I welcome back author Devon Ellington to my blog to share with us more of her writer knowledge. Today’s guest post is all about doing a better book signing. Enjoy!
As money tightens, fewer and fewer publishers send any but their highest-paid authors out on tour.
Independent authors, who don’t have large distribution with deep discounts, often have trouble getting in to bookstores to do signings. But more and more organizations, festivals, conferences, libraries, now support local authors. Here are some ideas:
Your media kit is the single most important tool for you to land appearances and other media coverage. If you don’t have one, put one together TODAY. The higher the tier of coverage, the more vital your media kit is to getting that coverage.
If asked for a kit and your answer is “I don’t know what that is” or “I don’t have one” or “I don’t like them” — you don’t land the slot. It’s not sending them the link to your website. It’s putting together a professional kit about your book, showing you know the business. and you’re worth the time.
I have a media kit for each individual release, and I update the series media kit every time a new book in the series comes out.
Make it a Group Signing
Whether it’s at a library or a bookstore, you’ll have more fun and draw from each others’ readers if you sign as a group. Two, three, or four is usually a good number. More can get overwhelming, unless it’s an entire writers’ group that’s doing it together.
Work with the site to see if you can do a presentation first, and then a signing. Each author takes 10-15 minutes to talk about the book (or books), writing process, reads a short excerpt (not more than 2 minutes), and then everyone answers questions. Then sign.
If you’re at a table with others and there aren’t a lot of buyers yet, by interacting with each other, your happy conversation will attract people to the table.
Alternate reading scenes from your book; start a continuing story, where each author improvises a section. Have so much fun that anyone passing by wants to join in.
Contact your local library about doing a program, and then selling books. Some libraries pay a small honorarium. Always ask what the policy is; do some due diligence to find out if they usually pay authors. Your time is valuable. This is your business, not your hobby.
If it’s a tiny rural library with no budget, it might be worth appearing for free. But many of the larger municipal libraries have program budgets to pay authors.
Create a program that’s about more than just your book — build a workshop around it, or have a Power Point presentation about your research process.
Again, multiple authors tend to draw bigger crowds and are more fun.
If you’re a member of an organization such as Sisters in Crime, they have a Speakers Bureau. Get yourself on the list for inclusion when they put together panels at bookstores, libraries, and other events.
Again, create a program that’s about more than just selling your book. Have a hook, have a process, have a workshop.
Even if you’re self-published or published by a small press, write up a proposal for your program, with specific numbers, to include with your media kit.
Offer the bookstore the same kind of discount they’d get from the big distributors, EVEN IF YOU BRING IN P.O.D. Offer to leave any unsold books there on consignment.
A great way to grow your audience is to give a workshop at a conference — provided you have an area of expertise to share. Check out your local writers’ organizations and see if you can either speak at one of their monthly meetings, do a special event, or teach at a conference.
Research conferences, see which ones match your areas of specialized knowledge, and pitch when they have a call for proposals. Provide handouts — participants love to have something they can take with them and refer to as they work on their own books. Include sell sheets on your own books and/or discount coupons.
Often conferences either have a conference bookstore or a signing event in which you can participate.
Many libraries host book clubs. Some host more than one. Check with the libraries in your region or however far you feel comfortable travelling to see if your book fits any of the clubs.
Then, find out who organizes the club and send them a media kit and a pitch letter. Offer a book club discount on copies.
Give Yourself Enough Time to Get the Books
Distributors and PODs are notorious for not getting your books to the venue or to you on time. Give yourself extra time. POD often takes six weeks, so give yourself eight. If you’re with a large enough publisher, talk to the marketing department and make sure they can get the books there on time.
Try to keep a small stock of books at home, so in case something happens, you still have books to sell. This is also useful if you are invited to an event at the last minute, and there’s no time to get books from your publisher or distributor.
What About Ebooks?
Obviously, you can’t sign a Kindle. Well, I guess you could, but it’s messy.
I print out the equivalent of cover flats of my e-books. I print out the front cover on photo paper, and sign in contrasting Sharpie marker.
When I do such a signing, I also give out discount coupons for the books (having made sure that I okay the terms with my publisher ahead of time).
Say Thank You
Always thank your hosts. Always send a handwritten thank you after the event, even if you verbally thanked them when it was over.
Signings are about relationship building with venues and readers. Interesting content, clear communication, and professional conduct will make you a sought-after commodity.
Devon Ellington publishes under half a dozen names in fiction and non-fiction, and is an internationally-produced playwright and radio writer. You can find her at Ink in My Coffee and DevonEllingtonWork.
Check out Devon’s previous guest post: Creative Organisation.
Over to you, what are your thoughts on book signings?
Big thanks to Devon for joining us back on the blog. I hope you found her article useful. Please check out her links and if you have any questions for Devon, please leave them in the comments section below.
Do check back on Wednesday when I’ll have a new guest poster on the blog.