The Best Kept Book Marketing Secret: Author Parties

By Guest Author, David Sanford

Few Americans have ever been invited to an author party, but most say they would love to attend one this year. It’s definitely the most fun way to sell 50 to 250 copies of your new book in a single evening.

Simply ask friends of yours with a nice larger home who love to host parties to host one for you and provide the refreshments. For your very first author party, invite 100 to 125 of your friends. Thereafter, ask hosts to invite their friends. Many times they will be honored to do just that.  

So, how does an author party help you sell so many books?

First, I recommend tossing the word “sell.” Suppose your book retails for $20, Instead, offer it for a suggested donation of $10 or $15 (but expect to average $14 to $22).

Second, I recommend abandoning the till. Instead, do what many stores do now and let individuals ring up their own orders, so to speak. How? Simply put $30 of change (a $10 bill, three $5 bills, and five $1 bills) inside a basket lined with a decorative cloth napkin. That way each person can toss cash or a check into the basket, take one or more books, and ask you to sign them. Just make sure you stay far away from that table all evening. And make sure no one else watches the till or “helps” people.

Why? Because you don’t want to score a 2%, 5%, or even 10% sales rate. Instead, authors I’ve coached who have done dozens of author parties typically enjoy 100% to 400% sales rates (that’s 1 to 4 books sold for each person who comes to the party). Why such huge sales rates? See the paragraph above and then proceed to the next two counter-intuitive steps below.

Third, I recommend piling up your books as haphazardly as possible on a sturdy table. If you stack the books nice and neatly, you’ll kill your sales. Why? I can only guess. It may have to do with humanity’s embedded desire for order. The only way to bring order to a messy pile of books, of course, is to pick up several and buy them.

Fourth, read (yes, read) a carefully scripted 59-second talk, without humor or hype. The more linear, straightforward and “boring,” the better. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it works. In fact, it works very well. The goal is for each individual to resonate your book’s title, target audience, and promised benefits. In other words, you want each person to self-identify: “I want that for myself. I also want to share it with others. I’m going to buy several copies.” (So, how does one write such a script? Send a quick email to me at platformrisers@gmail.com and I’ll send the outline to you.)

Do author parties really work? Just ask a friend of mine, Bob Mortimer, author of Hope and Courage Across America. Bob had been slowly writing his memoir for years. I finally asked, “Bob, if I promise your book will be published, would you please write faster?” He said “yes” and finished his book a few short months later.

Better yet? When it was published, Bob lined up 20 author parties in 21 days driving straight across America on Hwy. 10 from Los Angeles to Jacksonville, Florida. He shipped 200 copies of his book to arrive to each location a day or two before he arrived. In those three weeks, he made more money than any previous year.

True, Bob Mortimer is the superhero of author parties. And, this doesn’t work in every setting. (Nice larger homes seem to be ideal, but other venues certainly can work.)

Then again, I’ve attended parties where a rookie author doing this for the very first time has made anywhere from $400 to $5,300 in two hours.

I’ve also shown New York Times best-selling authors how to do this and rocket their “sales” from 5% (their historic average) to 700% (at their very next event).

The most important tip?

Have fun!

Meet David Sanford

Hometown Guest Author Headshot

David Sanford is a Hometown Reads author from Portland, OR. His book and Bible projects have been published by Zondervan, Tyndale House, Thomas Nelson, Doubleday, and Amazon. His lifetime sales have topped 354,000. His professional bio appears here. His personal bio includes his wife, Renée, their five children, and their eleven grandchildren (including one in heaven).

About Becky Robinson

Becky is the founder and CEO of Weaving Influence, the founder of Hometown Reads, and a champion of the #ReadLocal Movement.

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What People Are Saying

  • This is such a cool idea — but it left me with questions. Like, how did Bob manage to line up 20 author parties across America? Does he have friends in every state? Did he pay for all those hundreds of books himself? I know we get author discounts, but that would be still a daunting outlay of cash. And I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable asking a friend with a “larger home,” to host upwards of 100 people and provide refreshments. Finally, I don’t really understand how a “boring” minute-long pitch would really get people to identify with it. Not to be a Debbie Downer here, but I feel like I’m missing some of the finer points….

    • Hi Diana, thanks for your questions! A few thoughts…

      1. This really works. True, author parties mean you have to momentarily step out of your comfort zone to ask a friend to host you. They also mean letting groups know you’d like to do an event with them. Bob did just that. In some cases, Bob asked friends for recommendations. In other cases, he just looked online and reached out via phone or email. Don’t forget that groups *need* special guests like you!

      2. Don’t worry about the “daunting outlay of cash.” You’ll place your book order to arrive a few days before your first author party, and can recoup your investment and pay the invoice (or credit card bill) early, if you wish.

      3. As insurance, I recommend scheduling your first two author parties two or three weeks apart in different neighborhoods in your hometown. If you “sell” most of the books at the first party, you still have time to order books for the second party. Then again, if you don’t, you still can recoup your investment and put money in the bank after the second party.

      4. All this assumes, of course, that you send (or your host sends) winsome invitations to plenty of friends and acquaintances.

      5. Even introverts can do this! I highly recommend the book “Quiet” by Susan Cain, which I’ve been reading this week. It’s a great look at how introverts can succeed in an extrovert world.

      Again, you can do this! If you have other questions, you’re free to write to me at platformrisers@gmail.com… 🙂

  • I like the idea of letting the audience set the price and shirking my duties as a “salesperson” for the night! It seems a little intimidating when the author is standing right there, next to the book they expect you to buy, so I think the psychological barrier of removing the author from the table altogether is a great idea. That way if people decide to buy, they can come up to you afterwards for a no-pressure chat, not expecting to get the hard sell from you. Great tactic!

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