Tuesday, April 14, 2015

What You May (or May Not) Know About Book Signings

We don’t have a Community Business Development Manager at my store – aka someone who handles relationships with all the schools, businesses, authors, and more. So while of the managers tackle it, I’m the one who works with all the authors. And, after only being a manager for a year and working with several, I've quickly realized something.

A lot of authors assume book signings mean magical book sales.

This is absolutely not true.

I’m going to lay this out for you in blunt fashion, so get ready. Unless you’re already popular like Jim Butcher or James Patterson or Nora Roberts, no one cares about your book. I know, it sounds harsh, but it’s true.

Now, on my end I can put your event into the website, order in flyers, order a big fat sign to put in the window, and make sure you appear on our Event Calendar that we hand out, but for the most part, people will see an author they don’t know with a book they've never heard of, and they don’t care. Just because you have a big sign in the window does not mean people will get all giddy about seeing an author and getting a book signed by you and you’ll have a line out the door. This is not how it works. Likewise, if you sit at your table like a bump on a log and wait for people to magically come up to you, you’re going to sell jack. So what can you do?

If you haven’t done your research yet about anything relating to the book business, it’s really time to get on that. If you haven’t yet thought about your work as a business, you really need to shift gears. You've created a product, right? Now you need to get out there and sell that product. Yes, I know. It’s scary and weird and not something a lot of us really like to do because that’s not exactly something we do on a regular basis, but it’s extremely important – especially if you plan on doing a book signing.

You can always see if the community relations person you’re working with has some kind of media list (I do, anyway) that provides you with as many different radio stations, TV stations, and various local publications as possible. They might not have one. In which case, it’s time to get to work. The more you get your name out there into the eyes and ears of the people you’re trying to sell your book to, the better. Consider this large scale example – Eckhart Tolle was around for years (first book in 1997), but the second he showed up on Oprah in 2009 people went on a buying spree.

Still, I get people coming into the store all the time saying, “I heard about this book on the radio,” or “I saw this book on the morning show,” or they’ll hand me a clipping from a newspaper or a magazine with the book in it. You need to get your name out there. This is what will bring people into the store to pick up your book. I've had one author who did none of these things and just sat there with high expectations and sold 1 book. Another author, T.J. Wagoner, did a ton of marketing for his book, Discover the Unseen, had a talk at the store, and sold 30 books.

Also, as I've mentioned, don’t just sit there. Say hello to customers. Think of a way to engage them so they’ll at least take a peek if they’re not there for your book specifically (and most of them won’t be). Maria V. Snyder, the author of Poison Study (Study Series), will hand out little pieces of chocolate because her protagonist is a poison taster (also, theobromine. HA.) Most recently, Dan Killeen, a children’s author, sat right in front by the doors and every time someone with a child walked in he called them over, talked about his book, and did adorable drawings for them of dinosaurs and other things. I’d ordered 16 copies of his books – we sold out.

So suck it up. Market. Call radio stations. Send releases and announcements to magazines and newspapers. Contact local news stations to see if they’ll do a quick piece about you. Talk to customers when you’re there. Be engaging. Smile. Anything. Everything. You have to be the one to make your book signing a success. Because if you don’t care enough about your book to talk about it, who will?

*Please note I've skipped over mentioning social media entirely. You can use it if you like, but 1.) your signing will be local so your Twitter followers in Australia won't care and 2.) Delilah Dawson pretty much hits it on the head.

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