Queen's University

They don’t teach THIS at Queen’s

For any first-time author, it’s a good idea to have wind in your sales.

When I was eight years old, I ordered 25 boxes of greeting cards from an ad on the back of a comic book. My parents, horrified, ­informed me I wasn’t allowed to sell to their friends or to our neighbours. So I pulled my sled (it’s mostly winter in Ottawa) to the other side of the circle and started knocking on doors. Little did I know how well this experience would serve me many years later as an author.

At my first book-signing, last fall at a downtown Toronto Chapters, I imagined settling in, cup of tea in hand, to sign books and discuss the plot. Store staff instructed me otherwise. “Don’t sit. You have to get up and engage customers.”

Graham Romieu illustration

So I did. Initially I tried politely calling people over, but they averted their eyes. Ditto with ­waving. I realized I needed to be more aggressive. So I began haranguing them, winking and chasing people headed for Starbucks until they surrendered and agreed to buy a book. In about 15 minutes I discovered I was a natural saleswoman, so easily did the sales pitches flow from my mouth.

My initial come-on line ran something like this: “Here, feel my book. No other book in this store feels like this.”

They take it, which is the first step toward making a sale. Not only do they love the feel of it (which is kind of velvety), but once they’re holding it, they may buy it. I’ve learned to sense when to close the deal, when to yak a bit more, and when to be quiet. Sales is a true art form.

Some customers are easier than others. I told one passerby that he was buying my book, and so he did. However, I tried every line I could think of on another guy, finally stooping to, “Make me happy. Just buy it.” Nope.

I have several favourites. How about this: “I can’t think of one reason you two guys would buy my book, so let’s see if we can find one.” The first time I tried that, one of the guys was from Ottawa. There are a number of scenes in my book in Ottawa. Bingo. The next time, the two guys who bought my book did so to get my phone number.

I always ask men if they have a reason to buy a gift for a woman. When they reply no, I tell them that’s the best time to buy. Women love a gift for no reason. (My brother assures me I can sell sprinklers in Vancouver when I hit a lull.)

Weirdly enough, sometimes doing nothing works best. One guy told me he wasn’t going to buy my book, so we talked about rock concerts for 20 minutes. Ten minutes later, he returned. “Oh heck, I’ll buy your book,” he said.

And just as you don’t judge a book by its cover (unless it’s my book which has a fabulous cover), I’ve learned it’s impossible to tell who will buy my book. Everyone from 85-year-old men to women of all ages, and even a boy in Grade 10, have bought it. I was loading up the car one day and sold two to a neighbour and one to a jogger. Pretty much everyone is fair game. Even you.

My guess is if you’re reading this right now you like reading. Well, my book’s not going to read itself, so buy it, then read it. I give volume discounts and I’m happy to personalize it. And maybe you want one for your sister.... 

Queen's Alumni Review, 2014 Issue #2Queen's Alumni Review
2014 Issue #2
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Last updated at 9:43 am EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
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