My Indigo Experience

Last Saturday I had my very first official bookstore signing at the busiest location available in my entire province. I was excited by prospect of being in a target rich environment with the potential to move many books. I could not imagine a better opportunity but I did make myself a personal pledge to go into it with no expectations and no hopes.


From 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. I sold 4 books. The total money made for the store was $83.96. My personal profit was about $12.00. I did not take the pushy approach; I did not sit insecurely behind my table. I moved around the store. I struck up conversations with shoppers. I feel confident I got every sale I should have so why so few sales?

I was set up in the front of the store, at the mall entrance near the till so people saw me as they were entering and leaving. However many of the people coming in avoided my table choosing to come in away from my position. Next time I will pick a better location.

I was incredibly upset to discover I did forget a pivotal piece to erect my banner properly. This was a huge mistake. From my last sale I saw how helpful the banner was at illustrating with a quick glance what the book is about. More importantly it really helps me stand out in a busy environment.

According to the staff the store was not as busy as it normally should have been. It seemed busy enough to me; there was a great deal of traffic. However the store is also a mall entrance and many of the people were not at Indigo to purchase books, but were just passing through on their way to the rest of the mall.

Those who lingered and browsed were selecting nonfiction. In fact one of the staff actually pointed out how little fiction is really in the store. Only thirty percent of the books are actually fiction. Contemporary romantic fiction is a small part of this segment.

The last and scariest reason I discovered because I was stationed so close to the till and I was able to see what people were purchasing. Over half of the purchases made were not books, but rather items from the other part of the store, for example, toys from the children’s’ section, curtain hangers from the home decorating section, and dishes from the giftware section. It was truly shocking to see the traffic was steady, but the purchases were few books or no books at all.

I deeply want my writing to contribute financially to my family. I realize this is a goal that will not be accomplished overnight; I must be prepared to do the work. After this experience it is hard not to wonder if writing books is a pipe dream. Seven hours put $12.00 in my pocket. Actually that is a horrible lie because I left the store having bought double the number of books I sold and it cost me at least a hundred in fifty dollars in travel expenses. I’m left wondering if this is really the best use of my time?

Indigo would like me to come back and it wasn’t so difficult a work day that I have any anxiety about doing it again. It’s all part of the learning process and I am committed to learning every aspect of book sales and promotion so when my year is done I will be wiser, more experienced, and I will have all the information necessary to proceed more successfully in the future.

Once the disappointment wore off I got to thinking about sales and fan base. I have sold three hundred print copies of my novel; I have sold fifty digital editions. I know my book has been shared by many. The copies I have put in the library system have been steadily lent out. I may not have hit five hundred sold copies yet but I am close to having five hundred readers of my work. That is something.

This fall is going to be exceptionally busy with several events each month and I am hoping to line up more. I am honored to find out I will once again be a book club selection at another library plus I am going to be a guest speaker for another town’s cultural days. I have several library visits set up, and two book sales with other authors which I am really looking forward to. I have 200 books to go and then I will be able to focus on my work in progress. One thing about being on the road it doesn’t get the next book done. At least I have a very clear perspective that if I am ever going to make a living at this, it is going to happen one book at a time and one sale at a time.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to encourage me and give me some advice. It really made a difference!

16 thoughts on “My Indigo Experience

  1. davidconfidential

    I’m sorry it didn’t go better. I don’t really want to like this because it isn’t happy but I gather the business is very hard and patience is needed.

    1. ShannonRaelynn Post author

      Oh absolutely! Unfortunately I was not gifted with patience. So now I have to learn it 🙂

  2. Jill Weatherholt

    Thank you for your honest post, Shannon. I could feel your disappointment, but I hope you’ll press on and look forward to the upcoming events with excitement. I did have to laugh when I read that you left the bookstore having purchased so many books….we must be related! 🙂

    1. ShannonRaelynn Post author

      I have to say it was a discouraging day, but I am philosophical. I understand it was one event one day. Who knows what will come if I keep plugging away? I know what will happen if I stop, nothing. Are you a bookie too? I am sick. I really am. I can’t help myself. I LOVE books!

  3. 1WriteWay

    Shannon, I am so sorry that the book signing didn’t result in better sales. Given your overall sales, the libraries and your speaking engagements, I think you are doing all the right things, except for Indigo. Even though they want you to come back, are they really the best venue for your book? If their customers tend to buy nonfiction, is it worth your time to try and sell your novel there? It sounds like it was a great learning experience for you, and I really appreciate that you’ve shared it with us. Personally, I’d be hesitant to go back to Indigo. I know sometimes you have to spend money to make money, but I would hope you could find a better, more compatible venue.

    1. ShannonRaelynn Post author

      I have to say as I sat there and felt the clock tick by I had the thought more than once that I need to consider my time. I am uncertain if I will return. If I do it will again be with no expectations, and to gather more facts and information. My biggest problem is it is so far from home, and it is for sure a money losing venture. I’d have to go get my books regardless if they don’t sell, so maybe I might return one more time in the fall. Thanks for the encouragement!

      1. 1WriteWay

        Do you know what kind of advertising there was for the book signing? If you have to go back anyway, maybe they or you could bump up the advertising a bit. Is there a local library there that could help? I’m sure there are readers in that area who would love to buy your novel, but maybe the bookstore’s adverts didn’t reach them.

      2. ShannonRaelynn Post author

        The store does nothing for advertising. They don’t even put up a sign saying author in the store. You have to be a significant author before they will advertise. I have to say I blew it from my end as well. I could have done more. I didn’t even ask the couple of people in the area I knew to pop by and share my event on their Facebook pages. If I go back I will have to put more effort and see if that helps.

    2. ShannonRaelynn Post author

      I have not made a decision for sure if I will return but if I do it will once again be with no expectations. Although it very well may be a waste of time, I want to make sure I don’t jump to negative conclusions based on one day in one bookstore. But I have to get a handle on the book buying!

  4. wantonwordflirt

    I was sad to hear that sales at Indigo were so poor. I agree with 1WriteWay; perhaps better to find a Chapters store instead, or similar venue, with a greater emphasis on books alone, and a greater balance of fiction / non-fiction.

    You have not done anything wrong as far as promotion / marketing….all the things you have done are great. I think you will do better at the group author visit / book sales, as well as in the small towns at libraries (they will be thrilled to have a real, live author come to visit!)

    It is hard when you are an Indie self-published author with zero marketing budget…..not like you could take out a full page ad in the Calgary Herald announcing your visit, or a billboard on Calgary trail. Darn!

    One thing I did think of doing (albeit too late for this last signing), is on the Friday night I had posted messages about your signing at Indigo on the Romance Writers of Alberta FB page, and also various Calgary writing group pages, in the hope that some local authors and aspiring ones might come out to meet you / buy your book, but as I say it was late Friday night when I got home / thought about it. Maybe that might be something you want to do next time you are headed to a particular city.

    Oh, and I just had a thought…next time you are at an event like that with your banner, you may want to ad a sign to it saying “Author In-Store Now” and have right by door.

    Most of all don’t be down on yourself, the number of books you have sold already is quite an accomplishment, and I know sales will continue to grow, as will people’s awareness of you as an author. You will sell all your books, I have no doubt! 🙂

    1. ShannonRaelynn Post author

      I really did not do a great job of advertising in anyway before I left. I did have a few friends in the area and I could have asked them to share my posting, well before I went and even while I was there. I have to admit, this part is just not my forte. I wish it was, but my on the job learning is slow. thanks so much as always for the tips and suggestions. I really do listen and try them! There is no one’s advice I trust more!

      1. Rettna

        Suzanne! … you have such excellent ideas 🙂
        Shannon … in my opinion, just putting the suggestions made above into play for the “next time” is worthy of seeing how much difference can be seen.

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