I think I will forget about selling Ghost Orchid books and sell key lime pies instead. Some very sophisticated research has led me to this conclusion. One Saturday, I ventured into the arena of the flea market vendors to pitch some "remainders" from a long ago published book. I had 75 copies in boxes that were left over from a festival I did not attend in 2006. As a backlist book, I believed they were worth about $5 a piece at this point, the right price for a flea market.
All I needed was a card table with a few marketing posters to draw the crowds. I did not advertise, actually a little embarassed to be selling books at a flea market. After all, my books are in brick and morter stores and I should not be on the street. I have a publisher. Flea markets are for self-published authors.
The Lions Club Farm Fresh Market was located at a middle school the day I participated, each parking line a designated stall. I parked my car, opened my trunk, and gathered my table, chair, marketing posters and pile of books to begin selling. My spot was excellent. Every entrant who parked at my end of the lot came by my table. On the other side was a musician with a guitar and a tip jar. Just beyond him were the fateful pies.
People just did not stop at my display! If they did, they were more interested in the one copy of Ghost Orchid on display than the books I was there to sell. Oh, I sold a few of each; but it was no "book signing" fest. Those were hard won sales with little profit after the negotiating by skilled flea market patrons was done.
However, the lady with the $7 key lime pies was selling a pie every five minutes. So were her sons. She had a line. The musician had a crowd I thought might buy books, but they headed on over to the key lime pies. I have never seen so many pies sold in one place. They had a truck bed with coolers that seemed bottomless as the pies continued to emerge. By the noon closing, they were down to their last pies that didn't even have whipped cream and were sold for that flat, no negotiation, $7 price.
From what I understand, the cost of producing the pies is between $1 and $2. That means a $5 profit on every pie; better than my maximum royalty on an ebook (higher than print books that sell for a bigger retail price than ebooks).
I learned a great lesson that day. Sell pies. The aroma, the pleasing appearance and the remarkably good taste (they passed out samples) at a value price create instant impulse purchases. It's difficult to get the same success with a pile of books from the backlist. I don't think I could have sold a book every five minutes if they were $1.
Recently, I stopped by the same flea market where I no longer attempt to sell my books. The musician was there. The key lime pie lady was still selling a pie every five minutes. Maybe she has franchises available...maybe in time for Valentine's Day.
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