By Chester Campbell
I've done hundreds of bookstore signings all around the country since my first Greg McKenzie mystery came out in 2002. I've attended dozens of mystery conferences and conventions where I sat at a table hoping someone would come along with a book to sign, but I don't recall a store event when I didn't sell a book. There have been some where the number was terribly few, but many others have produced a decent amount of sales.
I've noticed a change in the climate over the past couple of years. Fewer bookstore patrons seem interested in trying a new author they're unfamiliar with. And working closely with my current small press publisher, I've learned more about the industry's problems. Like when a store orders twenty copies and the author sells only ten, returns decimate the profits.
As a result, I have just about stopped my bookstore signings. I can make more money and avoid the returns problem by concentrating on festivals and fairs and similar events. So far this year I have done a library author day, the Southern Kentucky BookFest, Franklin (TN) Main Street Festival, and Cool Springs (Mall) Festival of Art, Music and Books. Upcoming are the RC Cola & Moon Pie Festival, Horse Cave (KY) Bookfest, Gallatin (TN) Main Street Festival, and Kentucky Book Fair.
I'll add others as the opportunities arise. I find people at events like these more willing to try new authors, and happily I've had an increasing number of readers stop by to add more of my books to their collections. Although the book fairs usually will order your books for the event, I volunteer to bring my own, thus avoiding the problem of returns.
Since I've made all of my books available as ebooks, I'm selling a lot more online than on paper. And though I price my books low, with Amazon and Smashwords' royalty rates, I still come out okay. I suppose this is part of the changing paradigm of the book business. I do a lot less traveling and spend less on book promotion.
I remember back in my early days I kept hearing that you should break even on your fourth book. Now that I have eight out, I can assure you it ain't necessarily so.
Visit me at Mystery Mania