How to Never Sell Any Books

How to Never Sell Any books

If you decide to be an author, there are a few rather spikey lessons which must be learnt along the way. If you want to write, and never be read, then here are a few tips which will ensure that no one ever buys your books. Sit back, and enjoy:

  1. When a bookshop agrees to sell your books, sit back, and do nothing else. This will ensure your book sits, undiscovered, on a dusty shelf, never to be opened again.
  2. If you are cajoled into turning up for a book-signing event, then you can bypass the danger with a few clever ploys:
    1. Do not wear anything even remotely attractive. Try to look as dowdy and uninteresting as possible. If someone should buy your book, it certainly won’t be because they are interested in you, as the author.
    2. Be sure to take your phone, and sit playing games the entire time. Eating something messy, like a burger, is another good ploy.
    3. Do not, whatever you do, make eye-contact, or speak to people passing by. It’s best if you can position a table between you and the potential customers, and sit behind it with your arms folded whenever not playing game/eating (see above).
    4. Don’t plan any kind of ‘speech’ about your book. If someone should interrupt your game/food to ask what the book is about, look confused and mumble something incoherent.
    5. Do not make your table look attractive. Beware of taking posters, or visual aids related to your book. It’s much better to simply dump a pile of books on the table, face-down if possible.
    6. Never offer a book to a potential customer so they can hold it, feel the quality, read a snippet. If possible, keep the books well out of reach.
    7. Do not smile, not even a slight grin. Not selling books is a serious business, and it’s worth having a good scowl at all times.
    8. Never ask potential customers what they like reading, or engage them in conversation. If they insist on trying to chat, and especially if they want to tell you about the book they have written/intend to write (this happens A LOT) then cover your ears and hum loudly until they have left.
    9. Swearing loudly, picking your nose, cutting your toe-nails, will all help to deter potential customers. If you could have a spouse handy for a loud argument, that would be brilliant, otherwise use your phone and pretend.
  3. Avoid all places that might sell your books, and never mention them when you are with other people. Best to pretend that they don’t exist, in case you manage to make them sound interesting by mistake.
  4. When planning the cover of a new book, try to use dull colours, and never use the services of a professional. Do not make them even slightly similar to other books of the same genre.
  5. When printing the book, do not worry about the typesetting. It’s best if you ignore the way professionally published books are typeset, and try to add interesting features, like leaving a line between every paragraph, not indenting the first line of a paragraph, and use a font which will be sure to annoy any potential customers.
  6. Never, ever, allow anyone to edit your work prior to publication. This will ensure that, in worst case scenario someone actually manages to read some of your work when intending to buy it, the number of typos and misspelt words and general bad grammar will ensure that they quickly close the book and move on.
  7. Always make your books more expensive than any other book on the market.


I’m sure you can add to the above with some more excellent ways to ensure that you never sell a book. Good luck.

Thanks for reading. Take care,
Love, Anne x

Thanks for reading.
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Handmade and Homegrown Festival at Hever Castle

So, I survived the festival at Hever Castle. Three whole days of selling (not my favourite activity). I’ve never done a big festival before, so was unsure of what to expect. Mostly it was good.

I did of course have help. Mum came, and did a brilliant job enticing people to buy. She had her new phone with her, and took lots of photos. Son 2 had shown her how to use it (it’s a smart phone – too smart for me.) Unfortunately he didn’t also teach her what to do should it fall out of her pocket and into the next cubicle when using public loos! Luckily the nice person next to her slid it back under the partition, and she didn’t get accused of trying to take dodgy photos.

Husband came too, and turned out to be an excellent salesperson – even if some of his methods were somewhat unethical. When someone is clearly having trouble controlling a very strong dog, is it okay to whistle, so the dog runs to your stall pulling the owner behind them? Not sure (but we did sell her a book). And if a coach-load of ladies from Holland arrive, to look at the quilting show, is it okay to sell one a book, even though she doesn’t actually speak much English? And I’m also not sure about the : “Would you like an apple? If you bring your Mum here to buy a book, you can have one,” technique, used on small children – but again, it made a sale.

I’m not quite sure what my mum’s selling technique was. But she would disappear with a book (perhaps to have lunch, or to use the loo) and after a while, someone would approach my stall, saying they had bought the book from an elderly lady, who had told them I would sign it for them…..Exactly how you manage to sell a book whilst in the loo is beyond me!

I was sent the instructions for when to arrive, the code for the back entrance to the castle (very exciting!) and a plan showing where my pitch was. It was a big area. We arrived fairly early, to find several people were there already. We were in a marquee, and because the day before had been wet (when they put it up) there were constant drips of water from the ceiling. People who do this event every year (which seemed to be most people) had come prepared with towels and mops and sheets of plastic to cover their stock. I had not. It was all a bit stressful, as a book that has been dripped on would be ruined. We set up the tables, and left all the books and bookmarks in plastic crates, hoping the drips would eventually stop. They did.

Most stall holders were very nice, and they all seemed to know each other. A few were a bit territorial (we had all been allocated a 3m square, and some used the whole width for their own stall, and then expected to walk through their neighbour’s space when they wanted to walk around, meaning their neighbour had to have a smaller stall.) I guess everyone had spent hours making their products, and were keen that it should be shown at its best. I overheard a few tense conversations about the positioning of stands.

However, the absolutely best thing of all was being at Hever Castle. We arrived early each morning, when the grounds were empty. The grass was damp, the sun was not too hot, and the swans were wandering along the bank. All I needed was a swooshy skirt and a horse. It is a beautiful place. Anne Boleyn grew up there, and you can’t help but think that she’d have been so much happier if she’d just stayed there and married a farmer. That’s what I would’ve done.

If you’ve never visited, put it on your list, it’s lovely.

Thank you for reading.
Take care,
Anne x


Officially an Author

Thank you everyone who has bought my book. I am very excited by how many have sold already (in fact, I am very excited by the whole thing. Am not being very ‘cool’ about this!) It is in four local bookshops – picture below. I realise I should have renamed myself something beginning with an earlier letter in the alphabet (did you know that Lee Child did that? His real name is something completely different, but he wanted his books to be near Agatha Christie’s!) My book will be spotted by people who like to lie on the floor in bookshops. Still extremely wonderful though.


It is very strange hearing people talk about my book. I am too close to it, when I write I climb inside the characters, so I don’t always know how other people will see them.

Here are some of the comments so far :

“The first two pages are brilliant” {I am hoping that means he’s only read two pages!}

“That Esther really moans a lot.”

“When I read the bit about {no spoilers!} I laughed for ages.”

“Is this book about me?” {NO! All the characters are fictional. Don’t start thinking that – my next one is about a psychopath!}

“No idea what your book is like – I can’t get it away from my husband!”

“It’s a real page turner.”

“Cynthia is shocking. Really shocking.”

“I cannot believe you wrote that bit!”

Have you bought a copy? When is the last time you tried a new author?

Hidden Faces final cover 6 July 2016

Hidden Faces by Anne E Thompson, published by The Cobweb Press. Available from Amazon:

Thank you.

Publishing a Book – Part Four


When your book has been written, edited, typeset, proofread (sweated over, prayed over, cried over….) it will be ready to send to the printer. Now all you need to worry about is selling it. This is, I think, the main (and massive) disadvantage to self-publishing. So, how to overcome the problem?

Son-the-marketing-expert had lots of advice (really, lots – many, many hours worth – I have summarised.) He strongly suggested that before I even thought about selling, I should listen to some focus groups. He told me to think about my target audience and ask groups of people some questions. This was not within my comfort zone, so I thought I would just email questionnaires to some friends. This apparently is ineffective, as when a focus group discusses, they remind each other of things, so the results are better. I was told that after listening (trying to not influence the discussion) I should decide where and how I would advertise and sell my book. Here are some of the questions:

Were they influenced by price? – So, would a very cheap or very expensive book make them more or less likely to buy?
Most people said they were unaffected by price, as long as it was within the ‘normal’ price for a paperback book. If it was cheaper, some people said they would be suspicious of the quality unless it was marked “special offer”.

Where do they buy books? Would they consider buying a book from somewhere different (for example, a charity shop or coffee shop or community hall.)?
Older people and avid readers tended to prefer shops to Amazon. If there was a display of books somewhere unusual, they would look at them and possibly buy one.

Before buying a book, do they read some of it first? If so, where would they do that? (Would they remove a book from a shelf to read it, or more likely to pick it up from a display on a table top?)
Definitely table top.

When did they last buy a new author, and why? (Was it recommended by a friend, seen in a review?)
Reviews in newspapers or on radio scored highly here.

Would they look at a book that came with a ‘special deal’? For example, ‘buy the book, get a bar of chocolate for free’. {I told my son this was silly, no one would buy a book just because it had a bar of chocolate attached! He told me ask anyway, so I did. One of my friends told me that in China, a new author did exactly that – if you bought the book, you got a free mobile phone! The author made a massive loss, but her book rose to the top of the best sellers list. Her subsequent books made a profit and she is now a well known author. Interesting…}
Everyone I asked agreed this was silly!

What types of cover attract your attention?
Some looked at books with scenes from the television. Many liked people or ‘cosy scenes’ on the front.



I dutifully asked the questions and thought about the answers. This guided the types of places I decided to advertise and display my book.

If you persuade local bookshops to stock your book, they will want to receive a certain amount per book (between 35% and 50% mark up, depending on the shop. So, £2 or £3 per book.) You also have to deliver the books to the shop and collect them if they don’t sell, as shops tend to be willing to take them on a ‘sale or return’ basis. If it’s a bookshop in your town, that’s easy.

If you decide to sell through a big London shop (say Foyles or WH Smith) then you will need to factor in travel/delivery costs. Large bookshops (like Foyles) will sell self-published books. Each shop has different criteria, and you may need to use a wholesaler, which is expensive. For Foyles, you have to write a submission, much like when trying to find an agent, and they decide whether your book is suitable for their shop. You need to decide if it’s worth the time/money. You can find all the details online (sometimes it is hard to find – try clicking on the ‘contact us’ button, it’s often there.) I will explain about wholesalers in my future blogs, as there’s a lot to say.

Amazon also charges to sell. If you use Amazon, you can either use ‘fulfilled by Amazon’ in which case, they will store (for a price) and send out (for a price) your book. Or, you can post the book yourself. For my size of book, an envelope cost 35p, UK postage was £3:35 and US postage cost £7:80. If you aren’t a US resident and you want to sell on (to US customers) you have to register for US tax. You need to think about if you are away/ill – will someone else send out your books for you, or will your customers have to wait a few weeks?

As can be seen, even selling the book is expensive and relatively time consuming. The basic cost of your book depends on how many you print (which should depend on how many you think you will sell.) As a rough guide, if you print 500 copies, your costs are likely to be as follows:

Indemnity Insurance : £175
Formatting : £302
ISBN (for ten titles): £149
Editing : £750
Printing : £1,051
Barcode: £35
Cover Format: £35
Cover photo : £50
Proofreader : £300

If you add the amount a small shop requires for selling the book, this comes to roughly £7:99 per book. This is the price of the average novel. So, if you want to make any profit at all, your book will cost more than the average book on the shelf. You need to listen carefully to your focus groups. If people in your target audience (and this will depend on the type of book you have written) are affected by price, then consider carefully how many books you will print.

If, realistically, you are only going to sell to your close friends and favourite aunty, then probably price matters less but you will need fewer books.

If you are trying to launch a new career, you hope your book will become popular, that your friends will recommend it to their friends, will buy a second copy for their mother’s Christmas present, then I would recommend keeping the price of the book down. Try to cover your costs, but don’t expect to make a profit. Not even a penny. None. If you give books to your nearest and dearest, they are not ‘free’ books, they are a gift, which has cost you £6 (not that this should deter you, but you should be aware.)

If people help you, if they recommend your book, if they buy a copy as a gift for someone you don’t know, if your market place grows, then you can do a second print of your book. Then, all your fixed costs (editing, formatting, etc) will already be covered, then you will make a profit. You might turn out to be the next JK Rowling – making 50p per book on a couple of million books, is not to be sniffed at. But probably you shouldn’t plan for that. Probably you shouldn’t start looking at new cars just yet….

I will let you know how my own writing career develops in my regular blogs. Next week I’ll let you know how I get on in the ‘big’ shops (going to Waterstones tomorrow – very scary!)

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Thank you for reading.

Hidden Faces by Anne E. Thompson will be available to buy very soon…….(Which is both exciting and terrifying.)