Monday, December 21, 2009

How about booksignings?

Let me change hats and put on my author hat:

I consider book signings to be PR. They seldom produce significant sales. I generally set up a large placard announcing that I am signing books (you’d be surprised how few people “get it” if I don’t). By the time I do a signing I have tried to lead it with radio and newspaper interviews and emailed or mailed any actual contacts I have in the community. I stand pretty much the entire time greeting people at the door and giving them free bookmarks. I prefer to have them at a store that will allow me to sell backlist on consignment in addition to the current books the store has gotten. ( I also have copies of those with me in case theirs don’t get in which happens or in the happy case that they didn’t get enough and I sell out). But with all that if I cover expenses it’s a pretty good day.

Doing a program is different. I like to go to a store that will advertise that I am doing one of the programs that I offer and that I will be available to sign books afterward. These produce much better results and I’ll generally pick up some impulse buying from the store as well. But I do many more of these at libraries or schools than I do at bookstores and the results are much better. Even better still is conferences and workshops. The big conferences I often don’t sell books so as not to compete with the conference attendees. But the smaller conferences, particularly if it is a workshop where I’m presenting alone or with just a couple of people, the book sales are generally very good.

Finally I have to say there is an inverse relationship between the size of the town and the success of a booksigning or program. You’d think the bigger the better, but it just isn’t so at least my experience hasn’t been that. I often go to very small towns, and where I may just be another signing or event in a big town, in a small town I am a very rare celebrity. I’ve sold several hundred books in these cases, done multiple programs, and just in general have had a ball. I heartily encourage you to seek out and pursue opportunities to go to very small communities. In ALL cases it works best if you have a local person, hopefully as well known a local person as possible, serving as your “local chairman” and helping turn out a crowd for you. Such a person can take it VERY PERSONALLY if people do not come and I have had them sitting there running the battery down on their sell phone trying to make sure it happens. People called out in this manner almost always buy a book.

I’m busy now trying to set up school, church and library programs around the actual workshops and conferences I have scheduled. I try to work weekdays for my clients. I try to work Saturday or weekends for my own writing career.



Bess said...

This is interesting. If...I mean...WHEN...I am a published author, I'll have to remember what you said in this entry.

P.S. I like the cowboy hat just as much as the author hat!

writer jim said...

Mr. Burns,

Wht you said about a 'local person of influence' is, I think, the best method to start the word of mouth snowball.

I sent some of my writings to a president in the Southern Baptist Convention. He required all his subordinates to read it; and he made a public 180 turn on his TV program.

I also sent it to leaders in CBN/700 Club and Campus Crusade for Christ. I had what were to me unimaginable responses: Many phone calls and personal meetings. In every case I learned that people of influence also spread the word to others of influence...and that it could go on and on. Concerning selling, I believe nothing can compare to word of mouth.

I would suggest to any writer to use these methods. It only costs you a few books and dollars: send them to the most influencial people that you feel would really believe in, or love, your book.

Millie Samuelson said...

LOTS of great ideas for booksignings! Thanks! If you haven't already published this as an article, you should. . . :-)
CHRISTmas blessings!

Terry Burns said...

Thanks, Millie, maybe I'll add it to my little "Pitch and Promote" ebook.

Jeanette Levellie said...

Thanks, Terry. You are full of wonderful tricks of the trade, aren't you? DO add this to your Pitch and Promote ebook!

I helped promote my friend Patti Lacy's second book by talking to the managers of two bookstores, asking them to set up a book signing with her. Then she followed with phone calls. They like it when a customer requests an author, and it gratified me to be a part of her success.

Bless you,

Stephen Bloom said...

I've learned book signings are like fishing. You can't just sit there looking at the stream and hope to catch fish. You've got to keep your line in the water, work the pools, try out different techniques.

And, of course, picking your spot is key. My best spot was a regional denominational conference where I had lots of contacts and promotional allies. I sold 77 books that day, my biggest catch ever.

On the other hand, I've fished a few tough waters (low traffic stores) where hours of casting led to only one or two sales.

Just like fishing.