Tuesday, April 14, 2009

How to Sell 50 books (and More) at a Book Signing

I mentioned James Megellas in an earlier post. Here's an article I wrote about him a few years ago. James is now in his 90's and still selling his book.

I met Jim at the Books-a-Million in Grapevine Mills Mall in Grapevine, Texas on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. He was at a table set up by the entrance where thousands of people passed by that day. I couldn’t help but notice that nearly everyone who stopped at his table purchased one of his books, All the Way to Berlin.

“How are book sales?” I asked.

“Pretty good today. There’re lots of people buying my book for
Christmas presents.”

“How many do you suppose you’ll sell today?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I’ve never sold less than 50 books at
a book signing.”

50 books! I’ve never heard of an “unknown” author selling those numbers at a book signing. I decided I better get to know Jim a little better.

James Megellas, Jim, was a 1st Lieutenant in the 82nd Airborne Division during WWII. He fought in the mountains outside Naples then was part of the landing at Anzio. Jim’s brigade, the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, nicknamed “Devils in Baggy Pants,” were so decimated by the carnage at Anzio that it did not rejoin its division until the famous “bridge too far” campaign of September 1944. At the end of the war, Jim was part of the occupation forces in Berlin.

Jim was the most highly decorated officer in the 82nd Airborne Division. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, two Bronze Stars, and two Purple Hearts.

Jim is now 86 years old. He started writing his book about his experiences in WWII at age 80. “Writing the book revitalized me,” commented Jim. It sure did. Jim is the youngest looking 86-year-old I’ve ever seen. Presidio Press picked up his book and before it was published, Ballentine purchased Presidio. So when the book came out, Ballentime Books with the Presidio Press imprint appeared on the title page.

“How did you get so many sales at your first book signing?” I asked.

Jim chuckled at that question and told me the story. His son called a local “sports talk” radio station, “The Ticket” and told them about his dad and the book. One of the talk show teams wanted to interview Jim on their show. Jim had already set up a book signing at the local Barnes and Noble Bookstore, so when he was interviewed on the air, the guys really talked up the book signing. They had such a great time with the interview that Jim was on for the whole show and after he was off the hosts continued to talk up the book signing. When Jim finally arrived at the B & N to sign books, there was a long line of people waiting on him. They sold 125 books. Jim had to start signing book plates to put in the books when they restocked.

After that, both major newspapers in Dallas and Ft. Worth reviewed the book and Jim continued to have successful signings throughout the DFW area.

Jim was also a lecturer at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum. The museum did a nice postcard with Jim’s book cover and a picture of him during the War that they sent out to their members. After the lecture, Jim sold over 150 books, ran out and had to take orders for more. He will be doing similar lectures elsewhere. On January 29th, Jim will be at the D-Day Museum in New Orleans and will sign books afterwards.

I noticed that Jim was not shy about talking to everyone who passed his table.

Each person he talked to, he attempted to establish a link between them and to the subject of his book. “Are you a veteran?” or “Is your father a veteran?” or “Do you know a veteran?” are some of the questions that start out the conversation. He would then go on to tell about his WWII book. Nearly everyone he spoke to bought the book.

Jim showed me a letter from a company in Ontario, California. He has been invited to be a guest at 2004’s “Weekend of Heroes.” The company is making an action figure of Jim in his Anzio battle outfit for the event. I’m sure he’ll sell lots of books when he’s there.

Several people came up just to shake Jim’s hand and say “Thanks” for defending our country. When I left, I not only thanked Jim for being a veteran, I thanked him for showing me how to conduct a great book signing!


  1. Wow, just in time for my run at promoting my book! Very useful and inspiring article.

  2. Hi, Dan,

    This is a terrific article. You talk about an author that did everything right in book promotion. I do think nonfiction does better in general. But each book even fiction can address an area of information interesting to the public.
    Also, thanks for your valuable newsletter.

    Jacqueline Seewald
    new mystery release! THE DROWNING POOL, Five Star/Gale--check it out on Amazon, B&N online or
    request it at your local library!

  3. This is an inspiring article. I will take this advice. I have a book to sell soon.

  4. Thanks for the inspiration and ideas Dan,- I guess talking or interacting with any visitors near enough to hear you is key for a good book signing. This was a very moving story too - Now a little pep talk for us very shy violets would be good too = ) Thanks so much.
    Billie A Williams

  5. Thanks, Dan. I have a new Ebook out and will use some of those ideas for this as well.

  6. Hi Dan,

    Great article. I'll mention it in my Writer Shout Out this week. I really admire anyone who can write a book. I am lucky to get 1,500 coherent words out for an article. :)

    Angela Neal


    Now I Twitter all my latest writing! @sparklyscotty

  7. I have always interacted with passer-bys. One can't just sit!

    However, as stated above, non-fiction does do much better than fiction. Especially history. At multi-author events, the one with the interesting history book always outsells the others by two and three times as many books.

    L. Diane Wolfe “Spunk On A Stick”

  8. Thanks for a great article Dan. I'm going back to Ohio for a visit in October and was planning on bringing 20 books with me. Maybe I'll up it to 50.
    Tom Botts

  9. Thanks for that great information. My eBook is now available and I will use that.

  10. Very inspirational indeed and it just goes to show that writing keeps the mind and body young.

  11. Just came across your blog this week Dan-Great job! I will read regularly. My book, Organize Now, has been out for almost a year. It has done well, 112,000 copies so far, but it takes A LOT of dedication and work. I am happy to read what you write and chat with other authors here.

  12. What a great story! Thanks for the inspiration Dan. I'm new to your blog, but I WILL be back.

  13. Amazing. Jim is a great example of a man with many stories to tell. Jim is older and it is interesting how writers from the 70+ range have wonderful views on their knowledge. To be so decorated, have a proud child and move forward knowing someone has heard about your book is the ideal situation. Great article Dan!