Thursday, September 13, 2012

On the road again ... to book signings

I just sent out more than half a dozen emails to bookstores that hosted a book signing for my first book, Homegrown and Handmade. Some of the emails went like this:
When we had a book signing at your store for my first book last year, we sold 21 copies, and I expect my new book to have similar appeal to readers.
But one went like this:
The signing at your store for my first book was scheduled at the last minute, and we didn't really have great media, so sales were disappointing.
Okay, "disappointing" is an understatement. I'm pretty sure it was one or zero books sold. There was another book signing where only two books were sold, but there was also one where 32 books were sold! What was the difference between the events?

It's all about marketing and media attention. Book signings should be planned at least six to eight weeks in advance, and you need as much media attention as you can possibly muster. Do not think for even a nanosecond that you will sit in a bookstore for a couple of hours and sell dozens of books to passersby who have never heard of you or your book before the moment they see you.

In addition to the bookstore's publicity efforts, you need to work to get at least one story written about you in the local newspaper. If you can snag a spot on a local television morning show, that is also great, but in my experience, newspaper stories net the largest number of attendees at signings. It makes sense when you think about it -- newspaper readers are readers; television viewers are not necessarily readers.

Another great strategy is to find a local group to sponsor your signing. A local sustainability organization publicized the signing where 32 books were sold. It should be fairly easy to figure out your market if you are writing non-fiction, but what if you're writing fiction? Where do you find a group of people who like to read romance, for example? How about other romance writers! Many cities have writer support groups, and people who write romance also like to read it. They would also enjoy listening to your story of publication.

And you will sell more books if you have a talk planned. Most people are more interested in hearing what you have to say, rather than just saying "hi" and having you sign their book. If they are going to take the time to go to a bookstore, you need to make it worth their time. Tell them about the writing process or what inspired you to write the book. If the book is autobiographical, tell them something that isn't in the book. Give them the chance to get to know you a little better.

Obviously my second email above did not end with a reminder of disappointing sales numbers. I went on to mention that many of my other book signings sold 20 to 30 copies with proper planning and media placement and that I was confident we could do as well if we scheduled another book signing with the store this year.

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