Best Practices for Selling Your Book at Events - article

It doesn't get more satisfying than selling your book in person directly to a reader. You make a connection, leave an impression, and walk away with a little more money in your pocket. But for new authors, selling your book in person presents a new set of questions. What kind of payments should you accept? What are your legal obligations? Here are the best practices for handling in-person transactions when selling your book at events.

Accept credit card payments

These days, people don't want to pay with cash. In fact, seventy-five percent of consumers prefer to use credit or debit cards, while only eleven percent prefer using cash, according to a 2016 TSYS survey. You limit your sales if cash is all you accept.

Consider accepting credit card payments to maximize your sales potential. There are numerous mobile card reader options that make it easy for you to accept credit and debit cards, as well as alternative payment types, such as Apple Pay and Android Pay. 

How it works

Processing credit cards and alternative payment options is easier than you might think. With the introduction of mobile card readers, anyone with a legitimate business can process cards and take payments. The leading mobile card readers share similar basic functions. Here's how it works:

1. You need hardware to read the credit cards. Companies offer either a card reading device that plugs into your smartphone or tablet's headphone jack, or they offer a standalone device to process the payment. You can purchase the hardware online or in select retail stores. 

2. The card reader is paired with an application that provides a variety of services and options to help you manage and record your sales—from sending receipts to figuring tax and discounts to running reports. 

3. You're charged a fee for transactions, typically around 2.7% per swipe for U.S. cards, with increased rates for keyed in card payments or international cards. 

4. Your money shows up in an account (minus any transaction fees). Where your money goes and the time it takes before the money appears varies per reader. 

Mobile card reader options for authors

While most card readers are similar, the differences are in the details. Make sure to review your card reader's terms carefully and choose the one that's best for you. Here are several mobile card reader options to consider:

Square Reader: Square offers a simple yet complete option for authors to begin accepting payments. Square takes 2.75% per U.S. card swipe without any other monthly fees or contracts. It works with the Square Point of Sale app, which provides simple, easy-to-use functions, as well as more robust features if needed. You can receive a magnetic strip card reader which plugs into your smartphone for free. But if you want to accept more payment types, such as chip cards, Apple Pay, and Android Pay, you can purchase the standalone Square Contactless and Chip Reader. Customers' payments are available in your bank account as soon as the next business day. 

PayPal Here: PayPal Here is similar to Square, offering both a magnetic card reader and standalone card reader option. They charge 2.7% per U.S. card swipe, with no contract or monthly fees. The notable difference with PayPal Here is that your funds are made available immediately to you through your PayPal account. You can withdraw the money via an ATM using a PayPal debit card. The benefit is that you can access your money right away, even after business hours and on weekends, as long as you don't mind the extra step to access it through your PayPal account instead of your bank account. 

PayAnywhere: Much like the competition, PayAnywhere offers both a magnetic card reader and standalone card reader option. Apple recently started carrying PayAnywhere card readers in their stores, probably since PayAnywhere's standalone 3-in-1 Reader accepts contactless payment, such as Apple Pay. The fees are comparable to Square and PayPal, at 2.69% per swipe. One difference is that for a monthly fee, the Storefront option drops the cost per swipe to only 1.69%. But this option isn't for authors occasionally selling at events, as you have to charge thousands per month in card sales to avoid an additional fee. 

QuickBooks GoPayment: If you're a fan of QuickBooks or are already using it, this option might be for you. The GoPayment Reader and app plug right into QuickBooks, which makes accounting a breeze. The card reader accepts magnetic swipe cards and chip cards, but doesn't accept contactless NFC. The pricing is a little different than the other options at 2.4 % plus $0.25 per swiped transaction, with additional fees for business rewards, Discover, or American Express cards. This option might be for you if you're looking for an extremely robust payment and accounting solution. 

Do you need a chip reader?

There's no law that requires you to have a chip reader. However, swiping a chip card can put you at risk. In October 2015, the legal responsibility shifted from the credit card company to the merchant. If you process a counterfeit or stolen chip card using a magnetic swipe card reader, you may be responsible for any chargebacks and fees resulting from the fraud. Square provides additional information about the liability shift

Price your book for ease of purchase

When selling your book in person, the price is ultimately up to you. Even if your book typically sells for $14.99 retail, you can offer special event pricing that makes cash sales easier. Don't create a headache for yourself by charging a price that's going to require extra work for you. Plan your price so that you can easily make change, or—even better—so that your buyers will typically have the correct amount.

Include sales tax

Don't forget to include sales tax in your book pricing when selling your book at events. To stay on the right side of the law, you must collect sales tax on the books you sell in-person and online. Tax rates and rules vary by state, and you may be required to pay state tax to the state where your book event is held. 

Remember to price your book for ease of purchase by including sales tax in the total so that it's a nice, round number. Many of the apps that pair with the mobile card readers can help you calculate sales tax with ease. 

Keep a record of sales

Since you'll need to pay sales tax, you'll need to keep track of sales for reporting purposes. One of the benefits of using a mobile card reader is that the corresponding app usually includes recordkeeping components for card payments, as well as sales made by cash and check. 

Provide take away materials for window shoppers

Some shoppers don't want the hassle of lugging around books at an event and prefer to purchase the titles online. You can still connect with these potential readers and make a lasting impression. However, you don't want to rely on the event attendees' memory for a future sale. Give them something to remember your book, such as a business card or bookmark that features your title and book's cover. 

Plan for a successful book event

By planning ahead, selling your book at events can be a smooth experience. Make sure to review exhibitor information so that you know any rules or restrictions on book sales. Don't forget to promote your book event beforehand, and plan to use your event to create a buzz on social media. 

When you come to an event prepared to take all kinds of card payments, price your book accordingly, keep track of your sales, and provide takeaway materials, you can maximize your book’s sales potential. 

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