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How to Distribute a Book
Introduction and Disclaimer
This lens is about how to distribute a book - but the methods here also apply to distributing pamphlets, stickers, etc. This lens is not for those who want to make a living based on sales. Rather, it is for someone who wants to distribute (for money or for free) an item for an event, for publicity for an event or new business, for church, for school, etc. It is not for those who want to learn how they can sell merchandise for a big company or being a car salesman; this is low-key.
This lens will discuss not only methods for distribution, but also how to conquer nerves, how to get a donation if needed or desired, and how to feel at ease with street distribution. By no means am I a professional; however, I do have experience in book distribution for my temple, and I have done it on the street, in trains, at tables, and door-to-door. The methods and other things I discuss in this lens is what has worked for me and others I have learned from.
How to conquer nervousness?
It's hard to get out there!
Everyone gets nervous. Of course you do! You're about to go out onto the street, or door to door, or sit at a table in the hot sun, and try to get random strangers to pay attention to you, stick around long enough to listen to you, and then at least get your message, if not accept the book or pamphlet you are trying to give out, and then, maybe even give a donation!!
Remember, everyone gets nervous - even the veterans! I have spoken to people who have been book distributing for decades - some who even make a living off of it! - and even they get nervous.
Take a deep breath. You are not alone. Remember why it is that you want to distribute this item. Think about how wonderful it will be when whatever you are trying to promote is successful. If you have distributed before, remember your successes. If you have not, just think - what's the worst that could happen? You get a 'no.' Well, so what? "No" is just one tiny word. It only has as much power as you allow it to.
That brings me to the next point...
Don't let the "no" get you down!
When you get a "No"
Once, I was doing book distribution for my church, trying to fundraise for a big church trip, and for half the day I got "no" from everyone. Around lunch time, I felt just awful. What was I doing wrong? How could I fix it?
I realized then that I had to let go of some of the great urge to control. When you go out to distribute, it's easy to think that you are in control of it all, and how pretty you are, how much you smile, etc. will make or break a deal.
While these things do factor in to the success of your distribution (especially the smile! =D ) they do not make or break it. Sometimes, someone is having a bad day. Sometimes, the timing is not right. Sometimes you don't have the right book for a particular person because you distributed it half an hour earlier. Sometimes you are tired, hungry, etc. and lost your "mojo" and that affected your distribution.
Pick yourself back up after those Nos. Remember, sometimes a day is a No Day. It happens to us all. Try to see what you are doing "off" and improve upon it, but remember - it isn't just all about you, and don't beat yourself up too much.
Another way to let those "no" responses slide off of you is to not hang out on to getting a donation or a sale. Sometimes if you get too wrapped up in getting money, people can sense it, and it turns them off. So, breathe a little. If you give out a couple for free, it's no sweat.
What works - (in my experience)
- Introduce yourself, i.e, "Hi, my name is..." Add a "How are you?" if you'd like, to break the ice.
- Put the in their hand.
- Speak about your item concisely but with enthusiasm. Speak loudly enough that they can hear you, and articulate your words clearly.
- Show them any pictures! Point your finger to relevant points as you speak, so that their eyes follow it, and go at a good pace so they can follow you.
- Give them some time to look at it by themselves. They need some breathing space.
- Answer any and all questions that you can. If you can't answer a question, refer them to a friend, a business card, an email, or simply admit that you don't know the answer. Humility is attractive, especially in distribution, since the difficulty of this task requires you to be somewhat "in their face."
- Give yourself pep talks when you need to!
- Don't be afraid to approach groups. You can hand a couple of them or all of them one of the item you are giving out or selling, and look at them all and point to pictures, etc. on items of different people, so that they all feel involved.
- If you are nervous or stumble, it is ok. Sometimes you can even admit to them that you are nervous; that can be endearing.
- Create a method, or style, that is yours. Although the methods of experts can work for them and earn them success and money, that does not guarantee that they will work for you. Experiment, and see what style works for you.
- Choose your people carefully. It's common sense. Would you choose to stop someone who is wheeling around a corner very fast? Two parents struggling to get their children into their strollers? Someone on a cell phone? Of course not! These people are entirely unavailable, and it is easy to spot who they are.
- Pray a little, if you believe in that. I've found it helps me.
What doesn't work - (in my experience)
- Trying to get it out really fast and get it over with (unless you have to because they are in a big hurry)
- Trying to force a "Yes" out of people when it's obvious that they are really not interested, not even a bit
- Being overly serious or overly sweet. It comes off as intimidating or quite insincere.
- Stopping people who are very occupied - not with conversation, that you can interrupt, but something like a phone call, a business transaction, a rush to catch a bus, these people need to be left alone. You will not be doing yourself or your cause a favor by trying to capture them.
- Trying a style that is really not matched with your personality - for example, I tried to be really outgoing and bubbly and funny, but actually my personality is quite timid and shy. When I tried the style of a different personality type, it fell flat.
- Keeping the item in your hand...you are just talking at the person. Why should they care? But if you put something in their hand, the quickest way they can get rid of it is to hand it back to you. But if you start talking to them...maybe they will hold it longer. And sometimes, that's all you need. One expert told me, when people hold an item for a while, they get attached to it. Sometimes, he said, you can even hand them the item and then casually take it back from them mid-conversation. Then, psychologically they will feel, "That item is mine" and want it back from you!
- Don't start by asking for money. That's one thing most people don't part with easily. In my experience, if I am too obvious about wanting money - even just a kind donation - people don't like it.
Just because it's not easy doesn't mean you shouldn't keep going! Keep at it!
Money is the most difficult part, I find. After all, it's not so difficult once you've introduced yourself to start talking to people; and once you have, it's easy to talk about your topic, because you are enthused!
...but what about the money?
Some people like to be really loud about it. One expert told me to say, "Give as close as you can to one hundred dollars." I think that's all well and good for veterans and people who are very charming or gifted, but for myself, that is too bold.
What I do is, I ask for a donation, and I give them the reason why. For example, "any donation you give will help us to reprint these books." After all, why should they give you their money? They want to know.
Another thing I am careful about is directness. I don't come straight out and ask, "So, want to give a donation?" or even say, "This book costs $10" (unless they ask). Rather, I slip it in at the end, and I talk about the donation as an option, and I don't force them to it.
Sometimes people want to know right away how much it is. Just tell them. Sometimes people don't know how much to give. Suggest a number, (KNOW beforehand what a good price for that item is!) but don't be harsh about it. If they don't have enough, I think accepting a little less is reasonable. But I'm not one of those "big money" distributors. Some are.
If you are, could you give us some more tips in a comment below? Money is the most anxiety-inducing part of this whole thing, in my opinion.
Distributing in a foreign country
I think it is best in a foreign country to be open, be careful, be honest, and don't talk too long to any one person. Also - don't be alone! Really, I cannot speak for distributing in any foreign countries except one - India. It happens to be one of the easiest countries to distribute in!
People are very intrigued by foreigners here; sometimes they do seem to take the book just to talk to me. But other times they seem very interested. I have had a lot of fun promoting various causes here in India. I just be myself and answer their curious questioning - "Where are you from? What do you do?" and I ask questions of my own to show them I care.
The books pretty much distribute themselves!
I can't speak on distributing in Europe, Africa, South America, Canada, China, etc. If anyone would like to share any experiences in these countries...?
"Have a nice day!" or "Thank you for your time!" and SMILE!
Does this lens need work still? Did you like it? Dislike it? Why?
Also, any stories you have, please share! One of the best things about distribution, especially out on the streets, are the success stories, the miracle stories, and the funny stories!