So it's come and gone and here's how it went...
Back at the beginning of May, I put out a call to see if any of my fellow homeschooled authors were interested in going in together on a booth at my local homeschool conference. I told them I would handle setting up the table, running it, selling and promoting their books, and sending them their earnings and any leftovers. I divided the table cost per title so authors, like myself, with more titles (thus using more table space) would be paying more and those with only one title wouldn't find it too cost-prohibitive. I had a good response, ending up with 23 titles by 18 authors.
The day finally came and we had a blast talking to people, answering questions about writing and self-publishing, and promoting the different books according to each customer's reading tastes and those of their children. Friday's sales were a little slow--you could tell a lot of people were taking time to look at everything and would make decisions and do their purchasing the next day. (This is how we recall shopping at conventions, too.) Sure enough, Saturday saw sales pick up.
After a long weekend, we packed up, came home, deposited the mess in the living room and slowly began taking stock of the experience. All told, the booth sold 80 books. The most copies any one title sold was 10 and the least was 1. In addition to this, we distributed a good amount of promotional materials (business cards, bookmarks, flyers, sample chapters). People were so interested, and many aspiring writers and their parents said they were encouraged and inspired. One person said it was a very visionary thing we were all doing--working together to redeem literature. Even those who couldn't purchase right then took business cards and said they'd be looking things up online and purchasing later.
One of the most encouraging customers was a grandmother with 15 grandchildren. She literally wanted to buy one of everything on the table. As I was giving her the tour of all the books, she said, "You're doing a good job at this, you know. I want to buy everything now!" When she realized she didn't have enough cash on hand for it, she purchased what she could and had me give her a list of the titles so she could buy the rest online when she got home.
It was an amazingly fun experience and was successful in more ways than one. While some of the sales numbers aren't that impressive, the amount of interest generated and the huge way we were able to get the word out was entirely successful. Lots of people now know that there are homeschoolers writing real books, publishing them, and doing their part to redeem literature.
As a matter of fact, one person was so encouraged and inspired he has offered to cover the booth fees for any of this year's participating authors who decide to participate if we do this again next year.
Ever since the conference ended and we started looking at the numbers, I've been asking myself the question: "What factors effected the sales numbers?"
My husband and I have been analyzing everything. Here are four key areas we've identified:
- Convention size. Oregon's convention had about 2,100 adults in attendance last year (I haven't heard how this year's numbers compare). This is about half the size of--say--the Arizona convention. If only a small percentage of the people attending actually purchase from your booth, the varying sizes of convention will make a big difference in sales numbers. With the amount of interest and success we saw at this convention, can you imagine what we could do at the bigger ones?
- Demographics. Quite a few of the participating titles were written for a Young Adult audience. Unlike the Arizona convention, which Tyler and I both remember to be teeming with teens, Oregon's demographic is significantly younger. I remember us watching the people in the vendor hall and wondering to one another, "Where are all the teens?" And the overwhelming majority of parents we talked to were purchasing for children between the ages of about 6 and 13.
- Appearance. I'm more convinced than ever that people do judge books by their covers. I just watched several hundred people interact with 23 books, and it's true. Books with beautiful, appealing front covers and well-summarized, intriguing back covers sold well.
- Pricing. We noticed books that were priced a bit on the lower end for their perceived size tended to sell better. We had a few short books and a booklet priced under $8. These naturally saw a higher sales count because people don't mind as much plunking down $5 on an impulse buy.
In short, I think homeschooled authors banding together is a great idea. I think working together to promote excellent material in an excellent way is a smart move. I think the market needs a hub for finding homeschooler-authored books. I just think it will take more than one, more than two, more than three tries for the market to think of us all as the leading suppliers of good books. But once it does, we'll be set. We'll have worked together to form this hub, and our customer base will know us and know right where to look whenever the need for decent reading material strikes.
Questions? I just might have answers!
Another time I'll detail how I put this whole thing together and thoughts I've had on what I would do differently and ways it could be improved.