Tag Archives: book signings

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?

Author Events! by J Monkeys

Hiddey-Ho Scribblers!  J Monkeys here, back from sabbatical for just a quick moment.  I’m doing an Author Event this weekend with a bunch of buddies and I wanted to take a mo to talk about it.

These days, authors seem to be doing as much promo as a Kardashian hawkin’ an adult film.  It used to be (at least we dreamed of an author life where…) you wrote a good book, got it published and then the world bought it.  Occasionally you’d do a book signing where your fans lined up around the building hours in advance.  Of course, someone else did all the grunt work of planning it and paid for you to travel in first class.  Hmm.  Haven’t had that happen yet! 

Nowadays, authors got do the promo thang, no matter if you’re traditionally published, going digital press or indie pub’d.  And for the most part, you are on your own to make it happen.  Unless you hire yourself a publicist…out of your own pocket, of course.  Which many folks do.  See my sister scribe Jennifer Fusco’s Market or Die site for details on their fine services. 

I’ve tried a few different things with hit or miss success.  My books are for middle grade kids and emerging readers.  These are not folks with disposable income or e-readers or even much buying power.  These are kids.  Maybe age 5-12.  They certainly can influence the adults in their lives to make purchases for them, but they can’t do it independently.  

I’ve tried a couple of blog tours – not big successes for me, but possibly because I wasn’t blogging with other children’s authors, necessarily, and didn’t hit the target audience.

I’ve done a holiday fair at the local mall.  That was surprisingly lousy, but then it was November 2011, height of the recession and all of the vendors at that fair complained that they’d never done so poorly, so maybe it wasn’t me. 

Guest author visits at schools are great, but tough gigs to get. 

I’ve done a number of craft fairs.  About 1/2 the time, I’ve made back the cost of the fair, but of course, that’s not the only measure of success.   That’s an importamonkey logo finalnt thing to remember but tough to do when you are running a business on a shoestring.  Being an author is a strange business.  You’ve got to continually get out there, get your brand out there, connect with people.  Your sales can be very long tail.  You never know when someone might think to themselves, “Hey.  I need a new book...who was that lady I met at that thing way back when?  She had a cute monkey as her logo…Oh yeah.  J Monkeys.  Lemme Google her.”

Today’s secret: When you are considering doing any kind of author event, don’t limit your definition of success to immediate financial gratification.  Remember this business is a marathon, not a sprint.

And, if you’re looking for a good book – I’ll be at the Enfield CT 4th of July Celebration (July 6-7) with 20 other authors in a gigantic, local local author party.  Come on down!

How to Choose a Writer’s Conference

PJ here, happy to be on the East coast and back in my own bed…ahhhh. After doing this writing thing for a while, I’ve been to quite a few writer’s conferences, and I wanted to share my experience on how to choose the “right” conference for you. If you belong to RWA or a similar writer’s organization, you probably get inundated with lots of options. Here are a few things to think about.

Location/Accommodations: Check out the hotel venue and make sure the location is some place you’d like to stay for a few days. A bad night’s sleep, disappointing food, or poor quality hospitality can really put a damper on your stay. It’s worth visiting the hotel’s website and checking out their reviews. Make plans for car rental and recreational activities ahead of time so you don’t get there with hopes of visiting a locale on your “down time” only to find that you can’t get a car rental on short notice or the place you want to visit is closed. Although you are going for business, one of the perks of traveling is enjoying the sights along the way. Also, check to see what is around your hotel. Are there local restaurants and shopping within walking distance? Is there a gym? An indoor pool? Are you next to a train yard, airport, or in a bad section of the city? Some of these things may not be important to you, but if they are, make sure you know what you are paying for ahead of time. Scope out your hotel and surrounding area on Google maps.

Price: Is it affordable and worth the money for what you are getting? Are meals included? Are the speakers well known and knowledgeable? Is it worth your time, money, and effort? Remember to consider your loss of income while you’re away from your day job, and factor in any accrued costs such as wardrobe, entertainment, and additional travel fees (taxis, trains, buses etc.). Remember to save all receipts for tax purposes.

Focus of conference: Does the conference offer workshops that will help you further your career goals? If you are a newer writer, make sure there are craft workshops geared to what you’d like to learn. If you are seeking publication, are there opportunities to meet with agents and editors to pitch your story? Agent and editor panels offer a great opportunity to ask questions, find out what they are looking for, and hear the latest about the industry from publishing professionals. If you are a published author, do they offer promotion, marketing, and business oriented workshops? Interested in self-pubbing? Do they offer the most updated information available in this rapidly growing and changing aspect of the industry? If you are participating in a book signing, how successful have previous years been and how many readers can you expect to see? Shipping books is expensive, so ask for clear answers about realistic expectations. My experience is that print books don’t sell all that well at conferences and I rarely recoup the cost of shipping. I can see e-books being the way to go for future signings.

Networking: Conferences are a wonderful place to meet like-minded individuals and make professional contacts that you might never have the chance to meet otherwise. Don’t stalk the agents and editors but research them and know who you’d like to make a connection with. Make the effort to sit next to them at lunch or dinner (or in the bar). Be ready to talk intelligently about your work. Be prepared with a SHORT pitch of your WIP. Create a one or two sentence summary (log line) of what your story is about. The most common question asked at conferences is “What do you write?” The second most common question is “What is your story about?” Have an answer memorized and ready, and confidently smile as you give them your brief spiel. Don’t monopolize their time, but use the time wisely. If you get tongue tied and start rambling or their eyes begin to glaze over, stop talking and ask them a question about something unrelated. Where are you from? Are you a writer, too? Do you love baseball, zumba, pole dancing? Something that will put you at ease and take the heat off of you until you can collect yourself and get comfortable enough not to sound like an idiot. These are just people, but they are professionals and are there to FIND YOU! Respect their time, but don’t let your fear stop you from putting yourself out there.

Quality Speakers: I cannot stress this enough. Do some research on the speakers. What are their publishing/professional credentials? Just because they are there, doesn’t mean they are interesting, entertaining, or an expert in their field. Have they done this workshop before? How many times? Ask around to other writers and check out the websites of your presenters. If they don’t have a professional website that is engaging and informative, it might be an indicator that they aren’t all that well organized.

Organization: If you’ve ever participated in organizing a conference, you know about the gazillion moving parts and the army of people it takes to put on a seamless production. Of course there are always things that go wrong or details that get missed, but overall, organizers want it to be a good experience for everyone and they want attendees to return year after year to support the effort. If they don’t return e-mails, or answer your questions clearly up front, chances are the conference won’t be much better organized than the individuals running it. Conferences are generally a way for organizations to make money to support writers and their endeavors, so organizers (who are all volunteers, so be patient and kind to these people) are invested in making your conference experience successful. If there are suggestions you have for improvements, be sure to share them with conference organizers.

And last but not least, Food: You might have to contact the conference organizers for this information, but it’s worth asking about the menu ahead of time. If you have dietary restrictions or just want to make sure that some healthy selections are available, it’s worth the added effort to ensure that your needs are known ahead of time. You also have the option of doing a bit of shopping when you get settled in and stocking your hotel room refrigerator (make sure one is available in your room when you book your reservation) with fruit, yogurt, water, etc. so you can avoid the breakfast buffets that offer all those yummy bagels, pastries, muffins, and such. Will there be adequate chocolate selection at breaks? Just sayin’.

Unlocked Secret: Do your research, guys. There are enough choices for quality conferences around the country and your educational dollars are valuable, so make them count and get the most of your experience.

I hope to see you all at the RWA National convention in Atlanta this summer. It’s shaping up to be a fabulous time!

Any other tips for our readers to help them find a quality conference? What has been your favorite conference experience? Any funny experiences you’d like to share from the “trenches”?

Twice Bitten, Now Shy

Hi!  J Monkeys here with Saturday’s Secret.   As an Indie Published author of two books (The Cordovan Vault and Dixie & Taco Go To Grandmother’s House – available on Amazon), I get the privilege (and sometimes chore) of wearing a publisher’s hat in addition to my author hat.  The publisher hat leads to me some interesting places.  Of course it’s likely that I’ll someday incorporate some of those places into future books – after all that’s part of the fun of being an author.  But today I wanted to tell you about an experience that I wouldn’t have believed if it hadn’t happened to me.

No, this isn’t going to be a Letters to XYZ-Magazine type of blog post, so put those fears aside.  My family scheduled a vacation in Nashville, Tennessee.  I live in Connecticut, so naturally the publisher/publicist in me thought this would be a great opportunity to introduce my author-y self to a new geographical area.  I scheduled a couple of book signings where we were going to be staying and shipped books from my printer to family living in Nashville, our first stop.

Here’s where the unbelievable part comes in.  The post office lost my giant box of books.  Their tracking system told me that the box was sitting in a particular post office, but when I went there, no box could be found.  Ok, this was a tough break.  But being the New Englander that I am (and having nobody to go diva on!) I weathered the storm, changing the signing into a reading (thank God I had a proof copy in my carry-on bag), and put a brave face on the whole thing.

But a few trusting souls at the Nashville signing bought books from me, with the promise that I’d ship them out (at my own expense) as soon as I got home.  Of course I sent them out at the very first opportunity and paid extra at the post office for delivery confirmation.  I even double-checked the tracking numbers on the receipt against those on the shipping labels to be sure I had all the bases covered.  One tracking number on the receipt was two digits different from the label by the way, so good thing I caught it.

The boxes should have been delivered yesterday.  Notice I write “should have been”.  Yup, you guessed it; one box went missing.  There’s no tracking whatsoever.  The post office’s response to this quandary, “Did you ask the recipient if they’d gotten the package?”  Um – no, shouldn’t I be able to find that out for myself?  Isn’t that the whole point of tracking?  To track things?!  Anyway – long story long, I’ll probably be mailing yet another set of books out to this customer tomorrow in an effort to live up to my promise.

Scribe’s Secret Unlocked: All those customer service skills you’ve hopefully built up over the years in all the different types of jobs you’ve had, will still serve you well when wearing your publisher hat.  Think like the professional you are and be prepared for diligent follow-up.

~ J