Chances are, you have never heard of the book Hell Hawks!: The Untold Story of the American Fliers Who Savaged Hitler's Wehrmachtby Robert F. Dorr and Thomas Jones. It's definitely a niche book, probably of interest mainly to aviation enthusiasts and World War II history buffs. It has also sold more than 24,000 copies in less than two years. Incredibly, half of those sales have been made at one bookstore. That's right: one store.
According to Publisher's Weekly, that bookstore is located in the Udvar-Hazy Center in Washington D.C., which is affiliated with the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. The items that can't be displayed at the main center are located at the Udvar-Hazy Center.
Dorr's first book signing at the center's bookstore sold about 12 copies, but since then he has done 330 more signings at the same store. Talk about targeting a book's niche market! The bookstore at the center typically orders about 1,000 copies of Hell Hawks! each month, and Dorr sells about 120 copies at each signing.
According to the PW article: "Dorr attributes his success to his strategy of "engaging people, getting them interested." He greets store customers, introducing himself by name, before discussing the book, and scrupulously avoids small talk that may distract him or the customer from the book. "The instant I decide the person is not interested, I move on," he added."
There are a number of lessons authors can learn from Dorr:
1. Targeting a book's niche audience is critical.
2. A book doesn't have to be available in every bookstore in the country to be successful. A few targeted stores which fit a book's niche will do.
3. Authors must be intimately involved in pushing their book.
4. Every author has to start somewhere. Even if the first few signings don't sell a lot of copies, don't give up.
5. Authors must engage customers at book signings. Just sitting at a table and waiting for customers to come to you will not cut it.
Be sure to check out the original Publisher's Weekly article.