My editor asked me to share my suggestions for selling books. This is what I came up with.
I feel that, now as a published writer, I am on that thin line between self-promotion and all of the things that go with it and just hoping to join in with the community and conversation with writers. I've found the key is to stay humble, to avoid schmoozing, and stay supportive of others alongside my own efforts of getting my book into someone's hands.
As a Managing Editor of a small press for some time now, I feel the obligation to buy copies of my chapbook, as well as promote myself alongside promoting the press. I created a platform--with a website. I had postcards printed through an online printer, many of which I passed out at AWP. A friend of mine even said he saw people picking them up to read them. On the postcard, I featured the cover art and blurbs, with more blurbs on the back.
Even though I've set up consignments with bookstores, I have had the most success with local places that recognize me, my name. Part of this recognition comes from years of hosting open-mic poetry nights. Maybe that is a suggestion? To stay humble, be supportive of others, and find venues of support: newspaper articles, open-mic nights, etc.
For actually selling your book, here are my suggestions (some I haven't done yet, but have seen work well):
A collegue of mine pointed out that books rarely sell in bookstores--even with readings! It's better to think about audience. I placed my books in bookstores, art galleries, and plan on visiting groups my subject matter appeals to. Even with bookstore readings, get your books to them well in advance--then have the reading.
Invest in a platform website! Place everything on it, staying humble.
Have someone host a reading of you and two friends at a coffeehouse. Share the mic, so your friends invite their friends and people will show up.
Have a friend host a reading for you in her or his house/apartment, inviting her or his friends to it. They can introduce you. Have snacks and beverages on hand.
Book reviews are hard to find a venue for. Don't pay for a book review. amazon.com is the new venue for book reviews! If someone praises your work, explain this to them and ask if they could post it. (Kristin Prevallet asked me to do this for her. In turn, she wrote the most powerful blurb for my chapbook. I still have yet to meet her.)
Restrain the impulses of schmoozing! I went back to apologize to an editor for sounding like I was schmoozing. It does not help you with your book, or with future publications. No one likes schmoozers.
I have given many copies away because I know I am not in publishing for a profit. One of the worst things I hear as an editor, writer, or person is: "How much can I make? What are the royalties like?" We, as writers, should put our art first and never discuss the idea of money, ownership of material, etc. Stay positive! Support others! Be humble! Stay away from discussing money, except if someone asks how much your book is.
I hope this helps!