Category Archives: networking

Book Signing Success

PJ here, just off a long weekend at the Granville Harvest Fair. I’ve done many such book signing events over the past couple of years, but this one was by far my favorite. For one thing, I live ten minutes up the road, so it’s close, and I inevitably saw lots of familiar faces. Thousands of folks ambled by my booth, many stopping to chat–whether they were teens or simply teens at heart. The fact that I was a local author was also a big draw. Putting a face to someone local who has achieved what so many others only dream about, seems to be an instant conversation starter. I can’t tell you how many people I spoke to—young and old—who said that they write in one form or another, and that it was nice to meet someone who has actually published their stories. It was lovely to be a source of encouragement and inspiration.

I’ve said in the past, that book signings have netted me little profit in the monetary sense and I’ve wondered whether they were really worth my time, but this event has changed my mind. In addition to making a modest profit from book sales, I gained a couple of dozen names for my newsletter list, and made many potential connections–including school teachers, librarians, mental health professionals, and teens interested in finding me on social media or purchasing my e-books for their e-readers after the fair. All in all, a great success. I thought I would share some tips that I found helpful. I hope you’ll share yours in the comments section below, so others may benefit from your experience.

harvest fair pic 11) THINGS TO BRING-A sturdy, 10×10 easy-up tent, a comfy chair, a couple of tables with table cloths (I have a six foot and a four foot table), books in plastic totes (don’t forget to take inventory and keep track of your sales), swag (bookmarks, post cards, etc.), tape, scissors, pens, plastic bags (recycle those plastic grocery bags and carry them in an empty tissue box for convenience), or have some nice bags made up with your name, website, and logo if you want to make an impression. You might reserve those for people who buy several books. Don’t forget a cash lock box, business cards, and candy (no chocolate on hot days) or a treat.

2) SIGNAGE-Invest in a nice banner, which you can have printed up through Vista Print. I have yet to do this, but I made do with a homemade banner. Plastic stand-up sign holders from Staples work great for specific table top signs. You can make whatever signs you want on your computer to fit the 8×11 frames. “Local Author of Teen Books,” “Sign up for my newsletter and enter to win…,” “Follow me on FB, Twitter, etc.” and pricing signs, are just a few ideas. Be creative.

3) PRESENTATION-Consider your brand, your audience, and your space. Create a visually appealing stage for your books. harvest fair pic 3Use color wisely to catch attention of passersby and don’t overcrowd your space. Too much to look at can be a deterrent.

4) SELLING-You can offer book sets with special pricing/discounts, you could sell merchandise related to your books (cups, tee shirts, or in my case, wooden whistles which I also offer as a free gift to those who purchase both book one and book two in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy).

5) SALES PITCH-This is an opportunity to hone your sales pitch. Have a one liner to pull people in. Keep it simple. “Feel free to take a bookmark.” Keep it real and fun. “This is the glamorous life of an author.” This last phrase spoken as I used duct tape to secure my tent signage or while I peeled tape residue off my tent poles. I got lots of smiles with this one. Pitch to your audience. “I write books for teens…and teens at heart,” when speaking to adults and elderly folks who actually might enjoy reading my books. I describe my contemporary YA novels as the kind of books that would make great Lifetime Network or Hallmark movies, and note when I’m speaking to parents of teens that I write books that I wish had been available when I was a teenager. I mention accolades and awards, my million plus reads of SAVAGE CINDERELLA on Wattpad (which made that particular book sell very well all weekend), and try to hone in on what might appeal to the demographic to which I’m presenting. “The book is about a girl who is kidnapped as a child, left for dead in the high country of North Georgia and survives in the wild.” One sentence grabbers are essential! Comparisons also work well as in “Savage Cinderella is like Law and Order SVU meets Nell.” Of course this only works for people old enough to remember the movie with Jodie Foster, LOL. With teens, I might compare The Chronicles of Lily Carmichael to the TV show, Revolution, or books like The Hunger Games and Divergent, but not quite as grim and gritty. As time goes on throughout the event, you’ll find what works best. It’s excellent practice for agent/editor elevator pitches at conferences. You never know who you’ll meet, so always have a professional and friendly demeanor.

6) GIVEAWAYS-Book signings are a great place to expand your newsletter mailing list. Offer entry in a prize giveaway, a FREE download, or some incentive to get people to sign up. Reassure them that your newsletters aren’t spammy and that their information will not be used for any other reason. Be prepared to offer something for free. You can be generous without giving away the store or breaking the bank. It costs me nothing to give away a free download of ON THIN ICE (I get a coupon code through Smashwords, and have cards printed up through Vista Print with my cover on the front and instructions and the download code on the back. I can usually get 250 cards printed up for free or next to nothing when I’m ordering other items through Vista Print).

Most importantly, have FUN! Try to stay engaged with people and don’t stick your nose in a book or hide behind your computer screen. Fortunately, we had a dry and beautiful weekend with a great turnout. I met some amazing people! I also had some fabulous apple pie with Granville cheddar cheese…yum! And yes, I even sold a good number of books.

Any other ideas or things I missed?

It’s my second Indie birthday!

Hey Scribblers!

PJ Sharon here. Today I’m celebrating two years since I first published my debut novel HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES. In honor of the occasion, I’m giving away an audio book copy to one random commenter. Chance to enter ends Monday, September 30th at midnight.

So what’s it like being an Indie toddler?

Believe me, there are days when I want to have fits like a two-year-old. But there are also days when I can’t imagine a more exciting pursuit. It seems like just yesterday I was posting my first novel onto AMAZON, B&N, and Smashwords, taking the giant leap of faith that I had done enough to ensure it was as close to perfect as possible. Five books and a zillion lessons later, I’m still working to improve and streamline my process. Everything from formatting, cover art, editing, and marketing, to managing the business end of being an author, is constantly changing, making me feel like a perpetual newbie.

Here’s a short list of what I’ve learned in my first two years:

1) Relax and Breathe-I really stressed out my first year and a half as an author. The past six months has been about letting go for me. I can’t control it all, I can only do so much in a day, and the to-do list will still be there tomorrow. Making time to write is non-negotiable. It’s what keeps me moving forward and brings me joy. I manage what I absolutely have to do each day, and try to remember that I’m the boss.

2) Hire as much help as you can afford-I’m a big fan of bartering services, but there are some things you just can’t do that with. Figuring out a budget and investing in creating a superior product is worth the effort and money. Hire a good cover artist and excellent editors, and pay for the RIGHT advertisement, and you will make your money back. Caution: BE SELECTIVE. Get references and do your research.

3) It’s good to have friends in the playpen- I would know nothing if I didn’t belong to such Yahoo Groups as IndieRomanceInk, Authors Network, and Marketing for Romance Writers. My local RWA chapter has been invaluable, and the contacts I’ve made through YARWA and the WG2E street team are like family. I am constantly amazed by the generosity of the writing community.

4) Patience grasshopper-  I’m only two, for Pete’s sake! We have to walk before we can run, right? Everything requires a process. In people years, a toddler is only just beginning their journey. I can’t expect myself to know everything, do everything right, or earn a solid income in only two years time. Every business model I’ve ever seen considers a profit after five years, a success. Most businesses will fail in those first five years. I take comfort in knowing that the only way I can fail is if I stop writing books. I’m more and more convinced that money comes with time and persistence. I’ll let you know how that theory works out in another three years when I graduate to kindergarten.

5) Perspective is everything- I originally set the goaI that I would sell 10,000 copies of my collective books in a year. I guess I didn’t necessarily mean the first year…or the second. Well, maybe I was just being optimistic. I could have been disappointed when I didn’t meet my mark in 2012, but it didn’t really phase me. Mainly because I knew that if I had sold 5,000 the first year, the second five would come eventually. I still haven’t quite reached the 10K mark yet (there will be cake when I do!). But I consider every sale, every contest win, positive review, or reader comment a measure of success. Most importantly, my level of enjoyment with the process is my biggest measure of success these days. I keep a copy of each of my books close at hand to remind me of what I’ve accomplished in just two short years.

There is so much more that I’ve learned, but I’d have to write a book to contain it all and my publishing schedule is booked for the foreseeable future. So instead of me blabbering on about my toddler years, why don’t you guys tell me about your journey.

How long have you been writing?  What has it taught you? Have you made the leap into the publishing world? How’s that going for you? Let’s chat!

How to Get the Most Out of a Conference

Hello,loves. Suze here.

With CTRWA’s Fiction Fest, an annual writer’s conference held in Connecticut (this year beautiful Mystic, home of a first-rate aquarium and a seaport village museum) fast approaching, I thought it might be useful to list a few do’s and don’ts for getting the most out of a conference. By the way, there’s still time to register for Fiction Fest if you haven’t done so yet. Click here for more information.

1. DO dress appropriately. You don’t need to be attired in full business suit, spectator pumps and a strand of pearls, carrying a leather briefcase. But don’t show up in Daisy Dukes and a cowboy hat, or yoga pants (sorry!) either. Remember you will be meeting and mingling with industry professionals–other writers, potential readers, and those who have the power to sell or buy your book (agents and editors). These are people who are, or who will be, your peers or your fans. Do you want to look like a slob, a working girl, or a writing professional?

Wear something casual, but moderately stylish. A dress or skirt and cute top are always appropriate. Jeans, as long as they’re in good shape (not faded, ripped or frayed) are okay, but I would definitely pair them with nice shoes, a well-fitted colorful jacket (not denim, unless you’re actually a cowgirl), a new-looking tee shirt, and a statement piece of jewelry. A big colorful necklace or chunky bracelet not only looks great, but can serve as a conversation starter. When in doubt, watch a few episodes of What Not To Wear on TLC. Stacy and Clinton are usually right on the money about what looks appropriate and stylish and they address all body types.

That being said, there are a very, very few people–and you know who you are–who can get away with outrageous outfits like corsets and feathers. Chances are extremely good you are not one of them.

2. Related to #1 above, DO wear a bra. This should go without saying, but Bouncing Betty has been spotted at conferences. Ask Sugar Jamison.

3. Also related to #1 above, DO wash and comb your hair and wear a little makeup. You don’t need a full Clinique makeover with products expensive enough to pay your mortgage, but you’ll look and feel more professional with at least some mascara and a lightly tinted lip gloss (my favorite is Burt’s Bees in Watermelon).

4. DO bring some business cards. You can get them quickly, free or extremely inexpensively, from Vistaprint. Even if you’re just getting started as a writer, a business card with your name and email address (social media information if you have it) is essential. You’re not being presumptuous by having cards. You’re going to be meeting lots of people, some of whom you are going to want to stay in contact with–and who will want to stay in contact with you. A preprinted business card is a necessity, in my book.

5. DO bring some extra cash for the raffle. There are always tons of great prizes, and it’s a money-maker for the organization hosting the event.

6. DON’T hang out with your friends all day. Sit–and talk with–with new people at the luncheon and the workshops. I would argue that the most important part of conferences is the networking. Sure, the workshops are great, and the chance to hear a good speaker is valuable and inspiring, but you need to be making industry connections. The more people you know, the more opportunities you have. That’s just business. Plus, it’s a heck of a lot of fun. Trust me on this. I am a former wallflower who now feels comfortable talking to just about anybody. If you’re at a loss for words, here are some conversation starters:

  • Hi, I’m Glenda. I came here from Vermont. Where are you from?
  • That’s a gorgeous necklace. Are you enjoying the conference?
  • You were in the BDSM workshop, weren’t you? What do you write?
  • Oh My. Wasn’t that Katy Lee who just walked by? I love her books.

See, it’s not that hard. You automatically have something in common with everyone at the conference–you love to read, and you write (or want to write). I don’t know any writer who doesn’t like to talk about writing. So don’t be shy.

7. DON’T get drunk during the cocktail hour. ‘Nuff said.

8. DON’T stalk people. If you happen to meet up with an agent, editor, or author in the ladies’ room, just say hi and maybe that you are enjoying the conference. (If it’s an author, you can tell her that you loved her last book) Don’t try to pitch your book while the stalkee is attempting to apply lipstick, blow her nose, or dry her hands at the turbospeed machine. If you are asked, that’s great. Go for it. But there’s a time and place for everything. Talking to someone in the next bathroom stall while you are each trying to do your business is not, um, good business. Again, be professional.

OK, how about you? What are your tips for getting the most out of a conference? What was the best conference you ever attended?

Top 10 tips, quotes, and advice I heard at RWA2013

PJ Sharon here, happy to be home after a fun filled week in Atlanta at RWA 2013. It was such a busy week, I couldn’t possibly recap all the cool events, workshops, and networking opportunities I enjoyed. So instead, I thought I would share the highlights in a top 10 list. I’ve paraphrased the exact quotes, but wanted to share the amazing messages from some notable authors and industry professionals.

1)      Advice from Indie author Bella Andre. “Writing is a business. Know who your readers are and write what you can sell. If it’s not selling, change something. Put a new cover on it, change your description, or change the categories on your book’s page.” This is paraphrased, but definitely the gist of her message. I had the opportunity to chat with her and she gave me some very good career advice. She was awesome and I’m now a huge fan girl.RWA2013 me and Bella Andre

2)      Kristan Higgins in her incredibly insightful and moving luncheon speech. “What we do makes a difference. Romance novels can help people through the darkest, loneliest, and most painful times in their lives.” Really…if you ever doubt the worth of what you are writing, you need to remember how you feel after reading a heartfelt and powerful love story by one of your favorite authors.

3)      Michael Hague on the ultimate tool for understanding your character’s deepest fear and motivation. “I’ll do whatever it takes to achieve that goal, just don’t ask me to_________.”

4)      Author Carla Neggars on Writing as Work/Writing as Play: Do they need to be either/or? “It comes down to creating a dynamic dialogue between work and play. It’s about abandonment and concentration, the continent of reason and the Island of intuition. Set a schedule with intention and stick to it.” 

5)      Tips on e-mail marketing from Heroes and Heart Breakers authors.  “Create a catchy subject line that has searchable key words and offers a promise. Meet that promise. Send out newsletters on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Balance info with offers and engagement of readers. Blend editorial and marketing with a call to action from your readers sprinkled in.” There was some talk about gaining newsletter followers by using Romance Studios, adding your newsletter link to an automated Twitter response for new followers, adding the newsletter link to your Facebook page, Author Central page, etc.

6)      Mark LaFebvre from KOBO Writing Life on their now offering pre-orders for Indies. “We’re open minded in Canada.” I loved this guy and can’t wait to start working directly with KOBO to sell my books.

7)      Bella Andre says that audio books are the latest big thing and SEO is the key to attracting your readership!

8)      Author Barbara Freethy recommends at least three proof readers for Indie-pubbed books. I agree!

9)      Agent Christina Hogrebe recommended book bloggers for promoting your YA titles. “If a high traffic blogger loves your book, it can go viral in no time.” Here’s to hoping she’s right!

10)  A quote from award winning author and RITA Awards emcee, Christie Craig. “The difference between northern writers and southern writers is that northerners start their stories with ‘Once upon a time,’ while southern storytellers start every story with ‘You ‘aint ‘gonna believe this sh**.’” Christie Craig was hilariously funny and did a fine job as emcee. WTG Christie!

RWA2013 me and Katy Lee Beyond all of these excellent tips and so many more from people like Cathy Maxwell, our keynote speaker, and the excellent agent/editor panels, the best part of the conference for me was the new friends I made and the wonderful companionship of my CTRWA peeps (other than D.S. who it turns out is a terrible covers hog).

Please feel free to share some of your highlights in the comments section below. And speaking of favorite conference highlights, check out all the spectacular shoes! Can you guess whose they are?shoe pic

Top 10 tips, quotes, and advice I heard at RWA2013

PJ Sharon here, happy to be home after a fun filled week in Atlanta at RWA 2013. It was such a busy week, I couldn’t possibly recap all the cool events, workshops, and networking opportunities I enjoyed. So instead, I thought I would share the highlights in a top 10 list. I’ve paraphrased the exact quotes, but wanted to share the amazing messages from some notable authors and industry professionals.

1) Advice from Indie author Bella Andre. “Writing is a business. Know who your readers are and write what you can sell. If it’s not selling, change something. Put a new cover on it, change your description, or change the categories on your book’s page.” This is paraphrased, but definitely the gist of her message. I had the opportunity to chat with her and she gave me some very good career advice. She was awesome and I’m now a huge fan girl.RWA2013 me and Bella Andre

2) Kristan Higgins in her incredibly insightful and moving luncheon speech. “What we do makes a difference. Romance novels can help people through the darkest, loneliest, and most painful times in their lives.” Really…if you ever doubt the worth of what you are writing, you need to remember how you feel after reading a heartfelt and powerful love story by one of your favorite authors.

3) Michael Hague on the ultimate tool for understanding your character’s deepest fear and motivation. “I’ll do whatever it takes to achieve that goal, just don’t ask me to_________.”

4) Author Carla Neggars on Writing as Work/Writing as Play: Do they need to be either/or? “It comes down to creating a dynamic dialogue between work and play. It’s about abandonment and concentration, the continent of reason and the Island of intuition. Set a schedule with intention and stick to it.”

5) Tips on e-mail marketing from Heroes and Heart Breakers authors. “Create a catchy subject line that has searchable key words and offers a promise. Meet that promise. Send out newsletters on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Balance info with offers and engagement of readers. Blend editorial and marketing with a call to action from your readers sprinkled in.” There was some talk about gaining newsletter followers by using Romance Studios, adding your newsletter link to an automated Twitter response for new followers, adding the newsletter link to your Facebook page, Author Central page, etc.

6) Mark LaFebvre from KOBO Writing Life on their now offering pre-orders for Indies. “We’re open minded in Canada.” I loved this guy and can’t wait to start working directly with KOBO to sell my books.

7) Bella Andre says that audio books are the latest big thing and SEO is the key to attracting your readership!

8) Author Barbara Freethy recommends at least three proof readers for Indie-pubbed books. I agree!

9) Agent Christina Hogrebe recommended book bloggers for promoting your YA titles. “If a high traffic blogger loves your book, it can go viral in no time.” Here’s to hoping she’s right!

10) A quote from award winning author and RITA Awards emcee, Christie Craig. “The difference between northern writers and southern writers is that northerners start their stories with ‘Once upon a time,’ while southern storytellers start every story with ‘You ‘aint ‘gonna believe this sh**.’” Christie Craig was hilariously funny and did a fine job as emcee. WTG Christie!

RWA2013 me and Katy Lee Beyond all of these excellent tips and so many more from people like Cathy Maxwell, our keynote speaker, and the excellent agent/editor panels, the best part of the conference for me was the new friends I made and the wonderful companionship of my CTRWA peeps (other than D.S. who it turns out is a terrible covers hog).

Please feel free to share some of your highlights in the comments section below. And speaking of favorite conference highlights, check out all the spectacular shoes! Can you guess whose they are?shoe pic