Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Booksigning - Fun Outside the Box

For the last two years, I've come across e-authors discussing book signings.

Cant it be done? How?

Also thrown about was pros and cons, more cons than pros from those who've done them.

It's always disheartening to hear marketing options don't bring sales or don't work, or can't work for e-authors. Are we in this business to admit defeat? No. I'm sure you've heard the saying, 'Where there's will, there's a way'. Sometimes it takes brainstorming with others to find the way, but isn't the 'will' always there?

I'm no expert, but while most if not all of us have written several books before we actually learned how to write them are doing the same thing with marketing. Jumping in without the knowledge of what we're attempting. So, yes, failure comes or if luck is with you, you don't.

Marketing takes knowledge and a willingness to fail as long as you're determined to get back on that horse.

Yes - major guts, too. The mere thought of putting myself out there and stumbling terrifies the skin right off me. And for the record, I don't have much skin left. I've been scared a lot.

I think most of us are inherently shy and afraid of getting out from behind our computers and coming face-to-face with public.

It's amazing how I've managed to be in a people business for nearly thirty-four years. I never really thought about it until we moved back home and I was faced with people who knew the real me, the shy girl who became distraught at the mere request to stand before my peers and spew words. Everyone knows how intimidating and cruel school-age peers can be.

But then I realized when I'm at work I put on a persona much like an actor does when he's playing a character. I'm still me, but not the real me. The personality that remains behind the shield steps out and is able to chat, flirt and laugh with the customers. I recall one evening I was waiting on a older couple. He was primed and ready for a good time. So, he asked me what my name was. I pointed to my name tag and said, "Well, some days I go by what's on my name tag, but tonight, I feel like a Cindy." He laughed. Later, one of my co-workers came up to me and said my table was asking for their server, a girl names Cindy. I laughed went to tend his need.

You can be whoever you need to be to get the job done. The key is to have fun doing it. A work place without fun is not a place where I want to spend my time.

So, put on your fun cap and put all you've ever heard about book signings away.

Ok, with me so far. ;)

The first thing we must decide is "Yes, I'm doing. I'm taking the plunge."

That was easy, wasn't it?

Now get out that calendar or date book and thumb through three months from now - choose a date, one that's hopefully around a holiday of some kind, but keep in mind Monday-Fridays are usually not busy days for businesses where you'll want to consider. Got one? All right, now skip to the next month and choose another date. It's always best to have another in mind in case you can't have the first one.

So, now you've decided to do it and you have dates in mind. Now here's the biggy. Where are you going to set up your book signing event?

Bookstore, of course. Not necessarily. This is where I'm going to throw a wrench into traditional thinking. Ha - have you ever known me to be traditional?

The places for book signings are as endless as the roots of a hundred year old oak tree.

When it comes to the business end of planning, my mind works it. Executing - me usually gets in the way.

So, while me is in a time out, I've thought about many places where it's possible to do signings.

Summer Activities:

Flea Markets - we have a centralized location in the city that has indoor and outdoor sales. When we lived in Georgia, Smiley's Market was huge and a fun place to spend a few hours on a Saturday. You could find everything under the sun.

Community Sales - these are fairly common just about anywhere. Whether or not it's held in a centralized location such as a city park or if the whole town sets up tables in their driveways.

Festivals - it seems every small community has one throughout late spring.

Fundraisers - donate a portion or all of your profits to the cause.

These are all things I've come up with, but in my research of book signing how-to's, I came across Lulu University in one of my newsletter. It was fate I found it when I did, because the next two classes were about doing book signing and thinking outside the box. Can you see me smiling?

In these two classes, I heard about 'tying your book to a theme' -- while it's easier to tie non-fiction to these, it's so doable to fiction.

For instance, my first two books are set around a restaurant, so it's possible to do book signings at restaurants and coffee shops. My first three books are set in the same locale for the most part. Who doesn't like read stories set in a land they live in?

For historical authors, why not do Renaissance Fairs, Historical Societies as well as the above.

If your hero is a techno geek, hit up electronic stores.

If you write children's books -- Chuck E Cheese.

Horror, Mystery and the like -- what about Haunted Houses around Halloween?

Movie stores -- this is something I could also do with my books -- there are many wonderful movies with a restaurant setting. Pair your books with movies.

Card shops - especially around Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Grandparent's Day -- people love special gifts, especially if they were acquired straight from the author and signed.

Let your mind fly and run with it.

Now, you have the will-to, the dates, places lined up. How do you get them to agree?

This is where the work begins. You need to realize one thing about book signings. It's not about sales. It's about what your presence will do for the venue and why should the reader be interested in your books.

Figure these two things out and you're on your way to success. Once you've secured the date, find out what they'll do, which usually isn't as much as you will do. Yeah, it figures. lol This is the time to find out if the bookstore will order books or not, chances are if they are POD, they won't order them. That's ok, you can order them via your publisher. I'd order no less than fifty. It's never wise to be caught without books.


Marketing the Event

Have some bag stuffers made up with your logo or a book cover with the event information - these can be placed at various businesses to be placed in the bags during checkout.

Posters with your book covers and event information to hang in the venues window and possibly other places.

Send notices out radio and newspaper - they should advertise your event for free.

Take advantage of freebie papers. Many are on stands inside of the door of businesses, or outside. While you may think no one reads these, they often have a larger readership than your daily paper.

Day of Event:

Always arrive at least forty-five minutes early to set-up and hand out 'event today' cards. Unless of course, it's a community event where you're surrounded by other vendors then you can forgo the 'event today' cards.

Go in with no less than twenty-five books, but have a stash in your car in case you sell-out. It's never good to be caught without books.

Have freebies on the table - a dish of wrapped candy, magnets, bookmarks, pamphlets about your books, etc. Even have give away bags with promo items from various authors in them. People love free stuff - give until it hurts.

Do have a email sign up sheet even if you don't have a newsletter as yet.

Also, if your rights are not tied up with your contract, have your book turned into audio or place it on a CD and have them out on the table.

Something I thought would be nice and for me though with a little expense, but I think quite worth it. Since I have candles made for each of my books, I could have them on display with their respective book and have some on hand to sell. Also, for my latest book, a man's fragrance was made available with the same scent as the candle. So, if you have anything like that - display it.

Last but not least - at the end of your signing -- never pack up your books and take them with you unless it's a community sale or similar. If it's a business, discuss leaving your books on consignment. Now, the standard rate for consignment is the venue gets 40% of the retail price.

I'd heard about consignments a couple of weeks ago from another author and thought, wow - books on consignment. I'd heard of jewelry and clothing. I have a friend who has jewelry in three local shops on consignment and she mentioned I should put my books there as well -- I honestly didn't think it was possible. See, you learn something every day.

One biggy before I leave the consignment bit - NEVER LEAVE UNSIGNED BOOKS -- sign and date them before you leave them with the venue. Signed books cannot be returned, if the venue had purchased them for the event.

What to do during event? This is important. I've seriously avoided author signings in bookstores because they look unapproachable. Don't sit at the table unless you do have people there and you're signing book after book. Get up, move around, talk to people. People are generally interested in how why you write and how did you become published. Be interesting, not boring. Don't look bored even if you are.

How's that? Have I got you all excited to get out and try it?

I have the excitement, the will, but me is in the way. So, a while back, I thought maybe I'd like to do it with another author. Chicken, oh yeah. I was thrilled to hear it recommended. It could be fun. And the other author doesn't have to be of the same genre. The two of you could have some interesting conversation that could draw people over -- talking about the differences of our genres, why you love the genre you write and so on. My dilemma has been finding local published fiction authors. I know some who live more than an hour away. Like your states, I'm sure, mine is full of published writers. However, the key is being local - the media loves the local author angle.

I have a press release I've been holding onto, basically because I want to have my ducks in a row. They say a these can lead to an interview and the type of release I want to put it isn't necessarily about me or my books, but to educate my locals on digital publishing. Then I saw the Lulu classes and thought, this is what I need to build my knowledge.

I really recommend everyone check out Lulu University. It's really simple to sit and listen to the classes. They are jam packed full of information. This years can be found on their blog.

What do you think? Have you tried any of these? Other venues? Share your experiences with us.


Next month, August 4th, right here at HEA, I think I'm going to share what I learn about web marketing our books. Hopefully there will be some new information for us all.


Savanna Kougar said...

WOW! Bekki, what great info and food for thought.

One thing I would say is, depending on the heat level your book is, what they call family-friendly venues, are probably off limits for erotic romance.

I would like to try consignment in the smaller book shops.

Oh, here's one, what about those risque lingerie parties that are based on how tupperware was once sold... now, there's a place to sell erotic romance novels.

Heck, it would be fun to have an romance novel/erotic romance party. Then, you would already have those who are interested.

Celia Yeary said...

BEKKI--I've talked about this more than once, so I'll just highlight it. I hate book signings. Not going to do them. Nope, uh-uh.
With my first release, I printed half-page announcements on pink paper--title, price, one-line blurb, a note I would order if they sent the total, and I would pay the shipping, etc. In other words, I didn't order unless I had their money or they promised--I took their word and never had anyone to back out. I sold 60 copies this way, with the promise of a "Texas Tea Party" at my house (not the political kind, but the kind with cookies, chips and dip, and peach iced tea. when the books came, I presigned all of them--then I designated my accountant/tech man/gardner/husband to be the pakring attendant. We had a blast, and I made about $3.50 on each book. Tons of fun. need to know lots of people.P.S. I did the same thing with my second. Now I have a "reader base" I like to secretly call my fans. Celia

Celia Yeary said...

BEKKI--I think Savanna has a killer idea! A book party like a Tupperware party! Celia

Bekki Lynn said...

I love the idea of tying in to lingerie parties -- adult toy parties. Great idea, Savanna.

It's been so long since I've heard of anyone having them, I'd forgotten about them.

Bekki Lynn said...

A tea party, Celia. Excellent idea.

Here, a tea party wouldn't bring anyone, but have a margarita or wine party and oodles will show. Either would work for my books.

When I emptied the pantry, I found I had five fondu pots. lol I could team up with my sister-in-law who sales Scentsy Candles.

So when I get my living room, done, I'll have to set something up. Incentive to move my husband along. lol

Rebecca J Vickery said...

Hi Bekki and friends,
I am so looking forward to cooler weather and my first "official" book signing. In one of my books I mention our local ice cream parlor/hot dog shop and plan to have a signing there this fall. I've had two successful impromptu signings and, thank goodness, I had books in the car. One was at a huge convenience store on our way to the beach and the other was at our favorite campground after we arrived. They were great fun as I didn't have to deal with the pre-book signing angst and worry. Not sure how I'm going to deal with that, but all of you have given me some great ideas.

Savanna Kougar said...

Celia, now, that's the fun way to do it! Omy, I wish I was in that kind of situation where it would work.

Bekki, that sounds like a great idea. Getting together with your sis and having a party/signing. I betcha the less pressure and more fun it is, the more you'll end up selling.

Savanna Kougar said...

Rebecca, wow, that is so wonderful how it naturally worked out.

Linda Banche said...

Lots of great ideas, Bekki. I don't know if I want to try them, but I will remember them. I can't wait to see what you come up with next month.

Lindsay Townsend said...

This is fab info, Bekki! Thank you so much for sharing!!

I love the idea of the lingerie party, Savanna!