Subject: How I Sold 75,000 Copies at the Bologna Book Fair

Dear Friend,

Yes, you read that right, there’s no typo here. I sold 75 THOUSAND copies thanks to the Bologna Book Fair and below I’ll give you the exact recipe on how you can sell foreign rights to your books (traditionally or independently published) too. This information is relevant if you plan on going to any book fair where foreign rights are sold, in any genre.

1. First of all you should have your books displayed at the fair. If you are traditionally published, negotiate with your publisher. If you are independently published you have two options:
  • You can get a stand and sit there hoping that someone will come over and express interest in your books. You can throw a couple thousand dollars at it and sit there yourself or you can find other authors (collective stand) and share the cost. The pro is that you can potentially sell your books there but that’s not what those fairs are for, and you’d probably sell just a few copies anyway. The con is that you can’t move from your stand and it will most probably be located off the main halls were the serious business happens. I don’t recommend this approach (I’ve done it in the past and I learnt the hard way).
  • You can get your books displayed by a third party. I know two companies that do this: Foreword Reviews and The American Collective Stand. This is the approach I recommend.

2. Go to the fair. Go check out your book displayed at the fair and start talking to the people representing it. That’s how I scored a Foreign Rights Agent last year. Come equipped. You need catalogues, business cards and possibly a poster. At the Bologna Book Fair there’s a huge wall where you can stick your poster to. Then interested parties photograph this wall and someone might fall in love with your work this way!

3. Go scout. It’s show time. Now that you have your poster on the wall, the people displaying your book equipped with your catalogues, the hard work starts. You want to get foreign publishers to buy your book rights. You have hundreds of publishers right there, so it can get a little overwhelming. Here’s what you do:

  • Approach a stand and check out their books, see if your titles would be a good fit for that publisher. I usually start right off the bat, asking if they are potentially interested in acquiring foreign rights. Some will say that they only want to sell, not buy. No problem, move on.
  • If they say yes, tell them that you checked out their books (on the shelves) and that you think your work might be a good fit for them. Ask them if you can show them your books.
  • They will usually say yes. Now it’s time to brag. Whip out your books and catalogues and start your pitch. I always mention 3 things:
  1. The awards the books received. Publishers are very excited if your books are award winning. They loved the Readers’ Favorite Book Awards I received. (By the way, late deadline this year is June 1st and you can submit your book in any genre here: http://bit.ly/1vLelPm)
  2. That my books are #1 Amazon best-sellers in their categories and that I managed to get 100 reviews in 3 days for my latest releases. Publishers were VERY impressed by this. And it’s not so difficult to achieve if you know what to do. I detail it here: 100 Review Book Launch: http://alinkarutkowska.com/100-review-book-launch-2/
  3. My sales in absolute numbers. This is optional and it gets better over time. If you have substantial sales or if you have already sold rights to other countries - do tell! 
  • If you see that the publisher is interested, leave them your catalogue. If you see that they are VERY interested, leave them a copy of your book. Always ask for their contacts (acquisition editor) and then follow up after the fair. If you have a Foreign Rights Agent, give the contacts to them and they will follow up.
The scouting is very tiring and requires a completely different set of skills than writing a book does. But you get better with every pitch.

A few tips:
  • If possible bring an assistant (or friend) who will scout for you as well - you will get much more done much faster.
  • Series sell. Publishers like series and they might want to buy your whole catalogue (yes, it happens!).
  • Don’t get discouraged. If one publisher says your book is not for them, move on. The next one might be over the moon about your ideas.
  • Ask for advice. If publishers don’t like your books, ask them why and how you could improve. Ask them what they are looking for and you might be able to provide them exactly that the following year.
  • Dress smart. First impressions count - be professional.
  • Wear comfortable shoes - there’s a lot of walking involved.
  • Have fun! You’re supposed to be enjoying this, you’re getting your work out there, it’s exciting!
Alinka Rutkowska

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