Selling Books in ODD Places by Gloria Hansen

Selling Books in ODD Places by Gloria Hansen

It all started at age seven. I needed to write. I grew up oldest of nine in a rowdy farm family. My mom’s only respite from the daily chaos was sending us to bed right after supper. Sometimes, on noisier days, I think she served supper earlier to get us upstairs and into bed faster. But with birds singing and the sun still shining, we weren’t tired enough to sleep.

Finally after the many calls for drinks of water or trips to the loo, the younger ones were asleep and I was left with snoring siblings and no sleep in sight for me. I had smuggled a pencil upstairs but I  had no paper to write on except the wide expanse of wallpaper in the room. I started penning my wall story on my side of the bed, and managed to keep my work covered each morning with my pillow and a pile of blankets.

I had a pretty good story going until laundry day when Mother met me at the door as I trudged in from school. She held out a pail of soapy water and a scrub brush, and with a murderous ‘don’t-argue-with-me’ look in her eye, and pointed the way to the stairwell. My wall story had been discovered. I knew what had to be done. I scrubbed until the wallpaper hung in shreds, forever ruined. My pencil under the pillow was gone and so was my story. I learned early on that that was not the way to promote my writing.

I developed better strategies to promote and sell my writing over the years, mostly at book launches – especially book launches held at bookstores that might be selling my book. I also carried a stack of books with me in case someone mentioned they would like one. But, I was not comfortable with approaching strangers, and shoving a book in their faces. I was too afraid of rejection (hated it in fact) so I took a more passive route to book sales.

Aside from writing, I also play in a busy bluegrass band. We follow the summer music circuit each year, and meet many people in audiences while jamming at various festival sites. I volunteered one year to sell t-shirts for a fellow band, and decided to put a little pile of my books unobtrusively on a corner of the table. One person stopped to chat, picked up the book, became quite interested, forgot about the t-shirt, and bought the book. I can only think she passed the word around the campsite adjoining the stage area because, by the end of the day, I still had t-shirts for sale but all my books were gone!

I have also piled books onto the tailgate of my truck, or opened the hatch of my SUV in the parking lot of a festival, pulled up a lawn chair and a cold drink, stuck out a rudimentary sign describing the books beside me and, more often than not, that combo draws a crowd. No expensive radio or TV ads and no printed promo material. Just a tailgate and a lawn chair, a sharpie and a piece of bristle-board. That’s all you need! Roadside works for that kind of promotion as well, as long as you don’t interfere with local laws. If a police car pulls up, you know he isn’t there to buy a book. Or, gee, maybe he is!

These days, when I have a new book out, I bring copies along, and find a little corner at each festival site to sell them. And, they go! Especially the jambook of songs I published last year. It sold like proverbial hotcakes! I see those jambooks often at other venues, at jams, and in homes.

I say, if you have a craft table or some kind of booth as part of another event, haul your books along as side attractions. They will sell! I find the interest is far greater when someone is not really attending a book launch or a book fair. It seems ‘stumbling’ onto my books generates a far more lucrative sales result than all the advertising and expensive promotion of a single book. And, your book won’t be surrounded by hundreds or thousands of other books competing for people’s spending money. People don’t feel obliged to buy a book because they are attending a book launch. Rather, they’ll buy your book because they like those first pages they just browsed while buying a CD, or a t-shirt, or a cowboy hat. Try it!

Many of Gloria Hansen’s stories of growing up in rural Kipling, Ontario have been featured in a long-running weekly newspaper column, As I See It, for more than two decades. She currently writes short fiction, and enjoys writing romances and humor/nostalgia, as well as bluegrass and gospel songs. Her work has been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul and several magazines, among them The Canadian Nurse and Animal Review. Gloria likes to spend time with family, camping and fishing, skiing, and playing festivals with her daughter’s busy bluegrass band. She has had six books published, two traditionally with The Wild Rose Press – Weary Traveler Come Home and My Weary Traveler. You can see her work at:


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