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When I was 10 or 11, my parents decided to sell the tent-top camper we’d had for a number of years and buy a bigger one. They put an ad in the paper and had a few responses, but no buyer. Then, one Saturday, while the ad was still running, they had to go somewhere. I was the oldest child in our family, so before they left, they said, “If anyone calls about the camper, tell them we want $500 for it.”
I was in awe. That was a lot of money back in 1967.
Well, wouldn’t you know, an hour after they left, the phone rang – someone had seen the ad and was interested in the camper. I told them the price, answered some questions, and told them where we lived so they could come and see it. A short time later, the phone rang again – someone else wanted to come and see the camper. I gave them directions to get to our house (which was 6 miles from town, on a gravel road) and went back to my other job, which was to make sure my younger brothers and sisters weren’t wrecking the house.
An hour later, I was standing in the yard, showing the camper to both couples, who had coincidentally arrived within minutes of each other. After looking the camper over and asking a few questions, the first couple offered me $450. The other couple jumped in and offered $500, the asking price set by my dad. The first couple was still hanging around, so instead of saying yes, I told a little story about one of our camping trips and how much our family had enjoyed the state park where we’d camped.
The first couple countered with an offer of $550. I mentioned how easy the camper was to put up and tear down. Working together, my dad, my sister and I could do it in 10 minutes flat. The second couple offered $600. I showed them how the table could be folded down and made into a bed. The first couple upped their bid to $650. That was more money than the second couple had, or was willing to offer.
I pronounced the camper SOLD, got $650 cash from the winning bidders, wrote them a receipt, and waved goodbye as they drove down the road, pulling the camper behind. You can imagine my parent’s shock and glee when they came home and I handed them $650.
It was at that moment that I first experienced the joy and exhilaration of selling something. As writers, pitching, or trying to sell our books may or may not be part of our comfort zone. But like it or not, published or unpublished, if you’re a writer, you have something to sell, and you need to pitch your book, not just once, but over and over again. Selling yourself, and your book, is an important part of being an author… the difference between being published or unpublished… the difference between success and failure.
When I made the decision to go with a small, independent press (Second Wind Publishing) for my book, Night and Day, it was in part because I own a bed and breakfast and tea house and knew that I had a built-in venue for selling my book. Each day, 4 – 40 people walk in the door – all potential buyers. Still, a stack of nice, new books sitting on a table with a cute little sign rarely sell themselves. Neither will a bump on a log at a book signing.
What does sell my books is me. I pitch my book once or twice every day – sometimes ten or twelve – to each and every guest who walks in the door. As you might guess – I’ve got my pitch down – and I have sold about 300 books in the last 3 1/2 months. I sold 8 over the lunch hour just yesterday.
That doesn’t mean everyone who walks in the door buys a book. Some are not interested. I can see their eyes glazing over 10 seconds into my pitch. Some look excited until I mention the words “internet romance”. Perhaps they’ve been burned by an online lover – perhaps their spouse has had an online dalliance – maybe they think computers are for the birds. Whatever the case, when you try to sell something, you have to be ready for rejection – and then, you have to pick yourself up and keep trying.
“It’s midnight in Minnesota and daybreak in Denmark…” I regularly vary my pitch depending on who I’m talking to – young, old, someone I know, a stranger. The important thing is that I believe in my book. I love my characters and am convinced people will enjoy reading Night and Day.
I live for those moments when I connect with a reader, when we strike common ground, when their faces light up. Sometimes it’s when they see the log-cabin quilt on the cover of Night and Day, sometimes it’s when they hear the words Danish, “junk in the attic”, or bonfire. And when I take their $15 and autograph their book, it’s just as exciting as selling that camper for my parents when I was 11 years old.
Selling is hard. Whether you’re pitching your book or telling someone about your story at a writing conference, talking to guests at a book signing, or asking the manager of your local grocery store if they would consider stocking your book, you will feel naked at times. Intimidated. Daunted. Unsure.
But there comes a moment, when someone wants to buys your book, when you find a common chord with an editor, the owner of a shop, a librarian, or a potential reader, and make the sale, that you will know it was all worth it.
Find the courage to try, and keep trying.
Don’t ever sell yourself short. Sell yourself and you will sell your book!