The Chutzpah of Selling Books

I admit it. I’ll do just about anything to sell copies of my novels. It’s a constant battle to get you, oh reader, to notice me. I even go on Facebook and other social media to make comments and include a link to See. I just did it to you. An author can’t afford shame, especially when his (her) books are published by a small press, the kind that can’t afford ads in The Times and putting books in bookstores.

Why then have I had such a difficult time with one of my best ideas boos selling ideas? Create a cooperative selling effort with other small press and self-published authors: it seemed obvious. Even better, in Phoenix we have the largest first Friday in the country, and I had a friend willing to let me do the book sales through her boutique. She would do the actual sale, collect and pay the taxes, and even process credit cards (and take 25%, which is very little). The other authors and I didn’t need to have licenses and tax numbers, and that was a big plus. Even the location was prime, right in the heart of the First Friday action. What could go wrong?

I contacted many authors. Some said yes, some just didn’t respond. I met with the ones who said yes. Immediately they wanted to know what was in it for me. “Selling my books,” I explained. “If I went down there myself, it would be too small an effort, not worth the boutique’s time. Also, you guys can help let other people know. You can help work the crowd, and we can have fun.”

Without meaning to, I had hit on the problem. The other authors had to actually make an effort. They had to want to talk with the crowd and tell them about the books, all our books. The first event, three others joined me. One brought his wife and large dog. They stood in front of the table talking and ignoring me, the other authors, and the crowd. What were they discussing? What a lousy spot I had gotten. How I needed to get more signage up. How he couldn’t sell any books there. Once his wife and dog left, he did in fact sell some. Another of the three had claimed that he was arranging a spectacular event, a crowd of people in costume to come by our stall. Actually, he had one cousin whom he hadn’t seen for years stop by. (Turns out the cousin had been in prison.) The two spent an hour catching up. No sales during that time for him. So two of us did the work.

The next month I gave the participants a pep talk; I shared the previous event’s mistakes. They were better, and the sales were better. Unfortunately, they didn’t have as good a sense of team as I had hoped. Each was selling his/her own books, but giving only lip service to the idea of a group effort.

Today is another first Friday. I’ll try again. Why? Not because I’m a glutton for punishment. Because I love the selling. I love working the crowd. I love the chutzpah it brings out in me.

Ken Weene’s novels, Widow’s Walk and Memoirs From the Asylum are published by All Things That Matter Press. His short stories and poetry can be found in many venues. Ken’s website is