Selling Books at Festivals

This past weekend, fellow naturist fiction writer DH Jonathan and I sold and signed copies of our books at a table at the Fall Festival at Oaklake Trails Naturist Park in Oklahoma, USA. It was the third year in a row that we’ve shared a table, and we’ve sold well all three years. Last year, my novel Skinners was hot off the press at the time. This year, DH Jonathan’s novel The Girl Who Stopped Wearing Clothes had just debuted. Our titles sold well in general, including the copies of the three “In the Nudist Colony” anthologies that I had purchased to sell.

Here are some pointers that have helped us get good results:

(1) Essence: Be able to quickly describe the “essence” of each book. I give mine as “Naked at School” (Co-ed Naked Philosophy), “Naked Da Vinci Code” (Aglow), and “Naked Pirates of the Caribbean” (Skinners). It’s a huge generalization, but people are moving quickly through many vendors and you need to grab their attention.

(2) The Artist at Work: Be busy with a work-in-progress. This is a suggestion made by the festival organizer a couple years ago. Dan (DH Jonathan) would often have his laptop open with his next novel on the screen, typing away. I took a different approach, offering “Free Poems on the Spot.” This worked well last year and did again this year. Folks who engage with a poem will almost always be interested in purchasing a book. I have them choose a topic, then I compose a brief poem for them using pen and paper. This year the topics included heroes, baking, serendipity, and… ahem… the forms in Plato’s cave! It’s a lot of fun and a great challenge to compose them quickly. In my experience, the folks who choose the topics are always pleased with the results.

DH Jonathan (left) and me at the Fall Festival,
Oaklake Trails, 2022

(3) Value. Starting three years ago, Dan and I adopted a uniform pricing for all the books on the table: any book for $12, any two books for $20. Almost all of our sales this past weekend were doubles at $20. That’s a discount of several dollars for customers in comparison to ordering the paperbacks online, and it’s a nice profit for us, since we can order our own books for a discounted price through Amazon. For the “In the Nudist Colony” anthology books, I was selling at a loss, because those are $15 each. However, the profit goes to Doctors Without Borders anyway, so I’m comfortable with getting only partially reimbursed, so to speak, on those titles. Besides, they are such wonderful samplers of the works of so many of us who write naturist fiction. Further, Dan had the idea of directing undecided buyers – those who showed interest but did not make a purchase – to the Kindle site for an even greater value. It’s a way of building interest and showing that our books are available in more than one format.

In addition to these pointers, what I’ve learned is that yes, people do still buy books (and hopefully read them). For the size turn-out we had (no estimate), we sold very well. Also, Dan and I have both learned that even though it’s not a large festival by any means, it has spurred both of us respectively (me last year, and him this year) to finish our novels in time to have them available at the festival. I’m planning to finish my sequel to Skinners by the time of the event a year from now!

And finally, we’ve learned that we seem to sell better when we’re together. That’s based on my experience: I co-founded the arts festival at Oaklake Trails ten years ago, and I would go every year (by myself) and sell three or four books. Those numbers have multiplied three- or fourfold these past three years, and I think it’s because there are two of us there at the table. My thanks to Dan for better sales for both of us!

4 thoughts on “Selling Books at Festivals”

    1. That’s it indeed – live and learn. The voice of experience can’t always predict the future, of course, but it can help prepare.

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