#ContactForm1 { display: none ! important; }

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Down And Dirty Details of Book Signings*

My first signing was this past Saturday in a small Alaska town called Palmer. By Alaskan standards it's a sizable town, by any other standards we don't have sizable cities in Alaska. If you ever get a chance to venture that far north be sure to stop by Fireside Books to browse the selection, and then hit Vagabond Blues for what is possibly the best panini in the state.

It was, for me, a successful book signing. Afterwards I did an AAR (After Action Report) and came up with a few things to keep in mind for the future.

Foot Traffic
Price of Book

Here's what I mean...

Venue: The venue for the signing was Fireside Books, a cozy indie bookstore with a good selection but not a ton of floor space. There wasn't room for a crowd so I left my family at home and made my Alaska Bestie drive up with me. Larger stores allow for larger crowds. Where I was one person could stand at the table and make me look very popular.

Foot Traffic: The owner of Fireside Books invited me up for Small Business Saturday. It is the busiest day of the year for Indie bookstores, and since Fireside is located in a bustling Old Towne quarter of the city there was plenty of foot traffic from people enjoying the deals and sales. I was also signing right before the tree lighting ceremony and fireworks, which I think helped boost last-minute sales.

Price: You can't always control the price of a book, especially if you're working with a big publisher, but keep in mind that people looking for deals aren't always willing to pay $26 for a paperback from an obscure author. The author who signed before me had a beautiful SF set in Alaska (A MILE NORTH OF GOOD AND EVIL) but wasn't getting much traffic. Could have been timing. Could have been that he'd sold out of Book 1 in the series. Could have been lots of things. But the $26 didn't help (it is a good book though, so check it out).

I brought a selection of books, including the Heroes & Villains books which are considered a Special Order for most bookstores and not kept on the shelves. Between THE DAY BEFORE's $6.99 price point and the cheap novellas, there was a range of prices suitable for everyone who stopped by.

Availability: Bring extra books!!!

At the last minute I grabbed every copy of my books off my study shelf and stuffed them in my bag, and I'm so glad I did! Even though Fireside Books ordered extra copies of my work for the signing the mail to Alaska is unreliable and the books hadn't arrived! If I hadn't brought my secret stash along there would have been three books to sign and sell. Not very exciting.

And it was fun seeing people eye the Heroes and Villains books. These aren't stocked by most stores and the people who stopped to chat with me were lured in by the idea that these were special editions. In the case of the few novellas left over from the Breathless Press run they were limited edition and out-of-print. Can you say COLLECTOR'S ITEM?

Giveaways: Fireside Books was advertising free books and giveaways outside, and my signing table was straight across from the door. To sell a book I needed to get people past the free books to me. For this, I used chocolate. I spread them out by my business cards and as soon as someone walked in I made eye contact. "Would you like a piece of chocolate?" If they stepped forward I hit them with, "What kind of books do you read?"

Quite a few people said historical, which I don't write, but it started a conversation. If you do write in only one genre it wouldn't hurt to bring a list of books written by friends who cover other genres. You can pimp a friend's book and keep a conversation open so people walk away with the impression that you're a cheerful, fun person. Good will sells books.

Hooks: Not everyone who passes by you at a signing is looking to buy. Especially with a tree lighting ceremony about to start, some people were browsing with the intent to come back another time. One had just lost her wallet. Another was visiting family for the holidays and din't have room in their luggage. For people like that there are hooks; little things that may lead to a sale later.

I brought three hooks on Saturday: business cards with my book covers on them printed by Moo.com, a newsletter sign up, and bookplates for pre-orders.

The business cards are the easiest to give away. They require no commitment, and they make sure the person has a picture of the book they're interested in and a link to my website. They were picked up by travelers and by people who were thinking about buying but weren't ready to commit. Will they result in sales? Maybe not, but if even one does, I'm satisfied.

The newsletter was good for people who were on the fence or traveling. It's also great for those who have converted to e-readers and don't want to shop at the store. They'll only get updates when sales and new releases come out, and hopefully they'll click through and buy. Even if they don't, they'll get the occasional reminder that I exist and maybe buy my books for someone else.

The bookplates were reserved for people who pre-ordered CONVERGENCE POINT from Fireside Books. It's a nice boost for the store, and it's a pre-order for me. The bookplates are from etsy and it means the people who pre-ordered don't have to wait for my next trip north to get a signed copy.

What I Would Do Differently Next Time: 
- have a cover for my next book
- more books
- more chocolate

My big regret was that I didn't have a print copy of CONVERGENCE POINT to show off or anything with the cover. My business cards were out-dated so I didn't even have the new cover of EVEN VILLAINS FALL IN LOVE. In the future: better business cards and at least a postcard with the cover of my next print book. 

Fun things to have:
- a friend
- a bottle of water (you get thirsty doing all that talking!)

I dragged a friend who is a big fan of the Time & Shadows series along. When there was a lull we chatted, when I had too many people at the table so talked up the book and chatted with people. If you're an introvert make sure you grab a super-extroverted buddy who can be your human shield in case you get panicky. 

Bonus? If no one knows what you look like, you can make the extrovert friend sign books for you if you have a panic attack. 

Also bring along a bottle of water or something else that won't ruin carpets if it spills. If everything goes well you'll be talking for several hours and a bottle of water will keep you from being parched. 

AUTHORS: Any other hints, tips, or tricks you'd like to share? 

*CAVEAT - I am not an internationally known mega-star author with a following of fanatic lunatics who will fill a convention center just to see me. At least not yet. This is my experience and my advice. Your mileage may vary.

No comments:

Post a Comment