Setting Up Author Events and Book Signings

This article was reprinted with permission from Dog Ear Publishing.

We all have at one time or another had the fantasy of our books being absolutely indispensable to readers – and that our genius is immediately recognizable even without the benefit of creating awareness or self-promotion. Well, for some very famous authors this may be true – but then again, publishers still spend millions of dollars promoting even the greatest writers’ books. Having your book recognized for the high quality endeavor that it is, and selling some in the process, really is ALL about an awareness of both you as an author and your book. One of the hard truths of the self-publishing industry is that authors must work diligently to create a market for their books – and all without the multi-million dollar budgets of the big publishers.

Author Events are the primary vehicle for the self-published author to get out and meet the public, and they can be your ticket to both sales and increased publicity – all thanks to your local retail outlet. This article will be your quickstart guide to developing and setting up winning Author Events and Book Signings.

Follow the steps outlined below, and you’ll find yourself scheduling more effective (and enjoyable) events, selling more books, and reaching more readers than ever before.

1 – Research the target locations

Keep in mind that sometimes (more often than not as a matter of fact) the best place to sell books ISN’T in a bookstore. Craft book? What about hobby or fabric stores? Cookbook? What about a local gourmet shop? Business or finance book? Any local seminars coming up that you could “piggyback” with? History or historical fiction? How about your local historical society functions?

Each bookstore has a specific focus, clientele and “ambiance” that contribute to its success. These traits are determined by the store’s location, the inventory focus, the personality of the manager and her or his team, and the appearance and atmosphere of the store itself – and these factors drive what products sell within this store. Make sure ALL of these factors support YOUR topic and your book. For example – a store focusing on children wouldn’t be the place to pitch your latest investment strategy guide…

Start local before you go global. You’ll have the most success where you have the greatest chance of being recognized.

Each and every venue you discover will have has specific presentation opportunities and needs. Make sure you understand where author events are typically held within the store, and what area is available for your presentation. Find out who is in charge of coordinating author events and get to know them – get on their mailing list of events so you can see what the store is typically presenting to their customers. Ask them what they want in an author. Match their needs and wants to what you have to offer, and don’t waste each other’s time by forcing your book to fit their world.

2 – Be absolutely professional in requesting an event

It’s almost funny how many authors begin to think that just because they put pen to paper they deserve to be treated like royalty. Respect the store managers – you need them far more than they need you, keep your ego in check, ask them if you can present your idea for an author event and ASK FOR THEIR FEEDBACK. They will be far more inclined to want you in their store if they feel involved and invested in your success – it doesn’t mean make them do your work, but use their experience and knowledge to make your event a success (they probably know their customers better than you do…).

Create and use the best possible marketing materials – build a professional media kit that includes a press release, reviews, articles on topic that support book (both your own and other sources), a print out of your cover, a poster, postcards, author bio, author photo, marketing info and calendar showing other events. Send this rather large packet of goodies to the appropriate person at the store – you should have this person’s name from your research phase. NEVER send a media kit to a generic address – I guarantee you are better off having NOT sent anything.

3 – Help drive attendance (and thereby book sales)

Author Events really have only one goal as far as the store is concerned – get more people into the store and spending money. It isn’t a public service. Let the manager and events coordinator know what you can do to help drive customers to the store – as I said, an author event is designed to sell books and boost bookstore attendance, if all you are doing is capitalizing on customers already in the store – what value is your signing to the store?

There are lots of ways you can help the store bring more faces to your event:
– provide a mailing list to the store to which they can mail their newsletter with an announcement of your event
– offer to mail / email info about your signing to THEIR list, or provide materials they can send to their list (they may not want you having total access to their customer list — which may violate some privacy/spam requirements)
– help drive media coverage of your event – local papers, radio, etc – by sending them a press release announcing your event. Ask the manager about what forms of advertising they prefer you use and which work best for their store
– call the local paper the week before your event and ask if they’ll send a local editor or cameraman over for your event

The goal is to coordinate and cooperate – combining your efforts with those of the store will far more than double your results

4 – Create an interesting presentation or performance – tailored for each store you visit

It’s not just about sitting at a table and hoping that your signature will create interest and sell books. In today’s multimedia, multimodal, multimessage world, sitting and chatting to prospective readers won’t get you much interest.

Don’t just ask for a signing – think about what else can you do to draw traffic into the store. Is there a tie in with your book that you can use to create interest? Any current events that make your book timely? Be highly creative – think outside the box – got a cookbook? bring prepared food and teach the group how to make one of your recipes; got a fiction story? dress up like a character and do a reading or re-create one of the scenes; conduct a “seminar”; offer advice… whatever it takes to draw NEW customers into the store. It’s not enough to just capitalize on the traffic that is already there – that doesn’t make the storeowner any more invested in your success, and most of those people aren’t there to buy your book anyway.

5 – Remember the details of selling books

Don’t neglect the details of inventory and actually selling books – and remember that for you, the goal is as much about author awareness as it is selling books. Good awareness can contribute to an additional 50 to 75% of your event book sales. Remember these things:
– You need to have books in the store for your event, so help the store get a good deal on stocking 10 to 30 units and make sure they are in-stock before your event. Offer extra units at a good discount — if they buy direct from you and pass along some savings to the customer. Consider consignment – though only as a last resort.
– Make sure you understand the store’s stocking policy for author events. Will they bring in extra inventory for the promotional period surrounding your event?  Do they keep extra after the event? (don’t be surprised if they only keep a few… be prepared to have some returns). How long will they keep you in inventory?
– Ask the store manager then if they’d like you to autograph the remaining copies. 

6 – Tie in callback or side opportunities

Can you schedule another appearance while you are there? It’s a long shot, but often worth a try. (However, don’t advertise your “next appearance” at your current event, or people will put off buying your book.) Does the store have multiple locations at which you can conduct additional events?

Make sure you get the names of your attendees – ask them to fill out cards to receive your newsletter (you have one, right?)

7 – After Event follow up

– send a “thank you” note to the store
– ask for their feedback
– ask to schedule another event (though this is a long shot) – or be part of an event that the store may be sponsoring or in which it may be involved (a community event or even another author event)
– keep in contact with the key person at the store – by visiting in person once a month or so (the best) or call / email
– send a complimentary note to the store’s district manager or corporate home office about the event

Never ever underestimate the power of an author appearance – most stores need for events that can help drive additional customers to their store. Try to hit weekends, but remember that weeknights are good for many topics. Concentrate on what helps bring customers in to the store and you will be more successful that presenting an event that only draws on the traffic already present. Decide carefully where you prospect for events – make sure that what you offer (and the topic of your book) suit the needs of the store. It’s always easier to start local and then move outwards in radiating circles – this gives store personnel the chance to have actually heard about you from other sources.

Follow these simple steps and you will find yourself scheduling more events and conducting them more successfully – creating even greater demand for you in future events.

In a nutshell:

1. Research, research, and research – don’t waste your time on stores that aren’t a fit just because they’ll let you in the door.
2. Create an interesting “EVENT”. Presentations sell more than “visitations” – people will be more interested in you and your book if you entertain or inform (so will the store manager). Don’t just expect to sit around, chat, and sell books.
3. Be absolutely professional – provide all the detail they could ever dream of having about you, your book, and why they should care.
4. Gather review and blurbs from all possible sources
5. Show them what you can do for their store. Present ideas on driving more traffic to their location.
6. Tie in side opportunities
7. Don’t forget the details of selling books
8. Make everyone glad you were there

An incomplete checklist of setting up your event:

1. Research & Identify target stores

2. Create marketing materials

3. Contact store managers in person or phone, then follow up with materials – remember to have your ISBN on hand – this is how they look items up with the greatest ease

4. Get all the store info on a single sheet – address, phone number, manager’s name and direct line, event coordinator (if there is one), all the emails you need – including a contact at their corporate home office or a district manager if you can

5. Prepare materials you will bring:
a. Two Posters – glued or bonded to a hard backing so that it stands up – if you aren’t handy and can make this as professional as possible, go to a craft shop or frame shop and have them do it
b. Post cards about your book to hand out
c. Bookmarks – put one in each book in the store (and leave them there even after you leave)
d. Author bio sheet with picture in plastic frame
e. Easel to stand one of your posters on

6. Ask store to stock some copies of your book at the register along with your bookmarks

7. Offer to do a Press Release or announcement about the signing for the store

8. Bring book easels to set 3 or 4 books on – or borrow some from the store

9. In-store — don’t sit behind your table, get into the crowd!

10. Be Happy! You are there to share something special with the audience – and they are there to support you and listen to your ideas. Remember – they came to your event voluntarily. They WANT to be there!

11. Put a bookmark or card in every single copy of your book in the store

12. Hand a book to everyone you can – ask them to browse through it, take it to table and read it, or even show them your favorite passage. Just getting them to TOUCH the book will increase your sales dramatically

13. Put articles of interest (on your topic of course) on your table – generate conversation with them

14. Take pictures of your event – have a friend or store associate photo you ‘in action’ at the table. One shot posed, one shot candid, one with the store manager and/or events coordinator – send this one to the store with your thank you note (maybe you could suggest they start posting author signing photos in the store??)

Nothing can guarantee a great book signing – but not being prepared CAN guarantee a lousy one. Follow these steps and tips, and your next event will not disappoint. Good luck!

If you like this information (and found it helpful) please feel free to post it on your site, put it in a blog, toss it in your newsletter, or in general spread it around. Please just give us credit here at www.dogearpublishing.net

May you have success in your creative efforts!

Ray

Bookstores Are the Worst Places to Sell Your Books

Article reprinted with permission from Dog Ear Publishing.

How many times when you dreamed of readers finding your book did your dreams center around them finding it in a “brick-and-mortar” bookstore? Chances are, most of the time . . . This is the fantasy the leads too many authors to the endless pain of the author-agent-publisher rejection cycle. And, it rarely sells any significant amount of books.

The realities of bookstore sales are frightening – far more books fail courtesy of bookstores than succeed. Consider these facts:

Returns rates exceed 70% in many categories — that means bookstores send back 7 out of every 10 books they buy. YOU the author bear the biggest brunt of the pain of returns. The publisher has other books they can rely on – you, however, have seen your dream destroyed.

Bookstores buy very few copies on a story-by-store basis, and they typically only merchandise the books that have big marketing dollars behind them. Unless you can afford a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign, it is highly unlikely that your book will be stacked anywhere a potential buyer can find it (let alone in the front of the store.)

Author signing events typically sell only about 7 books — all your scheduling, time, calling stores to set up events — results in selling 7 books…

Bookstores take up to 90 days to pay for your books — and to mitigate what they owe you they will quite often return your remaining stock WITHIN the 90 days.
Retail outlets typically command very large discounts (but then so do online retailers in many cases…)

The typical retail buyer is not a destination purchaser, but a browser (most readers who know what they want go to the online retail sites). A reader in search of a book can be a GREAT customer. But when you are shelved next to all the other books in your particular category, your competition stands as good a chance at getting bought as you do… and if you are stocked near a well-known author, most buyers will bypass your book to pick up the well-known name.

Now that you’ve had all the “good” news — here is an interesting fact:

Over half the books sold in the publishing industry are sold through NON-bookstore vehicles.

That means that more books are sold in other places than bookstores- and your book is likely to be most successful through these outlets. And online sales — driven by a targeted, effective, and comprehensive marketing plan – will be the cornerstone of your book’s success.

Authors spend a lot of time and money chasing the improbable, when the “golden egg” of self-promotion is right in front of them. In my opinion, I’d sell my books everywhere except the brick and mortar bookstore!

Utilizing the tools that make the internet the powerhouse it is today will build sales that you never dreamed were possible. Search Marketing, blogs, newsletters, email campaigns, web sites, and your personal appearances (yes, the human touch still has meaning in book sales) are the new tools for building great book sales.

Thanks for reading. As always — if you like this information (and found it helpful) please feel free to post it on your site, put it in a blog, toss it in your newsletter, or in general spread it around. Please just give us credit here at www.dogearpublishing.net

May you have success in your creative efforts!

 Ray

How I Did My Booksigning

Christine Husom, author of Murder in Winnebago County published by Second Wind Publishing, agreed to share her book-signing experience. I’m sure you’ll find it as fascinating as I do.

To my fellow writers:

I had a book launching/signing last night at the local library, hosted by the Friends of the Library. The head librarian had asked me a while ago if I would be interested — of course I would!

To prepare for the event, I ordered 100 postcards with the book cover on the front and book info, publishing info and event details on the back. I sent out a number of the cards and also put stacks of them at the library, 2 local bookstores and at our family’s downtown business. I also had posters made and hung them in a number of stores and the library. I also put a press release in the paper (free advertising!)

The turn-out for the signing was overwhelming — I thought there were between 75 and 80 people, but 3 people today told me it was closer to 100. They had 60 some chairs set up and there were a lot of people standing and some were out in the hallway — they couldn’t get in because the back was too crowded. I was surprised by the number of people I didn’t know who were there and also some people I know only casually. I guess there are a lot of people who like book signings (and/or mystery novels). I thanked them all for coming — my family, old friends, new friends and future friends.

I wasn’t sure how to conduct the signing, exactly, so I told the group we could do whatever they wanted. I told them I was at a Tami Hoag signing and she read a passage from her book, then did signings. I don’t recall her answering questions, but it is possible she did. John Sanford spoke for a while about his life and interests, then took questions for a fairly long time before the signings.

No one suggested how to proceed so I asked them if they wanted to know why I wrote the book and how I got published, etc and they did. Then I took questions. They asked things such as do I write on a laptop or with a pen and paper, do I wake up in the middle of the night and jot things down, how did I choose the title, how long did it take to write, when will my next book be out, what is the next book about, etc. Then someone asked me to read a passage. I felt a bit tongue-tied and said “Feminine” instead of “Fenneman” (my character’s name) a couple of times. But I laughed and said, “See I didn’t think I would be able to read.”

My husband said he was proud of me — he said I was poised and genuine. I was grateful I had a podium to lean into. I donated a book to the library and they gave me a nice thank you card and flowers. They served cookies and fruit and juice. Not everyone bought a book, others bought two — one for a gift. There were some couples who bought one between them, others I think will borrow the copy from the library. But I did sell about 60 and gave another 6 to some family members and the library.

There were people who wanted their picture taken with me — that was different and very cool!!!

All in all, it was a great event. I am getting books into the local bookstores and also am selling some at our store. I sold four there today — three people had heard about the signing but couldn’t make it. I am planning to go to “Once Upon a Crime” bookstore in Minneapolis and see if they might host a signing. That’s where I saw Hoag and Sanford.

I felt a little dumb signing the books — I have an illegible signature, but my daughter said I should use that instead of trying to write my name so people could read it. One person told me, “no wonder you have to type” when she read my writing — touché.

I encourage all of you to have a signing. It seems to generate excitement and interest. I was told the attendees were very engaged in what I had to say and liked being part of the fun. Sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone. I was not quite as nervous as I would have imagined. I was with a group of people who wanted to be there, for whatever reason, and I was glad and grateful they were there!

All the best,

Chris

Blogging — Creating a Community for Your Book

The following article is reprinted with permission from Dog Ear Publishing:

The business world is convinced it’s found a “revolutionary” way to reach customers and create “buzz” for their products… and they have, sort of…

The best part is, it’s really simple and something that you as an author already know how to do – WRITE!

The revolutionary marketing method? That odd little word called “blogs”.

You’ve heard the term “blog” before, I’m sure.

Here’s the revolutionary part though…

Have you done anything about it?

Do you understand the power that a blog can have?

Have you thought about using a blog to build a community of interested readers for your book, build your book sales, create awareness of you as an author and take your marketing efforts to the next level?

You may be asking “How do I start blogging?” Now is the perfect time to start… and I want to help you get started… NOW!

What does it meant to you? What is the meaning of blogging? Probably, it evokes images of a glorified internet “diary” where geeks, computer nerds, and lonely teenagers rant and rave in the ether of cyber space. Thats the way most define blogging.

But wait, blogs are quietly revolutionizing the way customers interact with companies (and even each other) about everything from existing products to new ideas and improvements in customer service. And very few people realize this fact.

Even fewer realize the importance to authors and their readers (and potential readers). Or, that you can earn money by blogging (by generating sales for your book).

What does this mean? It means blogs have come of age and anyone who wants to create a community of interested customers better sit up and take notice fast!

When they first came on the scene (and many times still today) blogs were simply a diary of your thoughts that was posted on the internet; but today’s blogs are evolving into vibrant websites that even the most computer-phobic of us can use and update instantly without knowing a single piece of arcane programming code.

An blog creates an interested and interactive community for you and your book – with you (and your book) as the central focus and the readers driving the content of the blog that provides rich feedback to the author.

Your blog also allows readers to respond your posts, provide additional information, links, expanded opinions, and more. Specifically, it builds interest in your book.

You can make immediate updates from a computer anywhere with only a Web browser and Internet connection.

And – different from the typical “static” web pages where content is difficult to change (so rarely does…), a “dynamic” blog is in a constant state of renewal and evolution.

Smart businesses are beginning to understand the huge impact of a concept that “mom and pop” businesses have understood for years: to truly be successful, you must know your customers and be completely in tune with their wants, needs, and desires.

Large publishers throw millions of dollars down a dark scary black hole every year trying to identify (really “guess”…) what people want to read. (In the corporate world of publishing it’s called the “Marketing Department.”)

However, in the self publishing world, we don’t have those kinds of dollars to throw away – so we have to be smarter. We need to understand our readers, our markets, and the ways that we can build interest for the topics we publish (and find NEW ones).

A blog allows you to avoid guessing what’s on your readers’ minds and provides an active and up-to-the-minute means for them to tell you exactly what they do and don’t like about your book, writing, and practically any other topic you might feel is important.

Having this sort of immediate access to your readers minds makes it possible for self published authors to build huge market share.

There are two ways you can build your blog: you can use one of the “hosted” solutions (like Blogger or LiveJournal) or stand-alone applications (really only meant for the nerdiest of us). Hosted blogging solutions are extremely easy set up, often in just a couple of minutes.

I’ll assume you already know how to type… so you can create a blog. Point your web browser to Blogger.com and you will find you can set up a blog free of charge and be posting within just a couple minutes.

The best part? Blogger.com is owned by search giant Google and will host your blog on their servers.

For the stand-alone products, one of the most popular is Moveable Type (from moveabletype.org ) and is a very versatile and powerful suite of tools for creating a full-featured blog (if your desires are to create a blog that competes with those of the largest companies in the world).

No matter what you choose, understand that your blog can be a critically important part of marketing plan for building reader awareness for your book.

A tremendously important feature of blogs (and one that makes them heads above more traditional email newsletters) is that your readers have the ability to get your updates without having to receive an email. With the wonders of RSS (real simple syndication), subscribers are notified of your updates to the blog through their news reader.

What’s the big deal? Publishing your blog with RSS feeds (that your readers then subscribe to) means your content NEVER EVER gets caught by SPAM filters.

If you like this information (and found it helpful) and please feel free to post it on your site, put it in a blog, toss it in your newsletter, or in general spread it around. Please just give us credit here at www.dogearpublishing.net

May you have success in your creative efforts!

Ray

Book Promotion: Establishing an Online Persona

Your online persona is simply how the world perceives you. In real life, the first thing people see is your physical person. Online, the first thing people see is your writing — in comments, blogs, blurbs. Sometimes they see your icon first. Either way, that first impression is in your hands.

What image do you want to portray? Witty, wise, intelligent, forward thinking, funny? Down-to-earth, optimistic, casual, youthful, enthusiastic? Helpful, creative, disciplined, worldly, romantic?

This is one time and place where you can be the person you always wanted to be. Even better, in acting as if you are that person, you become it. This online persona is not a fabrication, it is the better part of you. Do you want your readers to know how much you whine and complain? Do you want them to know you’re a lazy slob? Do you want them to know you tend to be narrow-minded? Only if it will help you sell more books. And you do want to sell books, don’t you?

In the online world, the moving finger does not always move on after having writ. You can change what you have written to reflect the person you want to be. Before you post a comment, make sure it fits with your online persona and that it says what you want to say. Check for grammar and spelling. Some toolbars, like Google, have a spell check that works great for comments. Some sites let you delete comments. Other sites let you edit your comments, so you can rework those already submitted. And you can rewrite your blog posts.

Did you publish an article whining about how much your mother-in-law drives you nuts? Rewrite it. Turn it into a humorous piece, one that reflects your online persona. Do publish political rants? It’s better to take a milder stance, unless you don’t mind alienating half of your potential readers. You do want readers, don’t you?

Do you regularly use IM-speak in your comments or blogs? i m sr u only want readers to see such abbreviations if you are appealing to a young audience. Otherwise, it’s best to write clearly. You are planning on making a career of writing, aren’t you? Think of the future. There is no past on the Internet. The words you say in the real world dissipate into outer space; the words you write online remain in cyberspace forever.

Make sure your icon reflects your persona. Using a sexy avatar such as one showing naked buttocks might work if you write soft porn, but if you wish to establish yourself as a serious writer, use something else. Your book cover is often a good choice.

Always remember, you are an author, both of your book and of yourself.