Author Vending: How Many Books [#AuthorToolboxBlogHop]

Between shows and writing deadlines (and my full-time job), it’s been a busy few weeks since my last vending post! I was worried I wouldn’t have time to participate this month, but I know that folks really appreciate these posts, so here I am. If you find this useful, please consider sharing it with other authors you know!

I participate in the Author Toolbox Blog Hop just about every month. It’s a bunch of authors who help other authors, and it’s pretty cool to see how many topics get covered each month! This will be the last post for this blog hop for 2019 because they skip November and December — another reason I wanted to make sure I could participate.

One of the first questions I got when I started this series was how many books to bring to signings? Unfortunately there is no straightforward answer like ten or something like that. It really depends on a lot of factors, and I’ll discuss a few that I’ve encountered here!

How long is the event?

This may be answered in hours or days. If you’re doing a two-hour author signing at your favorite small, independent bookstore, then ten may be a good number to start with. However if it’s 2-day free outdoor event and each day lasts eight hours, then you’ll want to have more than ten books on hand. Depending on other factors, you may expect to sell 10-20 books a day for example, so take that into consideration.

How well known are your books?

Let’s say this is your first book. Awesome, congrats! However if you don’t have a well-known name, then you’ll want to focus on drumming up interest for the event ahead of time. Still most authors will admit that they only had friends and family at their first event, if that, and that’s perfectly fine! It’s about more than just selling your books, it’s getting your name out there and learning how to do these events.

If you are fairly well-known though, or you do enough marketing ahead of time, you may want to bring more than ten books to your two-hour book signing. Those may go really fast!

There is a lot of plantlife in the Stolen series.

Where are you selling?

So this is more than just the difference between a small, indie bookstore and a big two-day festival. With this question, I’m meaning who are the readers that your book targets? I write books where people are often in the woods. Therefore my books tend to appeal more to people who have also lived closer to nature. However people living in an urban metropolis may not have as much of a connection with the book aesthetic.

This of course isn’t always the case. Lots of people read widely and enjoy variety in their books, but you can expect an urban fantasy for example to sell better in urban areas than rural places.

I also write young adult books. I’m fortunate in that this appeals to a wide audience range, but remember that picture books probably wouldn’t sell as well at a horror convention. Keep your audience in mind when stocking and setting expectations for your sales.

The She-Wolf of Kanta – from my first indie bookstore signing!

Do you have a distributor?

This really applies to library signings, bookstore events, and book festivals. If you have a distributor, such as through Ingram, you may not need to worry about bringing your own copies. That means the host event can order copies on their own, and may request to stock a few as well after the event is over. A distributor means that if the books don’t sell, the host location can send the books back instead of being stuck with the additional copies. This can save you a lot of time and headache, but you are also relying on the host location to know how many copies to order.

If you don’t have a distributor, that means you are your own distributor. Usually the host location will take a percentage of sales at the event, and then you take any copies that didn’t sell back home with you. Some places will also allow you to put books on consignment with them. This means they stock your copies on their shelves, and when they sell you get a percentage. If they don’t sell and they don’t want to keep them stocked, then you pick them up. It’s a lot of additional work on the bookstore’s end, so many don’t permit consigned books for this reason. They also don’t want to be left with additional stock either because that’s storage space that could be used for books that are selling.

Will you be shipping books out?

This may seem like an odd question, but can you imagine how much it would cost to bring 50 books with you on a plane? Quite a bit! So it’s way easier just to ship them to a friend who lives close to the event you’re attending and pay the much cheaper media mail rates. That said, if you’re trying to save money, you may want to ship out fewer books and just deal with the risk of running out of copies.

Do you want to run out?

Again this one seems like a strange question, but if you flew out to a location for an event, and don’t want to ship your books back home your strategy may be to just run out! That saves on additional costs and also looks good if you sell out at the event. The drawback is that you may miss out on additional sales that you could have made and if you’re not careful you could sell out early!

I hope this helps! Again this is just from my experiences of doing this for a year and a half. In a few more years I may be adding more to this list. If you enjoyed this information, feel free to share or leave a comment below!

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