People at a cafe

Authors are NOT in Competition

This is Thomas Gondolfi’s third post in a six-week blog tour series for the Northwest Independent Writer’s Association. NIWA serves Pacific Northwest writers working to achieve professional standards in independent writing, publishing, and marketing.

One of the great joys I’ve learned in selling / marketing books is that authors are NOT in competition. Oh, don’t get me wrong, financial purists would say there is a finite number of dollars entering a show or available to be spent on books so we must fight for them. To them I say nay-nay. 

Any reader wants a specific book, style of story, hero or heroine. A potential customer may say they want fruit and when you show them your bananas, they say they want grapes. Bottom line, if you don’t have what the reader wants it doesn’t matter how hard you push, you will never get the dollars he or she represents. As a fruit eater myself, I have often tasted the wares of my brethren and know what food stalls are selling what and if I don’t have the green or purple clusters, I don’t hesitate to point this person to an author who writes grapes. While it may seem counter-intuitive, this method pays dividends in two ways.

First the reader you just helped, especially if they got the right bit of sweet they were looking for, will remember you. That’s right. You didn’t keep pushing your stuff at them but pointed to where they might get exactly what they wanted. As a result you have a better than average chance that the customer you helped to another author’s books will come back at some future time to see what you have – all because of your integrity. It has happened to me time and again. As a result I don’t even hesitate to recommend other’s works when my pitch doesn’t immediately elicit interest. I’ve had people come back at the same show to buy one, two, or sometimes six books because I helped them directly to what they sought. Sometimes it happens at later shows.

On the whole, I sell many more books because I am willing to plug another author’s book above my own, not because they are better, but because they are grapes. This actually comes easy to me as I am a publisher of other authors and I regularly pitch those other novels at the reader’s need. I want that customer to walk away happy! The idea is to find the right key to go into the lock that is the customer’s wallet. Hell, if they want a superhero book, my personal writing isn’t going to interest them at all, so I can pitch Bruce Graw’s “Lady Hornet”. In the end telling someone else about another book I read by an author at the same show is a no brainer for me. It may take a while for a new author to realize that over time it is a good way to put coin in your own purse, but it does. 

Secondly, other authors notice when you send business their way. A prospective customer will often say, “Yeah, that guy over there with the purple teddy bear said you might have some good YA.” Oh this definitely causes some interesting feelings when it happens. I remember my first time. My only thought was, “Why are they selling my books? How odd.” Then it dawned on me I’d sent several people their way earlier. Authors remember this kindness. They reciprocate. A good deed is its own reward but when karma returns it to you that is the gravy. 

If you feel like being purely mercenary look at it this way. A set number of potential customer dollars walk into the area. Under normal circumstances you might successfully liberate fifty percent of those dollars as vendors compete against each other for those sweet spendable bits of paper. But under the cooperative method I work under, we may see seventy or eighty percent of the available money in the collective hands of our authors. Why? Because instead of blocking one another, causing customers to either be turned off or not finding what they want because of the smoke, the customer is led (sometimes literally by the hand) to the books that they are going to bond with.

Unfortunately, as an engineer, I’d like to have data to back up that statement above. All I really have is anecdotal stories and my own impressions to form my theory. I can see no way to set up a test to prove/disprove my concept, so it remains, my beliefs only. That being said, I see most other authors working toward this model. We don’t block one another’s booths. We don’t try to hawk people away from other tables. When we are missing something during a set-up, someone else will have it and share (and vice versa). If someone is missing their credit card payment capability, we work out a way to take cards for them.

A phrase I’ve heard said many times before sums up this entire blog post. “We all lift one another up, or we all fall down.”

Graphic made with photo by Benjamin Zanatta on Unsplash.

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Founding TANSTAAFL Press in 2012, Thomas Gondolfi is the author (and book parent) of the Toy Wars series, the CorpGov Chronicles, and Wayward School along with numerous other writing and editing credits which can be found on www.tanstaaflpress.com. He is a father of three (real children), consummate gamer, and loving husband. Tom also claims to be a Renaissance man and certified flirt.

Raised as a military brat, he spent twenty years of his life moving to a new place every few years giving him a unique perspective on life and people.

Working as an engineer in high tech for over thirty years, Tom has also worked as a cook, motel manager, most phases of home construction, volunteer firefighter, and the personal caregiver to a quadriplegic.

Thomas Gondolfi’s fourth post in this series will be released next week on Connie J. Jasperson’s blog.

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