checks for almost everything. And a sale that can’t be made immediately is often a sale lost for good.

Obviously, credit cards aren’t practical for most “on-the-spot” sales (hence, the “impulse approach” rarely works with more expensive books). But whatever the means of payment:

Tuck two business cards into each book sold. No matter if “this customer already has his/her copy.” Satisfied customers buy additional copies for gifts; they recommend books to others; and they look for the author’s other titles. They’ll need a reference for finding—and directing others to—your contact and book order information.

Practice the mechanics of physically awkward transactions. Seriously. At a mass gathering, the only place to make change and fill out receipts may be in the middle of a standing crowd—and with full arms. Dropping an armload can be embarrassing.

Sign the books you sell. A bonus of buying directly from authors is that copies come personally autographed. Uphold the standard!

Finally, perhaps the most important point:

Remember that this is no place for a “hard-sell” approach. When people become spontaneously interested in your book, you do them a favor by supplying it immediately. An unsolicited and high-pressure sales pitch, however, violates the whole spirit of most gatherings (which are, after all, not about you). Show your book to people when they ask what you’ve been up to, and wait for the possibility of immediate purchase to occur to them. You’ll be surprised how often it does.

Katherine Swarts is a professional writer specializing in corporate blogs/newsletters and other articles. Her Web address is