19 November 2012

Joys (and Lesser Options) Of Book Signings

Writers are a peculiar lot to begin with, but throw in a book signing event and they can get downright freaky. Some abhor such things with such passion that you have to wonder if it isn't pathological. I call it Vendagoraphobia: Fear of Participating in a Public Book Signing.  If you're newly published and are anticipating your first event, let me share some observations and possibly prevent the onset of vendagoraphobia.

First, it doesn't matter if you're published by Simon & Schuster, Happy Local Small Press, or CreateSpace: signings are marketing, marketing means signings, and 99% of authors have to do their own marketing. The notion of a publisher footing the bill for a book tour is  like a unicorn: you might have heard of such a thing but never, ever are you going to see one. You should, therefore, take advantage of events in your local area to publicize that YOUR BOOK --doesn't "your book" sound great?--is now available.

If you are published by a big house and are signing at a bookstore, you won't have to worry about bringing books with you--usually. (I've witnessed the debacle when an author shows up and someone at the store "forgot" to order her books.) But the majority of authors now are either independently published or signed with a small publishing house, in which case it's up to the author to bring a supply of their books.

Then comes the question, how many should you take? Well, that depends on the event. According to the New York Times, the average number of books sold at a signing is seven. If the audience is particularly interested your book's theme or topic, take at least twenty. If it's a multiple author fair, maybe take fifteen. And if it's a little offbeat, say an arts and crafts fair in July, take ten. But don't ever take fewer than seven; envision selling at least the average.

Whenever possible, make your signing area a display that connects with potential readers. This is where many authors drop the ball. I've seen authors simply sit behind a stack of books set on a table with a plain white cloth, a dour look on their face and their arms crossed, expecting readers to 1) know what their book is, 2) what it's about, 3) who they are, and 4) how much it costs. Sigh. If it was that easy we'd all be Stephanie Meyer. (And I'm only talking sales here, not writing skills. I agree with Stephen King.)  Don't assume everyone has ESP and can immediately grasp what your book is about. Most folks only get ESPN.

My book display at St. Francis Cabrini Arts & Crafts Fair last weekend.
Signage, people, SIGNAGE. It's so easy to make clean signs on a computer.  Prices should be right there where they can see them.

Displays should have something to catch the eye. Seasonal decor always works well, and be proud to display those gorgeous book covers. I'm not saying I know everything but color grabs my attention far more often than not.

And speaking of sitting... whenever possible, don't. Of course, physical limitations may make standing impossible, but make an effort to be visible and accessible. If you sit there like a lump with a bored expression on your face no one will find your display interesting either. Stand up, stretch your legs, stretch your face by smiling. At the very least it will make people wonder what you're plotting. Compliment fair-goers on something you honestly admire, whether the saying on a tee shirt or unique jewelry. Engage them in conversation. Don't be afraid to be friendly. I've met some incredible folks at events who may not have purchased my books but I learned something from them.

Also remember that not everyone wants what you write--and that's quite all right. That's why there are so many different genres and books. It never hurts to ask what kind of stories someone prefers; if it's you're genre, great--tell them about your book and maybe why you felt it was important to write. If they prefer something else, point them toward someone else who writes those kind of tales. Karma can be good.

Plus, on any given day a certain number of people will not be in a buying mood. And that's okay, too. Not necessarily fun, mind you, but as Scarlett O'Hara once said, "Tomorrow is another day."

08 November 2012


I am not a disciplined writer. There. I've said it for the public record.

Not that I'm against discipline. Just ask my son (heh heh). I always told him M-O-M stands for Mean Old Mother and I intended to live up to the title. But when it comes to writing, I find trying to set rigid parameters of designated writing time doesn't seem to work out for me.

Distractions plague me. While work is a big reason why I can't designate daylight writing time, it's not as distracting as it is necessary. For those of you who may not know, I'm a chiropractor and while I'm supposed to be "semi-retired" my office manager/husband hasn't read that particular memo--or maybe it's just poor reading retention due to that chromosome deficiency afflicting the male gender. You know, they only have one X; that other Y is missing an entire leg of capabilities... ahem.

See? I digress rather easily. But I have to say my biggest distraction is living in the Sonoran Desert of Southern Arizona. Between interesting creatures wandering through the front yard and incredible displays of light, grabbing the camera often becomes more important than finishing a scene. Bad writer, yes, but how can I pass up opportunities such as last night's magnificent sunset?

A camera often misses the brilliant intensity of colors the human eye can see, but even so, my little digital Kodak works pretty well.

Each sunrise, sunset, or storm is unique. January is when the sky's kaleidoscope bursts with concentrated hues, so imagine this sunset times ten.
Can you blame me for getting out of my chair and running outside?

So now the task is to finish my short story between patients, meetings, and chores by tomorrow evening. Pray for a dull day and possible blah rain...