Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The Mysterious Case of the Missing Mild Erotica OR How to Sell Poetry Books

Mildly Erotic Verse has been selling briskly, so I ordered a reprint a few weeks ago. I timed it well, as I ran out of copies on the exact day the new books were due, but... they never arrived.

Now, I use a nice, slightly pricey printer precisely so I don't have to panic in such situations, and I'm confident that they will sort it all out for me. However, I did feel a twinge of alarm when they informed me that FedEx had delivered my books to my neighbour J. Johnson in number 21, as the flats in my building only go up to 14. Who are you, J. Johnson, and why did you sign for a box marked MILDLY EROTIC VERSE?

FedEx will return to this not-my address today, retrieve the box, and redeliver to me tomorrow. It's going to be fine. But part of me wonders what if J. Johnson decides to keep the books. At £10 a pop, that box is worth £1000! Mildly Erotic Verse is a handsome-looking volume, and sex sells, right?

I'd rather have my books back, J. Johnson, but who am I to extinguish the hopes of a bright new poetry salesperson when there are so few of us out there as it is? If you really want to make a quick grand off poetry books, I can only wish you well. Here are some tips to get you started:

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How to sell (stolen) poetry books

  1. Read it. Read the book so you understand what it's about and why someone might like to buy it. Then you'll have the makings of a sales pitch, which you can refine according to the customer. For example, you could say to your mum: 'Mildly Erotic Verse is a thoughtfully-assembled collection of contemporary poetry. Don't let the title fool you – it's definitely erotic, but not in a queasy way. It makes a great gift, and also a treat for yourself. I loved it so much I stole a box of it.'
  2. Put yourself in the readers' shoes. Now you've identified why someone might like to buy this book, think about who might like it. Mildly Erotic Verse is edited by two twenty-something women, presumably according to their tastes and what they wanted to see available in the world, so you could create one customer profile around them. Something like: twenty-something women interested in feminism, activism and the arts. 
  3. Sell direct. If you try to sell the books in bookshops, you're not going to get that full £1k, and you certainly won't get it quickly. If you want these books off your hands within a couple of months, try running some events and selling at craft fairs. You can't contact any of the poets in the book in case they alert me, but you could still book the upstairs room in a pub somewhere and bill it as an open-mic night for erotic verse. If the pub charges you a booking fee, you could charge for entry to the event, though then you would have to spend quite a lot of time promoting it to make sure people come. 
  4. Stay local. If you want to make £50k on poetry books, you have to go national, if not global. If you want to make £1k, you should probably focus on your local area. You don't want to cut into the k with travel expenses and shipping costs, and also you're far more likely to catch people's attention and sell books if you can say the word 'local' frequently and with conviction. 
  5. Share your story. Maybe a grand is all you need to step on a plane and glide towards a new country and identity. If you can afford to burn bridges and get your name on an Interpol list, why not brand yourself as the Mildly Erotic Maverick and tell everyone about how you took a chance on a box of books? Gain a bit of local notoriety, boost it by getting kicked out of Ann Summers for loitering round their book section with a bin bag, then sign all your remaining copies of Mildly Erotic Verse and charge more for these special editions. 
Godspeed, J. Johnson.

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Legitimate copies of Mildly Erotic Verse are available to buy on the Emma Press website for £10 here. Any books posted out from tomorrow will be the very ones featured in this blog.

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