Monday, May 7, 2012

Indie Publishing: Book Signings

Right now, I am still slowly recovering from a 3 day writer’s conference in Virginia Beach. It was fun, exhausting, exciting, and even frustrating at times. It was one of those conferences that if it could go wrong, it did. Maybe it happens all the time and I only noticed it because I was the registrar and therefore privy to the multitude of behind the scenes panic attacks. Still, it turned out to be a wonderful conference. How can it not be when every room in the hotel has an ocean view? We all felt like VIPs. *G*

But back to the aforementioned panic attacks. The major one was that the book seller didn't show. You got that right. SHE DID NOT COME. She notified the book fair coordinator on Thursday that she wasn’t coming, leaving many authors who were going to sign at the group book signing SOL. How unprofessional is that? In hindsight, we don’t think she ever ordered any of the traditionally published authors’ books, otherwise she would have moved heaven and earth to get there. Thankfully Barbara O'Neal was able to get her publisher to overnight her books. A few others had some on hand in the trunks of their cars (What author doesn’t?), but it ended up being a mostly small press/indie pub signing event for the POD authors who lugged their own books to the conference, like me. Not exactly the best experience you want to have at your first ever book signing, but troopers that we authors are, we went on with the show. So here’s what I learned from my virgin book signing (and please excuse the frizzy hair — it was day 3 of the conference and it was very humid).

I Can’t Sit Still:

Most of the other authors sat behind their tables. I just couldn’t do it, even after the long conference had plum tuckered me out. This was my first book signing. I was giddy. I was nervous. I was near brain dead. So I stood behind my table and tried to look busy. Amazing how much time you can spend making sure your bookmarks are standing up straight in their display stand. But you know what? When people approached my table, it felt comfortable to be able to look them in the eye instead of up their nostrils. Of course, I had to sit to sign the books, but then I’d pop right back up on my feet for the next person. I don’t know, putting myself face to face with them just seemed friendlier to me.

Let Your Display Do the Bragging for You:

I went to the office supply store and bought one of those stand up plexi frames. I made up a colorful letter-sized poster with a picture of my book cover surrounded by quotes from all of my 4 and 5 star reviews — just a meaningful sentence or two from each review to catch people’s eye. I also had QR codes for my book’s B&N and Amazon pages on my display so that those who had smart phones could scan it and go straight to the buy pages. No one who stopped by had a smart phone that night, but it doesn’t hurt to have it ready in case they do.

Don’t Be Afraid to Be On Sale:

Since we didn’t have a book seller there to handle the sales for us, we had to handle all sales at our tables. Bless the book fair coordinator’s heart, she sent her husband to the bank to bring back 1s, 5s, and 10s for us to make change with. My book goes for $12.95 on Amazon, but to keep the math simple, I only charged people $10 per book. I still made more of a profit than I would have if the book seller had taken her cut, so it actually worked out for me.

Provide Swag:

I, personally, have never been one to collect swag (bookmarks, magnets, matchbooks with author’s names on them, etc.). It’s just not my thing. But the book signing pros told me I needed to have some available and they were right. Several customers asked if my book was available as an e-book and when I said yes, they took a bookmark or some trading cards to help them remember to buy it later. (I’ll explain about the trading cards in my next indie post on swag.) One reader actually tried to download the book on her Kindle as we talked, but for some reason her WiFi wasn’t behaving in the hotel. Darn. Another lady took a bunch of my swag to send to her reader/reviewer friends and offered to start up a street team for me. Cool!

Be Original:

Many authors suggested I have a bowl of mints or chocolate to entice readers over to my table. Being the non-conformist person that I am, I thought I’d put a unique spin on my food bribe, so I sat out a tray of olives and grapes complete with fancy toothpicks. Why in the world would I do that, you ask? I had many people stopping by my table asking the very same question, trying to figure out what the significance was. Then I would explain that my book is set in Italy—Pompeii to be exact. Snag! I had them hooked right there. Okay, so a few commented that I was serving Greek olives instead of Italian olives. I hate olives myself, so I didn’t know the difference. Sue me. But just about every person who stopped by to eat my olives bought my book. Squee!

In the end I think I did pretty good. Would I try to set one up a book signing at a Books A Million or Barnes and Noble? Probably not. At least, not until I have more than one book to offer. But I do have another book signing coming up this weekend at a local Arts and Books Fair. Although there will be plenty of other authors there, it’ll be a totally different atmosphere, so we’ll see how it goes.


  1. Olives and grapes were a great idea for you! I've only done a handful of signings, but I have yet to be at one where I didn't have books (I'm sure the time is coming). I did one where the author next to me had a huge group come to support her. Unfortunately, it didn't occur to them that they couldn't actually BLOCK me, and they would do things like put their coats over my things. The author apologized afterward, but aside from saying, "Excuse me? Please don't do that," there isn't much you CAN do. But next time I'm standing up. At least I can be seen that way!

  2. Wow, you really had to rise above adversity there! It's good to know it can be done :).

  3. What great information. But terrible about the bookseller. Kudos for continuing and making a success out of it!

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