We’ve all had, at one time or another, 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 building 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 book marketing budgets of the big publishers.
Author Events are the primary vehicle for the self-published author to get out and meet the public. These book marketing events 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 topics that support your book (both articles you have written 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 to spend 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 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 book sellers need 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 than 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) suits 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 reviews 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 by 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 email addresses 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.
May you have success in your creative efforts!