Good morning, my name is DonnaRae Menard. I’m a local author, and I’m out today introducing my books.

The days of sitting back while someone else does the work of selling your books are over. Learning to get out there to introduce your books to readers, librarians, booksellers, etc. is critical. That means conquering your fear of public speaking. For many authors, the number one phobia is the riff itself. What to say to people? And how to say it?

I mastered my riff with a serious boost from Toastmasters International. The program has evolved to a fit-your-needs where you select pods like making the most of body language, delivering technical presentations, and giving sales pitches. All are geared to make you an efficient, clear, confident individual, able to promote yourself and your product. President Eisenhower spoke of pressing the flesh and kissing the babies. That’s me, pressing and smooching. Doing the walk!

Prep for Doing the Walk

Before I do the walk,  I do some prep. First, I select a neat, but not pretentious, outfit. I use a two-tone canvas bag instead of an attaché for the same reason. I load up with business cards and bookmarks. My bag holds one copy of each of my books. If I only had one, I’d put in enough for the bag to have weight. Might makes right. I want potential clients to see me as a serious merchant. I include a folder with printouts containing all my contact information, books, genres, ISBN numbers, and prices.

Recently I added a bit about speaking at book clubs, author events, pen to paper exercises for middle-schoolers and six- to eight-year-olds. I explain my Patron book donation program. I’ve already spent time practicing my five-line pitch. I also practice my smile by walking through crowds, smiling and saying good morning. Word of warning: If you’re afraid to shake hands, don’t offer to.

Second, research tells me which libraries and bookstores are within so many miles, hours of operation, maybe even contact names. I lay out routes for six libraries a trip, including any bookstores in the area, and even gift shops, camping areas, specialty shops, places that offer the instate experience. I’ve sold books in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and at farmer’s markets and fetes.

I never travel without my bookbag. I also have a different price sheet for retailers because if they’re buying several books for resale, they expect to make a profit (wholsesale/retail rates). No matter where I stop–no matter what  the answer other than flat out no!–I always leave a business card, a few bookmarks, and a price sheet. If I’m out and about, and I come across a likely place, I stop in. The worst that can happen is a no, thank you. I always thank them for their time, and leave.

Making the Rounds of Libraries, Bookstores, Gift Stores, and More

Once I’m in the door, I introduce myself. After that, I ask to speak to the librarian, or the shop owner or manager. My first rule. That I state who I am, what I’m doing, and I never say I’m selling books, nor assume I’m not speaking to the person who will make the decision where my books will live.

I usually do cold calls on Wednesdays or Thursdays when the people I need to speak to will be more available. But I’m flexible. If I’m told to make an appointment, I agree and collect the information needed before I leave. If I can only speak to one department head, I can do that. However, if there’s room for me to lay all the books out on a table or a desk, that’s what I’m doing. It’s important.

Covers are a huge draw. Drawn to one, a librarian may remark, she/he would like so-and-so to see this one. They may only want the cozy series, but the cover on that fantasy is fantastic. If someone would like to keep a book for a week or so to preview it, that’s fine. It means I’m going to be returning, so they’ll see me again. Face to face is what it’s all about.

Another rule: I keep records. Where I go, when, outcome even if they say no. I’ll be back next year; they may change their mind. So, I know where I left a book, who bought book one, when book two comes out, and who would be interested in an author event.

Are there other places? Conferences, book signings, library events, one-day workshops. If you’re doing an event, ask about setting up a table with your wares, bookmarks, and cards. Pat yourself on the back, tell people who you are and what you have to offer.

Hand-Sell vs. Hard Sell

For me, there is no hard sell. I don’t want someone to speak badly of me later because they feel I forced a book on them. Enjoy the read, that’s how I sign all my books.

Good morning, my name is DonnaRae Menard. I’m a local author, and I’m out today introducing my books.

DonnaRae Menard began the journey to a writing career in the seventh grade with notes containing disparaging descriptions of other students. There were diaries, journals, two tiny columns in small-town newspapers, and competition pieces for Toastmaster’s International, not to mention the banana boxes of manuscripts under the bed. In 2010, after a serious health scare, DonnaRae took on the biggest wish in her bucket list, to be published. A chance meeting with a publisher at the New England Crime Bake was her spring board.

DonnaRae lives just outside of town in the type of place where people feel free to drop off cats, kittens, cages of gerbils or white rats, and even the occasional farm animal. The door is always open, and the coffee’s on.