Last weekend, I experienced my first out-of-town book-related event for Pajama School. My sister and I traversed to the adjacent state of Colorado where I had secured a booth as a vendor at their annual state homeschool conference. A costly sum was required for a booth, but with approximately 4,000 attendees I was hopeful that I would sell enough books to break even.
The Vendor Hall opened at 5:00 on Thursday evening and remained open until 8:00. In those three hours I didn’t have a single sale, although I did have some wonderful conversations with other vendors and conference-goers. I also utilized this time to closely observe people and make notes for improvement. One thing that was peculiar to me was that many people looked at the back of the booth to see what the sign said (the sign identified the booth name and number), but then passed by without even looking at the display table(s) in the booth. I gleaned from this observation the importance of having an eye-catching banner that would draw people in (which I did not). Since that could not be remedied by the next day, I had to come up with an alternate idea if I hoped to sell any books.
So, Friday morning I arrived first thing at the conference, armed with my new approach: a brief 4-question survey. The idea was that I could collect answers to homeschooling-related questions of interest to me, generate conversations, distribute business cards for the Pajama School website, and hopefully sell books. The first three objectives were met quite nicely, but the fourth…not so much. It took me a little while to work up the nerve to stop people and ask them to take the survey – mainly because I don’t like to feel like I’m imposing on people. There were a few people who declined, but most people were more than willing to answer the questions. This helped build my confidence considerably.
It was curious to me how many people got genuinely excited about my book and exclaimed profusely about the need for it, but then walked off without purchasing it. I think if I was a better salesman, I could have turned some of that interest into sales, but I know how much I react to pushy salespeople, so I didn’t want to come anywhere close to earning that sort of a reputation. Instead, I just did my best to communicate effectively and encourage people, and then prayed that God would impress on their hearts to purchase the book. This resulted in a total of five books sold on Friday.
Saturday morning, it quickly became apparent that most people were in too much of a hurry to participate in the survey, so I adjusted my approach to just handing out business cards and giving a 15-20 second spiel about the book. This captured several people’s interest enough that they came over to the table and looked more intently at the book. Again, though, the interest it generated far exceeded the actual sales. Saturday’s sales total: five books.
Thus ended the conference – we packed up all but 12 of the books that we brought with us (in addition to the 10 sold, we traded 2 for books from 2 other vendors). There is certainly an element of discouragement in such an experience (not to mention a considerable loss of money!), and several of my other marketing strategies have fallen through as well. But I firmly believe, as John Quincy Adams said, “Duty is ours; results are God’s.” It’s proving to be a lot of hard work to learn how to market and sell my books, but I’ve still got 2,000+ in our garage that have got to go. So, let the work continue!