Selling Your Book to Readers — Part II

Today I am again honored to have as a guest blogger Seymour Garte, PhD.  Dr. Garte is Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences of the Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, and a member of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute in Pittsburgh PA.  He is also the author of  Where We Stand: A Surprising Look at the Real State of the Planet. Dr. Garte writes:

In the absence of a major marketing campaign ala Harry Potter, the best way to get your book sold is through publicity. Which basically means free advertising. Book reviews are wonderful publicity, even if they are not gushing with praise. A really bad review is of course, not good, but those are also rare. The big question is how to get your book reviewed. You publicist will send out galleys or books to whomever she thinks might be interested in the book. These days, this will include blogs, and other web based media, which can have more readers than some newspapers. It will also include the local media in your hometown. She might try some of the bigger national magazines or journals, but they get swamped with requests to review.

The hardest books to publicize are general literature fiction. Genre fiction (romance, sci fi, crime, thrillers etc.) are easier, because there are specialty web sites, organizations, newsletters, and other outlets that often allow for free publicity of new books. Non-fiction is much easier, because (depending on the subject of course) there is the possibility of the author taking a role as an expert in the media. Again, this is where your publicist comes in.

Television and radio are major outlets for book publicity. You have seen the results of the work of publicists, when you watch any TV show with a guest who has just published a book. In fact, most talk show guests are there to publicize their books. There are two ways to get on a national TV talk show or major network. 1. Be famous already. 2. Have a book that talks about something incredibly topical. Local TV shows are much easier to get onto (my first publicity gig was on a local TV show), but of course don’t have the selling potential of any national program.

If your book is on the theory that massive biological extinctions were caused by gigantic earthquakes, and your book release date is two weeks after a gigantic earthquake in California, you might have a shot to get on CNN, or one of the morning shows. Radio, TV and print all follow the news cycle. If your book is on dieting, and there is a news story about some famous star fainting from lack of food, you could get lots of calls. If your book is on the Middle East, and the Israeli tanks start moving, get ready for a barrage of calls. In my case, there was a toxic scare of lead in toys from China, Al Gore’s Nobel Prize, and a few other environmentally related news items that put me in demand. And then the election campaign started, and all books NOT about politics just died for 8 months You might surmise from this that luck is a big player in getting publicity, and you are right.

Radio, talk radio in particular, is the medium where authors of non-fiction can do well. Your publicist will get you booked on as many radio shows as possible.  Of course not all radio shows are equal. Some like Mankow from Chicago, get almost a million rush hour listeners. Others, like a thoughtful health and environment show from Oregon, might get only a few hundred listeners, but they tend to be loyal and really listen. Of course the more topical the subject of your book, the more likely you are to get booked.

My publicist sent me a whole kit on how to do radio. I am lucky in that I have a good radio voice, a hammy personality, and not a shy bone in my body, so I turned out to be a natural. The better you do on the early shows, the easier it is for the publicist to get more bookings. 

Doing radio shows is fun, but can be frustrating. Often the host has no idea about your book, other than reading the title and inside flap 5 minutes before airtime. Sometimes their questions are absurd, sometimes they get your name or the title wrong. I did the Mankow show twice, and got about 5 minutes of airtime. My publicist assured me this was the equivalent of a full-page ad in the Times. Most of the shows I did were a half hour to an hour. I appeared in person at two or three shows, and sat in the studio, but most of the time the interview is by phone.

Remember these rules when doing a live radio interview (most are live, taped shows are much easier of course). Use a fixed phone, not a cell phone, but have a cell phone handy for emergencies. Wherever you are, make sure your phone will not run out of battery charge. Lock the door, and post a sign outside that says in large letters “DO NOT ENTER OR KNOCK. FOR ANY REASON. EVEN FOR FIRE OR EMERGENCY.”

While on the phone in an interview, you need full concentration. I learned both of those rules the hard way.

During the two months following the release date, I did on average 4 radio shows a week. On some days I did 3 or 4 a day. Usually the notice would come the day before by email or cell phone. “Tomorrow morning at 7:30 AM EST, half hour live at KOMG, Boston, they will call you.” I got used to the routine. If the show was to start at 7:30, the phone would ring at 7:29, a producer would ask if I was ready, then put me on so I could hear the feed, (usually a commercial) and then the host says, “I am very pleased to welcome Dr. Seymour Garte, author of Where We Stand, A Surprising Look at the Real State of Our Planet. Welcome to the show, Dr. Garte.”

“Thank you Bruce, it’s a pleasure to be here.”

“So what do you think about this whole Global Warming stuff?”

Now my  book is about the environment, but only makes a passing comment about global warming. Doesn’t matter, the host will ask about what interests him or her, not about what your book is about. And what interests the host is what interests their listeners, which is usually whatever is on the news that day. When Al Gore won the Nobel Prize, I got a lot of bookings, but everybody wanted to talk only about global warming and Al Gore. The trick is to turn the conversation away from the host’s topic to your book’s topic, which is not that hard to do.

It is fine to say controversial stuff, because it leads to more phone calls, which is good for the host. But be very very careful to say nothing mean, derogatory or insulting toward either host or callers. If you do, you are through, and you will not get another show. Your publicist will stop trying to get you booked.

Book tours, readings and signings in bookstores are well-known publicity methods for all types of books, fiction and non-fiction. The rules for getting book signings are much more fluid than for radio shows. Some bookstores will only book authors through publishers or publicists. Other, smaller stores in smaller towns, are open to new authors suggesting a book signing, especially if the author is a local resident. The idea of a publisher paying for a new author to do a national tour promoting their book is long dead. The publisher will try to get you signings in stores near where you live, or if you tell them you will be in San Francisco for a month, they will try there. But they will not pay your expenses.

Here is the main thing about book signings and readings at bookstores. If no one shows up, it’s a disaster. In fact, some stores will want to see your mailing list or know how many people have agreed to come to the reading, before they book you. I have been lucky, to have been able to draw a crowd, in the few book readings I did. It can be fun, if you like speaking on your subject or reading your work.

Frankly not everyone is a ham like me. Some people just don’t like to do public speaking. But, remember that your audience is (by definition) already interested in you or your book or both, otherwise they wouldn’t be there. Rarely will you face a hostile crowd, unless your book is highly controversial, and makes people mad. Most people who would not buy your book, simply don’t show up.

For non-fiction books, especially those written by experts, there is an entire set of opportunities for (mostly print journalism) publicity related to current events, and the need for expert quotes. Journalists, TV and radio producers, free lance writers, and networks of experts are all tied in with one another for mutual benefit. And at the center of these webs are the publicists; the tool is the query.

Say a journalist is given an assignment to write an article on green buildings. Deadline tomorrow at 7 AM. The journalist shoots out a query email to a network of publicists, industry groups, academics and other experts which says “I need an expert on green buildings, technical, not economic. Must have science credentials. Call before 4 PM today” My publicist gets this and forwards it to me, with the added note “Can you do this?” I answer “Yes.” She then answers the journalist with my name, credentials, the name of my book, etc. The journalist goes through the many positive answers she has received, and if I’m lucky, she chooses to  call me. She talks to me for at most 10 minutes, gets a quote or two, and again if I’m lucky, mentions my name and the book in her article. From her assignment to getting my quote, maybe two hours have passed.

Related to the print articles that mention your book are other possibilities for publicity. Appearance on Web casts (which are really much like TV), presentations at public forums, and appearances at conferences are all useful. For months I carried a stack of flyers in my briefcase, and distributed them liberally at conferences, seminars, and where ever I traveled.

As I mentioned, the publicist who works for your publisher, is pushing more than one book at a time. This means she has limited time for your book. Some people suggest that an author hire a free lance publicist. This works. A private publicist will be able to book you (depending of course on your book subject, and your reputation as a speaker) on many top radio shows, and also on national TV shows. But if you go this route, you need to examine your motivations. This kind of publicity will definitely raise your book sales. But often NOT enough to equal the cost of hiring the publicist (unless you get  lucky). Publicists charge according to how many radio shows they book for you. (TV is a much more complex rate calculation). 

Whether you hire your own publicist, or only use the publisher’s publicist, (or both) remember that you are on call 24/7. I missed one good opportunity because my cell phone had run out of battery charge. Again, this is a stressful and busy period, but it ends pretty soon. Even great, enormously successful books stop being publicized a few months (no more than 6 to 8 months) after publication. From then on the big driver of sales is that all important and totally unpredictable factor —  word of mouth. There isn’t much you can do about whether word of mouth spreads the story of your book and continues to boost sales after the publicity period ends. The key is how well your book is written. Well written books do better than poorly written ones, regardless of how intense the publicity might be at the beginning. So I end this discussion of the post writing phase of being a writer with a return to the basics. The real key to success as a writer is great writing. Big surprise, eh?

Also by Dr. Seymour Garte:
Where We Stand on Selling Non-Fiction vs. Fiction
Selling Your Book to Readers — Part I

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