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JA Konrath
01-02-2006, 10:31 PM
My name is JA Konrath. I'm a full time fiction writer. You can find out more about me, and my books, at JAKonrath.com.

While I'm not wildly successful, I make a pretty good living. When I finally landed a book deal, after years of trying and hundreds of rejections, I chose to learn as much as I could about the business.

I've been posting bits of information in various threads about signings, touring, and drop-ins. This post contains everything I've learned so far.


How to do Drive By Signings


Your book has made it into the stores! Congratulations!

Your publisher/distributor/sales reps have done their jobs---now it’s time to do yours.

Four out of five books don’t earn back their advance. Half of all books are returned, remaindered, or destroyed. You can accept this as a fact of the business, or you can take the wheel of your career and do something to improve your odds.

Autographed books sell better than their unsigned counterparts. Customers regard authors as celebrities, and a signed book is a value-added purchase.

But how likely is it that your publisher will set up a signing at every bookstore in America? Especially when each store carries just three copies of your magnum opus?

The answer: The Drive-By Signing. You drive up, you go in, you sign the stock, you get out.

For my thriller novels Whiskey Sour and Bloody Mary, I’ve done over 400 drive-by signings in the past 18 months, leaving my signature on several thousand books, meeting thousands of people.

Sound impossible? It’s actually pretty easy to do, once you know the routine.

1. Find the stores.

Go to www.bookweb.org (http://www.bookweb.org/), www.booksense.com (http://www.booksense.com/), www.bn.com (http://www.bn.com/), www.waldenbooks.com (http://www.waldenbooks.com/), www.american-stores.us/book (http://www.american-stores.us/book), www.borders.com (http://www.borders.com/), www.booksamillion.com (http://www.booksamillion.com/), and search for stores by city and zip code. Or go to the public library and look through the phone books. Try to list all the stores within 50 miles of your home, or within 25 miles of the town you’re visiting.

2. Call the stores you intend to drop in on.

You need to find out if the store still exists, what time they close, and if they carry your books.

DO NOT tell them you're the author. Why? All that does is complicate things. They'll say you have to speak to a manager, or an events coordinator, or they'll say you aren't allowed to come in unless it has been cleared by your publisher, or they'll say that they don't do signings, or they'll set the books aside and then no one will be able to find them when you come in, or you'll set everything up and when you get there no one will know who the heck you are, or... you get the point. Bookstores and publishers have a set of rules about author signings.

You want to bypass those rules. So call and see if they have copies, and ask how many. I wouldn't drive 20 miles to sign three paperbacks, but for three hardcovers I would.

Call a day or two before you plan on dropping by---calling ten days before may result in your books being gone by then.

3. Map out your route.

Use city maps, or Internet sites such as www.mapquest.com (http://www.mapquest.com/), www.maps.yahoo.com (http://www.maps.yahoo.com/), www.maps.google.com (http://www.maps.google.com/). Plot a course going location to location. A GPS navigation unit is heaven sent for touring authors, and saves a lot of time and effort.

Many Barnes & Noble and Borders stores often have locations just a few miles from one another.

Shopping malls often have a Waldenbooks or B. Dalton.

Independent booksellers are generally happier to see you, and more eager to sell your books. Fit as many of these into the drop-in tour as possible.

4. When you get to a store, find your own books.

Booksellers are busy, and you want to be low maintenance and take up very little of their time.

Take your books to the Information Desk, or to a counter, and say your spiel to an employee. Mine is:

"Hi! This is me. (Smiling, pointing to my name on cover.) I'm an author. Great to meet you. (Shake hand.) Thanks for carrying my books! Do you mind if I sign them?"

Start signing when you get the 'yes.' You’ll always get a ‘yes’ (though once I was asked for ID, which I provided.)

Then ask them if they like your genre, and tell them about your books.

While talking to the employee, give them something---a card, a bookmark, or in my case, a drink coaster with my book cover on it, and SIGN THE ITEM. Signing it will hopefully prevent them from throwing the item away, on the off chance that one day you'll be famous and they can sell it on eBay.

Also, ask them if they can check to see if there are any more in the store that you couldn't find. Be patient---if the store is busy, let them take care of customers before you. That gives you a chance to pitch to customers as well.

When the books are signed, ask if they have stickers that say "Autographed Copy". If they do, help them sticker the books. If they don't, use your own stickers, which you took from the last store you signed at.

Barnes & Noble have square green stickers. Borders and Waldenbooks have red triangles. Sometimes Waldenbooks have blue rectangles, and Borders have brown rectangles. Don't get confused.

After the books are signed and stickered, ask the employees to read them.

"You’ll enjoy this, I promise."

A bookstore employee who meets you and reads you is one that will forever sell you.

Often they'll make a display for you. Don't suggest a display yourself--let them suggest it. This appeal for help is important--it shows you're not a snooty author, but a regular person who needs them.

I also tell employees that whoever sells 20 copies or more will be mentioned in the acknowledgements for my next book, and give them my personal email so they can contact me.

6. Meet as many employees in the store that you can.

Thank them profusely for selling your book, and for the great job they're doing. Take their business cards, and add them to your email newsletter list.

But don’t overstay your welcome. They’re there to work, and so are you.

7. If you're at an independent bookstore, never leave without buying something.

If you want them to support you, you should support them.

8. Keep a log of where you visited, who you met, and how many copies you signed.

Share this info with your agent and publisher. You don't have to give them the full list, but an email saying, "I was just in Arizona for the weekend and signed stock at 21 bookstores" will impress them.

9. Return to stores a few months later.

Often they’ll have new stock and new employees. Many stores automatically buy more copies after a book sells. I’ve visited some stores five or six times, and I always meet new people and sign more books.

Obviously, your local bookstores are the ones you’ll visit the most. But whenever you leave town on business, or for vacation, check to see what bookstores are in the area before you go.

Final Words: If you’re planning on touring, you’ll get the most bang for your buck with large cities. A major metropolis like Chicago or Manhattan has over 100 bookstores. Even smaller cities like Phoenix, Denver, Houston, or Indianapolis have a few dozen stores, which is well worth your time.

When planning a drive-by tour, sooner is better. If you wait six months after your book comes out, you may discover your books are no longer there.

If you don’t have time to tour, try to visit every bookstore in your area, and set aside time during business trips and on vacation to hit a few stores in the area. The more places you visit, the more it will help your career.

Contrary to popular belief, signed books can be returned or destroyed. But it’s less likely they will be, especially if you were nice to the staff.

In today’s market, even bestselling writers must do their own publicity, or else they won’t be writers for very long. Drive-by signings are only one weapon in your publicity arsenal. But if done correctly, they can be the most powerful weapon you have.



How to Make a Disastrous Booksigning Event a Success


No aspect of a writer’s job offers more opportunity for euphoria (and anxiety) than a booksigning. But how do these events really go down?

The Fantasy. Your escort picks us up at the airport and drives you to the largest bookstore in the state. She tells you they’ve advertised the event in the three local papers and on the radio. When you arrive, there are a hundred fans already waiting. You meet the excited staff and sit behind a table stocked with a huge pile of books, under a giant color poster of your cover. You read a chapter aloud, receive thunderous applause, and then do a quick Q & A before signing for a solid 90 minutes, people waiting patiently in an endless line to tell you how much they love you.

The Reality. You arrive at the bookstore ten minutes early. There’s no crowd of fans---there’s not even one. No posters, no signs, no table full of books. The employees look at you like you’ve grown a second nose when you say you’re the author and there to sign. Finally you convince someone to help you and they unearth a box of your books and set up a small table for you in the rear of the store, near the washrooms. You sit there for two hours, each second an eternity. People try hard to avoid eye-contact when they pass. Some approach you and ask where The DaVinci Code is. One will always come over and say, “So you’re an author? I’ve got a lot of ideas. How about I tell them to you, you write them, and we’ll split the millions?” No one buys a book. It’s debasing, humiliating, discouraging, and you vow to never do this again.

The Plan. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With proper preparation, and a little bit of self-confidence, you can do very well at bookstore signings even if your last name isn’t Clancy. Here’s how.

A Month Before the Event. Book the signing yourself by calling or dropping by the bookstore and speaking to a manager or an event coordinator.

Often the store is not very receptive---author events don’t ever go well. Convince them that yours will, because you have a different way of doing things.

If you’re with a small publisher, your books may be difficult or impossible to order. Offer to bring the books in yourself and give the bookseller the standard 40% discount.

If you’re with a large publisher, they might refuse to pay the store co-op money (publishers pay stores to host events, often between fifty and several hundred dollars.)

If that’s the case, the store won’t be allowed to host a signing. Tell them you don’t want to do an official signing, but rather a drop-in just to sign stock. Then make sure they have at least twenty copies available.

Two weeks before the event. Advertising is up to you. Make a flyer featuring the date and time of the signing, your book cover, and a few blurbs. Send the bookstore 100 copies.

List the event on your website and in your newsletter, with an address and a phone number for the bookstore.

If you haven’t already, make a large (2 ’x 3’) poster of your book cover and a sign that says “AUTHOR EVENT TODAY.” Often your publisher will do this for you; just ask when you receive the cover art. Or you can have one made from a digital file at any copy shop, like Fed-Ex Kinkos.

Three days before the event. Call the store and make sure they have copies of your book in. If they don’t, remind them that you can bring copies of your own.

Most authors get discounted copies from their publisher. Instead, I suggest you buddy up with a local independent bookstore owner, and ask if she can sell you copies at her 40% discount. That way, they count toward your royalties.

How do you become friends with a local indie? Make them your base of operations, and have anyone who wants a signed copy go through them. Also, use them for your initial booklaunch party---they’ll be happy to help you out after that.

Day of the event. Make sure you have the essentials; 100 business cards with your website on them, flyers that feature some blurbs and reviews, some mints (so your breath stays fresh), some bottled water (hydration is important), and a nametag that says “AUTHOR.”

Dress. Business casual or better. Shaved, bathed, combed, made up and smelling nice.

Upon arrival. Get there fifteen minutes early to set up. Your first order of business is to introduce yourself to EVERY employee in the bookstore. Shake their hands. Give them a signed business card. Briefly tell them what your book is about, and let them know you’ll be there for a few hours.

Bring pizza or donuts for the staff. Employees are used to bigshot authors snubbing them. Be a bigshot author who appreciates them, and they’ll champion your books for life.

Set up. Sometimes the bookstore has already set up a table for you. Try to get one at the front of the store. If not, no problem---you can work around it.

Put your flyers and some business cards on the table, and hang your poster in a prominent place. Make sure your books are arranged in an attractive manner.

An employee might offer you a chair. Kindly tell them you don’t need one—you’ll be on your feet for the whole event.

Ready, Set, Go! If you’re lucky, some people may have come to see you. Usually this isn’t the case. You're a new, unknown author. All of your friends and family have already bought your book. Even if the event has had heavy advertising and publicity, would you go to see an author you’ve never heard of before?

Neither will anyone else.

The only way you'll move your wares is through determination, personality, and fearlessness.

Put on your smile, stick out your hand, and get ready to greet EVERY PERSON that comes into the bookstore.

Does that terrify you? It shouldn’t. People are excited to meet authors. You’re a minor celebrity. Everyone likes to meet celebrities.

Don’t worry about being rebuffed or ignored. You’ve dealt with rejection before. You’re a writer, and rejection is part of the business.

The Approach. People will be preoccupied when they walk into a bookstore. Some are on a mission to buy the new Harry Potter, or latest issue of Guns and Ammo. Some are there to browse genres other than the one you’re writing in.

But all people, no matter their reason for being there, will respond when you introduce yourself and offer to shake hands.

I use one of two lines:

"Are you a mystery fan? I’m a mystery writer." or "Hi, I’m an author. Do you like thrillers?"

It’s extremely rare that a person will ignore an outstretched hand---it’s only happened to me three times, and I’ve shaken thousands of hands.

The Pitch. If I get a yes to one of the above questions, I launch into my pitch.

"My name is JA Konrath. I write a mystery series about a Chicago cop named Jack Daniels. Jack is short for Jacqueline, and she's in her forties, divorced, has a train wreck for a personal life, but she’s great at her job. She chases serial killers."

If they still seem interested at this point (about 1 out of 5) I continue:

"The book is actually very funny, similar to Janet Evanovich or Dave Barry. But it also has a darker side, kind of like James Patterson or Hannibal Lecter/Silence of the Lambs. So it goes from laugh out loud funny, to pretty scary--you'll want to turn on the lights and make sure the doors and windows are locked when you're reading."

It's important to maintain eye contact and keep smiling. Then finish your pitch.

"Whiskey Sour is the first book in a new series. The second is Bloody Mary. They’ve won several wards and appeared on some bestseller lists. I'd love to sign a copy or two for you-- and if you like, I can make it out to EBay."

Relax and Be Casual. No one likes high pressure sales. Selling isn’t about forcing people to buy something they don’t want. It’s about finding the people who are looking for your product.

And yes, books are products. Publishing is a business. Take off the artist hat, and put on the salesperson hat. If you’re shy, or have low self esteem, take a public speaking class. The better you can talk to people, the further you’ll go in this career.

The Hand Off. While doing the spiel I’ll hand them the book itself. That connection is important. Holding something implies ownership, and you want them to look at the cover, read the jacket, and begin to think of this book as theirs.

Adjustments. I tailor the pitch depending on the person's interest. Often I ask questions. Sometimes I answer questions. I adjust the pitch to the individual (if a customer likes romances, I play up the romantic end. If they like thrillers, I downplay the comedy, etc.)

The Rejection. Most people won’t be interested, even after hearing your wonderful pitch. That doesn’t mean you should move along yet.

Hand them a flyer to look at, or autograph a business card or bookmark, and ask them to pass it along to anyone they know who is a fan of your kind of books.

Thank them for their time, and mention it was great meeting them. Also let them know that you’ll be around for a while, if they decide they want something signed.

Often people come back. Sometimes while you’re there. Sometimes days later.

The Acceptance. If they buy a copy, be genuinely grateful. I once did a signing with an author who grumbled, “I hate signing books” in front of the person he was autographing it for. The fan’s jaw hit the floor. I don’t recommend that approach.

Thank the customer for giving you a try, and ask them who they’d like the book personalized to. ALWAYS ask for them to spell the name, even if it’s “Kim,” (I had a Kymm once.)

Then thank them again, shake hands again, and give them the biggest smile you can give.

Enlisting the Staff. Large chain stores will often make announcements. Ask if they can announce you every half hour, or if you can make the announcements yourself.

“Today we have local author J.A. Konrath---that’s me---signing books from the Jack Daniels series. I encourage everyone of come over to front of the store and say hello. Autographed books make a great gift, for family, friends, or yourself.”

If the staff really likes you (and if you brought them pizza, they will) ask if they can pass out flyers, or walk around holding copies of your book and directing patrons to your table.

Does it Work? Typically, 1 out of 5 people I pitch to will buy the book. And I pitch to several dozen an hour--depending on how busy the store is.

I did an event last Saturday, and sold 40 hardcover books in 6 hours. The week before I did 40 books in 8 hours (store wasn't as crowded). Week before, 60 books in 8 hours. My record is 120 in ten hours.

It isn't easy getting a stranger to part with $22. Sometimes there are stretches when I approach 30 people and can't sell a single book. It's disheartening, depressing, and just plain awful.

Other times, I'll sell five books in three minutes--one person buys it and others will wander over to check out what's going on.

To date, using this method I’ve handsold over 2000 books.

Time to Leave. How long you stay is up to you. I think four hours is minimum, and if the store is really busy I’ll stay for six or more.

When you’re finally ready to go, you should once again thank the booksellers--they watched you bust your butt and are on your side.

If you didn't sell every copy, ask to sign the remaining stock, and affix stickers that say "signed by the author."

If the store doesn’t have stickers, use the ones you borrowed from the last place you signed at---the employees shouldn’t mind if you ask to take some extras, and you should always keep a supply of stickers on you from various chain stores.

If you brought your own books, don’t ask to be paid upfront---that’s bad business. Leave your contact information and let them know they can mail a check.

Most importantly, ask to come back in a month or two. I visit some local stores five times a year. Signed books really do well during the holidays.

Staying Positive. Every time I come into a bookstore and see that big stack of my books, I get a little sick inside. There's no way I'll sell all of those, I think. No one will come in to the store. People will ignore me. My pitch is crummy and won’t work. The staff is laughing behind my back. I’m a writer, not a salesperson.
Then I remind myself that the Great Wall of China was built one brick at a time, and that's how I'll sell my books--one at a time.

Each book you handsell is a book that never would have sold without your efforts.

Each person you meet is likely to talk about you to others.

Each reader who becomes a fan will become a fan for life and remember the time they shook your hand.

Each bookstore you visit will have employees who will handsell you for weeks, months, and even years after you’ve gone.

In my acknowledgements page on my latest book, I have a list of a dozen booksellers that I thank, because they’ve each handsold at least twenty copies of my first novel.

In the next book, I’ll be thanking over fifty booksellers. One particular bookseller has helped me sell over 300 hardcovers at one location. I named a character after him in my third book.

Your Goal. There’s no reason a booksigning has to be a stressful, unpleasant experience. In reality it is one of the cheapest, most-effective ways to build your career.

It’s your name on the book’s cover, and it’s your job to sell it. Sales is just like writing---the more you do, the better you become, the more success you achieve.Now go get ‘em, tiger!

Six Keys to a Successful Bookstore Pitch

1. Introduce yourself with a smile.
2. Explain the book’s premise, setting, and lead character in just a few seconds.
3. Compare your books to well known books the reader will recognize (It’s like a chick-lit version of Silence of the Lambs…)
4. Ask the customer a question. (Who do you like to read? What book did you come in for?)
5. Offer to sign and personalize a copy for them.
6. Thank them, whether they buy a copy or not.


Signing Survival Kit

· Snacks for Bookstore Employees
· 3 Good Pens
· 100 Business Cards
· 50 Flyers
· Poster of Book Cover
· Sign saying “Author Signing Today”
· Mints (gum annoys people)
· Bottled water
· Extra “Autographed Copy” stickers
· A Big Smile and a Good Attitude



How to Survive a Book Tour


You just found out your publisher is sending you on a tour. You’re surprised, excited, grateful… and terrified. You’ve heard other others complain about how grueling and disappointing tours are, even with all-expenses paid.

So what can you expect? How can you make sure your experience is a good one for you, the bookstores, and your publisher?

I just went on my very first tour---eight cities in eleven days---to promote my new hardcover thriller BLOODY MARY, and the paperback release of the first book in the Lt. Jack Daniels series, WHISKEY SOUR. I signed 933 books at 105 bookstores in Colorado, Arizona, California, Oregon, and Washington.

Here are 15 things I learned while on the road.

TOUR TIP #1: Use a GPS.

Your publisher will set up official signings for you, and possibly some publicity opportunities such as radio and TV interviews, library talks, and speeches.

Sometimes they provide escorts—those folks who pick you up at the airport and drive you around.

A cheaper, and better, alternative is a GPS Tracker. GPS stands for Global Positioning Satellite. Navman, Nextell, Magellon, and Garmin are some of the big names. These units are mini-computers that attach to the window of your car. You program in addresses, then they visually and verbally direct you to your destination. The best models have millions of addresses pre-programmed into their memory, tell you when you’ll reach your destination, and offer alternative routes if traffic is bad.

A GPS takes a lot of the stress out of being on tour. They can be added to your rental car, or purchased for a few hundred dollars. If you’re an author, you need one as much as you need a website and a cell phone.

TOUR TIP #2: Always allow yourself more time than you think you need to get to a destination.

Sometimes traffic is bad. Sometimes you stay at a store longer than expected. Sometimes you have car trouble.

For scheduled events, always plan on getting there 45 minutes early. If you’re going to be late, phone them as soon as you know. But try not to be late.

TOUR TIP #3: At an official signing, work the room before you begin.

Introduce yourself to the bookstore employees, and bring gifts (I give them a signed bottle of Jack Daniels). Thank them for having you. Praise their store.

Then give each person who showed up a handshake and warm welcome.

Bestselling thriller author Barry Eisler is a master at this---he always arrives early and talks to each member of the audience before he begins. It takes a few extra minutes, but you’ll have the crowd on your side before you begin, and customers and fans love the personal touch.

Be upbeat and show you’re happy to be there, even if you get a small crowd. If no one shows up at all, hang out with the booksellers and talk shop---your positive attitude will be remembered.

TOUR TIP #4: Rehearse your presentation, but pay attention to your response.

At an event, you’ll be asked to speak, or read, or answer questions, or all of the above. Be sure you have something prepared for all possible scenarios.

Monologues are boring and can be done in an empty room. Storytelling is an active, dynamic thing that requires the audience to participate. If they aren't involved, get them involved by making eye contact, asking questions, and smiling. Watch out for speech hesitations (ummm and uhhhh), get to the point quickly, and don’t drone on too long.

If you’re afraid to speak in public, get over it. If you’re unsure of how you present yourself, have a friend videotape you, and watch the recording later.

TOUR TIP #5: Publicly acknowledge your people.

If you have friends or family in the audience, big fans who traveled a long distance to see you, or published authors in the room, thank them by name when you do your presentation.

Also thank the bookstore and the employees again.

Most people love to be mentioned—though some are easily embarrassed. Ask beforehand if it’s okay you say their name in front of the crowd.

TOUR TIP #6: When reading, be brief (no more than ten minutes), and if appropriate, be funny.

Practice until you're smooth and confident. Use inflection and different tones for the characters. Smile while you read---it comes through in your voice.

Also, make sure the passage you’ve picked to read won't offend anyone. Avoid graphic language, sex, or violence---unless you’re reading at a horror convention.

Glance up at your audience often to gauge their reaction and draw them further into your words---people pay closer attention if they see you’re looking at them.

Not good at reading? Get good at it, or don’t do it at all. A poor reader hurts more than helps her cause.

TOUR TIP #7: When signing, always ask who they'd like the book inscribed to, and how to spell their name.

I've met Aymee, Jym, Marscha, Debbera, and Chuk, to misname a few.

Have a few witty phrases that you can use when needed. Since my books are named after drinks, I often write “Don’t Read and Drive!” or “Enjoy in Moderation!”

Take your time when signing to avoid mistakes---those books get returned and destroyed.

TOUR TIP #8: Don't leave without signing everything.

Even if no one comes to your signing, ask to sign all the stock and any posters. Also ask if they have stickers that say “Autographed Copy” to put on the books.

If they don’t have stickers, supply your own. Each time you visit a chain store and sign, ask to take a few extra stickers, so you have some for the next store that can’t find theirs.

TOUR TIP #9: When signing at an independent store, always buy something before you leave.

Support the folks who support you. If there are no books on your want-list, ask for recommendations from the employees.

If you’re signing with another author, or several authors, buy their books. We’re all in the same boat, and need to help one another.

This business is all about building contacts and relationships, and generosity goes a long way.

TOUR TIP #10: Do drive-by signings.

Even if your schedule is packed, you’ll have some extra time to stop by other local bookstores. Signing stock and introducing yourself to bookstore employees is always a smart idea when you’re in a new town. It builds word of mouth and good will. Award-winning mystery author Julia Spencer-Fleming calls it a force multiplier; the more people you get on your side, the better.

Your publisher will appreciate the extra effort you’re making. I had eight scheduled signings, but I signed at 97 extra bookstores during the tour. Everyone at my publishing house was in awe---which can’t hurt when you’re negotiating your next contract.

When you do drop-ins, always have something to give the bookstore employees.

I give them an autographed coaster with my book title, WHISKEY SOUR, on the front. Signed things get kept, and you’ll be remembered.

TOUR TIP #11: When planning your drive-by itinerary, phone first.

Some stores close early. Some stores change locations. Some stores don’t carry your books.

Use the local phonebooks, Mapquest.com, and your good old GPS to help plot your course. If there’s a Borders, there’s often a Barnes & Noble nearby. Most malls have a bookstore. Genre stores can be found through Internet searches, or through writers organizations like RWA, MWA, HWA, and SFWA.

Call to make sure they’re open and they stock your titles.

TOUR TIP #12: At drive-by signings, get in and get out.

Save time by finding your books on the shelf and bringing them to the Information Desk to sign them. Ask the staff to check if there are more copies. Sometimes there are others in the stockroom, or on end caps that you didn’t see.

After you’ve done signing your books and talking to the staff, get out of there. Lingering makes you look bad, and besides, you have more bookstores you have to visit.

TOUR TIP #13: Pay for as much as you can on your own.

Your publisher is sending you to work, not on a vacation. They pay for transportation and lodging. Pay-per-view movies, the beer in the honor bar, and room service are not options if you ever want to be toured again.

If your publisher gives you an expense account, use it wisely. No alcohol, dinner for friends, or theater tickets.

Show your publisher you’re a pro who wants to save them money, and they’ll reward you with more locations on your next tour.

TOUR TIP #14: Be good to yourself.

After visiting ten stores a day for a week straight, everything began to blur. I couldn’t remember what store I was in, where I parked, or what my books were about.

When that happens, take a little break. Sit down. Eat something. Call home. Hearing friendly voices helps you clear your head.

It’s important to dress well, look fresh, and stay healthy. This might be the only time people have a chance to meet you. Make a good impression.

I take a bottle of water with me everywhere to stay hydrated (dry mouth is common on tour), and always try to get at least six hours of sleep per night.

TOUR TIP #15: Let your publisher know how things are going.

They’ll be following your tour, calling stores after your events, and checking to make sure you arrived at the hotels. But they won’t ask you how you’re doing.

Communicate with your publicist through email or phone calls, letting her know how everything is going. Stay upbeat and positive, even though you’ll be exhausted. If something unusual happens, let them know about it from you, rather than hear about it from someone else.

Remember to thank your publisher for all they are doing for you. Not many authors get toured, and this is a tremendous show of support. Be grateful.

Final words: Publishers don’t make money off of book tours, even with bestselling authors. Tours simply cost too much money.

While selling books is important, the main reason for touring is to have the author meet the readers and the booksellers. Building good word-of-mouth, establishing a brand, and making contacts in the business is why you’re on the road.

If you stay focused on the big picture, your tour will be a huge success even if you don’t sell a single book.

maggie2
01-02-2006, 11:16 PM
Wow! Great advice. Thanks for sharing.

JoeEkaitis
01-04-2006, 10:26 PM
Sticky this one! Do it now! NOW! :)

Sheryl Nantus
01-04-2006, 11:01 PM
*groveling*

we are SO not worthy...

major thanks!!!

Inspired
01-06-2006, 06:37 AM
Hey! I saw one of your signings here in La Crosse, WI. Unfortunately I had just missed you. But, I did get a cool signed coaster. I've enjoyed reading your articles in WD.

kappapi99
02-15-2006, 04:07 AM
This is GREAT advice...I am going to *bump* it so I can find it again in a few weeks :D


KP99

maestrowork
02-15-2006, 04:47 AM
No need... I think this has been sticked...

Liam Jackson
02-18-2006, 12:15 AM
A belated thanks, JA. Great advice.

Christine N.
02-18-2006, 05:02 PM
Thanks Joe. And thanks to the mods who stickied it... I have three signings coming up in the next few months, and I want to do it right! :)

Ooo, can I add one thing... if you're a children's author, also send a few flyers to the librarian of the schools local to the signing location. Most states have a single Dept. of Education website where you can find out what's local to that store, by zip code.

Librarians are your friends.

Tracy
04-16-2006, 08:48 PM
That's terrific advice, JA, thanks a million for that.

Another idea is to send Thank You cards afterwards; a smallish gesture which gets remembered and appreciated.

redroom
04-20-2006, 07:51 PM
I actually have a posting at promotingbooks.blogspot.com/ in the free tips area about author escorts. There is a service that will have someone who is an expert at book signing go with you and help. I know I tend to get shy and its really a helpful thing. No one has to know they are hired help. It's like having your own little cheering expert at hand all day..

Lisa
www.lisareneejones.com (http://www.lisareneejones.com/)
Berkley PURPLE MAGIC - Coming Soon
The Hottest One Night Stand - March 07- Avon
The Price of Being on Top - May 06 Ellora's Cave

tommysetliff
05-23-2006, 08:18 PM
GREAT ADVICE

maestrowork
05-23-2006, 08:45 PM
After doing a few signings of my own, I can say that these are great, practical advice. However, there are always exceptions, so you need to be flexible. For example, the store sometimes just can't put you at the prime spots. You may end up in a corner next the the bathroom... You can ask for a better spot, but never push. The #1 advice is: be pleasant and polite. Assertive, yes, but never rude. Remember, your relationship with the book store begins at the signing, but not ends there. You want to be invited back. I have heard managers tell me stories about obnoxious authors (some very well-known) that they would NEVER invite back.

Also, some stores have a "no solicitation" policy so you can't walk around and hand out flyers. Some people resent anyone approaching them for whatever reason -- it's probably best if you just smile and let them approach you first.

Free candy is good, but it depends on the location. I was at a Barnes & Nobel on a Friday night that is famous for teenage "loitering." Candy just invites a lot of kids, but scares away the would-be customers (unless your target readers are kids, with money).

Doctor Shifty
07-18-2006, 05:47 PM
Konrath's original post here is very difficult to read as it formats to half a screen width too wide and I have to scan every single line with the mouse and slider bar. Every other post is easily within the screen.

Does anyone else have this problem, or is it something to do with my computer only? Is there any way to format Konrath's original post to proper screen width?

Kim

eldragon
07-18-2006, 06:06 PM
I read it fine.

All good information.

Last weekend, I was in a Barnes & Noble and an author was signing books there. The place was packed - on a Friday night - but it's more to do with the fact that it's the only bookstore on the Gulf Coast of MS (thanks - Katrina,) then anything else.

I glanced at the author and the book - and all I could tell was that it was a HB novel - and there was M.D. after his name.

The thing was ; there were about 6 people with him, and they all looked like friends, family - maybe a wife or girlfriend.

That was a major turn-off.

First - I never read fiction, so I'd only be buying a copy to help out a fellow author. (And, by the MD after his name ...............he probably doesn't need my help.)


Second - it's great he has support from family and friends - but they should stay at home. Why? It made me feel uncomfortable, and made him look like a child who was unable to sit at a table signing books for 2 hours.

Just my opionion, but that's how I saw it. Leave your friends at home, or have one friend sit in Starbucks with a coffee.

Oliverez
07-26-2006, 12:34 AM
Great post!

acousticgroupie
10-22-2006, 05:10 AM
here's a Q: what if it's self-published? do you bring copies? how does that work?

kill poet press
11-02-2006, 08:15 AM
Thanks! Definately saved my butt. I'm on a 13 city tour in December. Got a lot out of this.

jamiehall
11-18-2006, 09:43 PM
Lovely article. But, being a nitpicker, I have to point out the one error:


A cheaper, and better, alternative is a GPS Tracker. GPS stands for Global Positioning Satellite.

Sorry, it's Global Positioning System (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Positioning_System) (I've had a couple classes, so it was too hard to keep quiet about this. I'll politely recede back to the shadows now. An article this long with just one tiny error is doing pretty good).

rocketman
12-03-2006, 04:38 AM
Great thread! Newbie here! When you sign, any specific page? Title? Any front page? Any key phrases? Thanks

jeffrivera
12-16-2006, 11:16 AM
Great advice buddy, it's was very detailed and nice to hear from someone who's been in the trenches.

Lynn Sholes
01-07-2007, 07:33 PM
Great advice, Joe. Believe me, I've had some bomb booksignings. See you at Sleuthfest. My co-writer, Joe Moore, is the one who contacted you about the Business of writing workshop on Thurs. Look forward to it.

blackpen
01-09-2007, 04:54 AM
if you're doing that drive by signing, how do you prove your identity if you use a pseudonym? thanks for the post, it's a great reality check. now all i have to do is get published, haha

thewritermama
01-10-2007, 07:43 AM
This is amazing advice. So helpful! Thank you very much.

I know I'll be coming back and rereading before my Pacific Northwest tour. :)

blackpen
01-10-2007, 08:19 AM
i have to agree with eldragon on not bringing your family and friends to a booksigning, or at least don't make it obvious. it looks sort of amatuerish if speaking in public/doing a booksigning is such a rare event for you that you bring your family along to gawk at you as if you're performing in a school play.
also, family members tend to get all offended on your behalf is someone badmouths you, or they think someone is badmouthing you and you just end up looking stupid.

Lisamer
01-10-2007, 09:10 PM
Thank You! You are truly one of the Angels on the Internet! I am not so patiently awaiting my February 11th book signing at Borders in Dillon Colorado. Your post is a god send.

Are local newspaper just did a story about my book. It features my photo, so I am now recognizable. Hopefully, this will work to my advantage for drive bys. My book is about winter sport conditioning, and I own a local sport fitness studio. My plan is to give away one free class with the purchase of my book.

amber_grosjean
07-22-2007, 07:28 PM
It is good advice but I have one to add to it from personal experience--make sure the scheduled date for the signing isn't during another event.... The bookstore who agreed to have a signing with me forgot there would be a college graduating on the same day in town- Ball State in Muncie, Indiana. And it was at the same time as the signing. Sad to say, my signing and the store lost out. I did leave a couple books signed behind when I left and was able to sell the rest on my own since I supplied my own copies. I was expecting one or two people to show up but I didn't know about the graduation and she forgot. I was a little disapointed but I got my first signing out of the way. My nerves were shot but no one could tell, at least the emplyees. She did agree to have another shot which time is due to call her again. Due to finances for gas, I haven't been able to get out there. Calling the stores hasn't been any good for me so going in in person has been my only option right now since I'm a new author.

It has been very frustrating because I really want to do a lot of booksignings. But on the brighter side, my book is selling so that's cool. There are a few libraries that have some copies in my area without me even talking to them so that is great news. I will keep trying and I will use the advice I found here. Thank you!

Amber

hopeful
07-23-2007, 12:27 AM
Elementary, technical question:

Where precisely (on which page) does one put one's signature?

What little taglines to you like to use?

After the Dear So-and-So

"Best Wishes"

"Enjoy the book!"

That kind of thing?

Thanks!

-hopeful

JA Konrath
07-25-2007, 07:37 PM
I sign on the author/title page--that is, the page that has both my name and the book title on it.

I always ask if they want it personalized, and then ask for spelling.

For taglines, since my books are all named after drinks, I usually do one of these:

"Don't read and drive!"

"Enjoy in moderation!"

"Please read responsibly!"

For my latest, Dirty Martini, it's been:

"Thanks for getting Dirty..."

Sunnyside
07-25-2007, 09:44 PM
Wow, this is great stuff! As a new member of this board, "book signing" was the first term I searched for. I'm not scheduled to do mine until Christmas, and I'm hoping being published around the holidays is a help in getting the traffic into the bookstores!

Great advice, JA. Thanks again.

Provrb1810meggy
07-25-2007, 09:49 PM
This is going to be a horribly stupid question, but I have never, ever been to a book signing before.

Does the customer buy the book at the table, or do they get it signed and take it over to the cashier? I'm thinking it's the latter, but I want to make sure.

grommet
07-25-2007, 10:27 PM
I think it depends on the store, Provrb. I've only done one so far, but they got the book signed first, then purchased it.

grommet (http://kathrynmillerhaines.com)

hopeful
07-26-2007, 04:08 PM
I sign on the author/title page--that is, the page that has both my name and the book title on it.

I always ask if they want it personalized, and then ask for spelling.

For taglines, since my books are all named after drinks, I usually do one of these:

"Don't read and drive!"

"Enjoy in moderation!"

"Please read responsibly!"

For my latest, Dirty Martini, it's been:

"Thanks for getting Dirty..."

Thank you so much for this helpful reply!!!!

-hopeful

greywaren
07-30-2007, 12:49 AM
Wonderful post! Thanks so much for sharing. I just got an offer on my book and I'm determined to be as hands-on promoting it as possible.

You rock - generous spirits like you are wonderful to have around.

mirandap12@msn.com
08-01-2007, 03:57 AM
My name is JA Konrath. I'm a full time fiction writer. You can find out more about me, and my books, at JAKonrath.com.

While I'm not wildly successful, I make a pretty good living. When I finally landed a book deal, after years of trying and hundreds of rejections, I chose to learn as much as I could about the business.

I've been posting bits of information in various threads about signings, touring, and drop-ins. This post contains everything I've learned so far.


How to do Drive By Signings


Your book has made it into the stores! Congratulations!

Your publisher/distributor/sales reps have done their jobs---now it’s time to do yours.

Four out of five books don’t earn back their advance. Half of all books are returned, remaindered, or destroyed. You can accept this as a fact of the business, or you can take the wheel of your career and do something to improve your odds.

Autographed books sell better than their unsigned counterparts. Customers regard authors as celebrities, and a signed book is a value-added purchase.

But how likely is it that your publisher will set up a signing at every bookstore in America? Especially when each store carries just three copies of your magnum opus?

The answer: The Drive-By Signing. You drive up, you go in, you sign the stock, you get out.

For my thriller novels Whiskey Sour and Bloody Mary, I’ve done over 400 drive-by signings in the past 18 months, leaving my signature on several thousand books, meeting thousands of people.

Sound impossible? It’s actually pretty easy to do, once you know the routine.

1. Find the stores.

Go to www.bookweb.org (http://www.bookweb.org/), www.booksense.com (http://www.booksense.com/), www.bn.com (http://www.bn.com/), www.waldenbooks.com (http://www.waldenbooks.com/), www.american-stores.us/book (http://www.american-stores.us/book), www.borders.com (http://www.borders.com/), www.booksamillion.com (http://www.booksamillion.com/), and search for stores by city and zip code. Or go to the public library and look through the phone books. Try to list all the stores within 50 miles of your home, or within 25 miles of the town you’re visiting.

2. Call the stores you intend to drop in on.

You need to find out if the store still exists, what time they close, and if they carry your books.

DO NOT tell them you're the author. Why? All that does is complicate things. They'll say you have to speak to a manager, or an events coordinator, or they'll say you aren't allowed to come in unless it has been cleared by your publisher, or they'll say that they don't do signings, or they'll set the books aside and then no one will be able to find them when you come in, or you'll set everything up and when you get there no one will know who the heck you are, or... you get the point. Bookstores and publishers have a set of rules about author signings.

You want to bypass those rules. So call and see if they have copies, and ask how many. I wouldn't drive 20 miles to sign three paperbacks, but for three hardcovers I would.

Call a day or two before you plan on dropping by---calling ten days before may result in your books being gone by then.

3. Map out your route.

Use city maps, or Internet sites such as www.mapquest.com (http://www.mapquest.com/), www.maps.yahoo.com (http://www.maps.yahoo.com/), www.maps.google.com (http://www.maps.google.com/). Plot a course going location to location. A GPS navigation unit is heaven sent for touring authors, and saves a lot of time and effort.

Many Barnes & Noble and Borders stores often have locations just a few miles from one another.

Shopping malls often have a Waldenbooks or B. Dalton.

Independent booksellers are generally happier to see you, and more eager to sell your books. Fit as many of these into the drop-in tour as possible.

4. When you get to a store, find your own books.

Booksellers are busy, and you want to be low maintenance and take up very little of their time.

Take your books to the Information Desk, or to a counter, and say your spiel to an employee. Mine is:

"Hi! This is me. (Smiling, pointing to my name on cover.) I'm an author. Great to meet you. (Shake hand.) Thanks for carrying my books! Do you mind if I sign them?"

Start signing when you get the 'yes.' You’ll always get a ‘yes’ (though once I was asked for ID, which I provided.)

Then ask them if they like your genre, and tell them about your books.

While talking to the employee, give them something---a card, a bookmark, or in my case, a drink coaster with my book cover on it, and SIGN THE ITEM. Signing it will hopefully prevent them from throwing the item away, on the off chance that one day you'll be famous and they can sell it on eBay.

Also, ask them if they can check to see if there are any more in the store that you couldn't find. Be patient---if the store is busy, let them take care of customers before you. That gives you a chance to pitch to customers as well.

When the books are signed, ask if they have stickers that say "Autographed Copy". If they do, help them sticker the books. If they don't, use your own stickers, which you took from the last store you signed at.

Barnes & Noble have square green stickers. Borders and Waldenbooks have red triangles. Sometimes Waldenbooks have blue rectangles, and Borders have brown rectangles. Don't get confused.

After the books are signed and stickered, ask the employees to read them.

"You’ll enjoy this, I promise."

A bookstore employee who meets you and reads you is one that will forever sell you.

Often they'll make a display for you. Don't suggest a display yourself--let them suggest it. This appeal for help is important--it shows you're not a snooty author, but a regular person who needs them.

I also tell employees that whoever sells 20 copies or more will be mentioned in the acknowledgements for my next book, and give them my personal email so they can contact me.

6. Meet as many employees in the store that you can.

Thank them profusely for selling your book, and for the great job they're doing. Take their business cards, and add them to your email newsletter list.

But don’t overstay your welcome. They’re there to work, and so are you.

7. If you're at an independent bookstore, never leave without buying something.

If you want them to support you, you should support them.

8. Keep a log of where you visited, who you met, and how many copies you signed.

Share this info with your agent and publisher. You don't have to give them the full list, but an email saying, "I was just in Arizona for the weekend and signed stock at 21 bookstores" will impress them.

9. Return to stores a few months later.

Often they’ll have new stock and new employees. Many stores automatically buy more copies after a book sells. I’ve visited some stores five or six times, and I always meet new people and sign more books.

Obviously, your local bookstores are the ones you’ll visit the most. But whenever you leave town on business, or for vacation, check to see what bookstores are in the area before you go.

Final Words: If you’re planning on touring, you’ll get the most bang for your buck with large cities. A major metropolis like Chicago or Manhattan has over 100 bookstores. Even smaller cities like Phoenix, Denver, Houston, or Indianapolis have a few dozen stores, which is well worth your time.

When planning a drive-by tour, sooner is better. If you wait six months after your book comes out, you may discover your books are no longer there.

If you don’t have time to tour, try to visit every bookstore in your area, and set aside time during business trips and on vacation to hit a few stores in the area. The more places you visit, the more it will help your career.

Contrary to popular belief, signed books can be returned or destroyed. But it’s less likely they will be, especially if you were nice to the staff.

In today’s market, even bestselling writers must do their own publicity, or else they won’t be writers for very long. Drive-by signings are only one weapon in your publicity arsenal. But if done correctly, they can be the most powerful weapon you have.



How to Make a Disastrous Booksigning Event a Success


No aspect of a writer’s job offers more opportunity for euphoria (and anxiety) than a booksigning. But how do these events really go down?

The Fantasy. Your escort picks us up at the airport and drives you to the largest bookstore in the state. She tells you they’ve advertised the event in the three local papers and on the radio. When you arrive, there are a hundred fans already waiting. You meet the excited staff and sit behind a table stocked with a huge pile of books, under a giant color poster of your cover. You read a chapter aloud, receive thunderous applause, and then do a quick Q & A before signing for a solid 90 minutes, people waiting patiently in an endless line to tell you how much they love you.

The Reality. You arrive at the bookstore ten minutes early. There’s no crowd of fans---there’s not even one. No posters, no signs, no table full of books. The employees look at you like you’ve grown a second nose when you say you’re the author and there to sign. Finally you convince someone to help you and they unearth a box of your books and set up a small table for you in the rear of the store, near the washrooms. You sit there for two hours, each second an eternity. People try hard to avoid eye-contact when they pass. Some approach you and ask where The DaVinci Code is. One will always come over and say, “So you’re an author? I’ve got a lot of ideas. How about I tell them to you, you write them, and we’ll split the millions?” No one buys a book. It’s debasing, humiliating, discouraging, and you vow to never do this again.

The Plan. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With proper preparation, and a little bit of self-confidence, you can do very well at bookstore signings even if your last name isn’t Clancy. Here’s how.

A Month Before the Event. Book the signing yourself by calling or dropping by the bookstore and speaking to a manager or an event coordinator.

Often the store is not very receptive---author events don’t ever go well. Convince them that yours will, because you have a different way of doing things.

If you’re with a small publisher, your books may be difficult or impossible to order. Offer to bring the books in yourself and give the bookseller the standard 40% discount.

If you’re with a large publisher, they might refuse to pay the store co-op money (publishers pay stores to host events, often between fifty and several hundred dollars.)

If that’s the case, the store won’t be allowed to host a signing. Tell them you don’t want to do an official signing, but rather a drop-in just to sign stock. Then make sure they have at least twenty copies available.

Two weeks before the event. Advertising is up to you. Make a flyer featuring the date and time of the signing, your book cover, and a few blurbs. Send the bookstore 100 copies.

List the event on your website and in your newsletter, with an address and a phone number for the bookstore.

If you haven’t already, make a large (2 ’x 3’) poster of your book cover and a sign that says “AUTHOR EVENT TODAY.” Often your publisher will do this for you; just ask when you receive the cover art. Or you can have one made from a digital file at any copy shop, like Fed-Ex Kinkos.

Three days before the event. Call the store and make sure they have copies of your book in. If they don’t, remind them that you can bring copies of your own.

Most authors get discounted copies from their publisher. Instead, I suggest you buddy up with a local independent bookstore owner, and ask if she can sell you copies at her 40% discount. That way, they count toward your royalties.

How do you become friends with a local indie? Make them your base of operations, and have anyone who wants a signed copy go through them. Also, use them for your initial booklaunch party---they’ll be happy to help you out after that.

Day of the event. Make sure you have the essentials; 100 business cards with your website on them, flyers that feature some blurbs and reviews, some mints (so your breath stays fresh), some bottled water (hydration is important), and a nametag that says “AUTHOR.”

Dress. Business casual or better. Shaved, bathed, combed, made up and smelling nice.

Upon arrival. Get there fifteen minutes early to set up. Your first order of business is to introduce yourself to EVERY employee in the bookstore. Shake their hands. Give them a signed business card. Briefly tell them what your book is about, and let them know you’ll be there for a few hours.

Bring pizza or donuts for the staff. Employees are used to bigshot authors snubbing them. Be a bigshot author who appreciates them, and they’ll champion your books for life.

Set up. Sometimes the bookstore has already set up a table for you. Try to get one at the front of the store. If not, no problem---you can work around it.

Put your flyers and some business cards on the table, and hang your poster in a prominent place. Make sure your books are arranged in an attractive manner.

An employee might offer you a chair. Kindly tell them you don’t need one—you’ll be on your feet for the whole event.

Ready, Set, Go! If you’re lucky, some people may have come to see you. Usually this isn’t the case. You're a new, unknown author. All of your friends and family have already bought your book. Even if the event has had heavy advertising and publicity, would you go to see an author you’ve never heard of before?

Neither will anyone else.

The only way you'll move your wares is through determination, personality, and fearlessness.

Put on your smile, stick out your hand, and get ready to greet EVERY PERSON that comes into the bookstore.

Does that terrify you? It shouldn’t. People are excited to meet authors. You’re a minor celebrity. Everyone likes to meet celebrities.

Don’t worry about being rebuffed or ignored. You’ve dealt with rejection before. You’re a writer, and rejection is part of the business.

The Approach. People will be preoccupied when they walk into a bookstore. Some are on a mission to buy the new Harry Potter, or latest issue of Guns and Ammo. Some are there to browse genres other than the one you’re writing in.

But all people, no matter their reason for being there, will respond when you introduce yourself and offer to shake hands.

I use one of two lines:

"Are you a mystery fan? I’m a mystery writer." or "Hi, I’m an author. Do you like thrillers?"

It’s extremely rare that a person will ignore an outstretched hand---it’s only happened to me three times, and I’ve shaken thousands of hands.

The Pitch. If I get a yes to one of the above questions, I launch into my pitch.

"My name is JA Konrath. I write a mystery series about a Chicago cop named Jack Daniels. Jack is short for Jacqueline, and she's in her forties, divorced, has a train wreck for a personal life, but she’s great at her job. She chases serial killers."

If they still seem interested at this point (about 1 out of 5) I continue:

"The book is actually very funny, similar to Janet Evanovich or Dave Barry. But it also has a darker side, kind of like James Patterson or Hannibal Lecter/Silence of the Lambs. So it goes from laugh out loud funny, to pretty scary--you'll want to turn on the lights and make sure the doors and windows are locked when you're reading."

It's important to maintain eye contact and keep smiling. Then finish your pitch.

"Whiskey Sour is the first book in a new series. The second is Bloody Mary. They’ve won several wards and appeared on some bestseller lists. I'd love to sign a copy or two for you-- and if you like, I can make it out to EBay."

Relax and Be Casual. No one likes high pressure sales. Selling isn’t about forcing people to buy something they don’t want. It’s about finding the people who are looking for your product.

And yes, books are products. Publishing is a business. Take off the artist hat, and put on the salesperson hat. If you’re shy, or have low self esteem, take a public speaking class. The better you can talk to people, the further you’ll go in this career.

The Hand Off. While doing the spiel I’ll hand them the book itself. That connection is important. Holding something implies ownership, and you want them to look at the cover, read the jacket, and begin to think of this book as theirs.

Adjustments. I tailor the pitch depending on the person's interest. Often I ask questions. Sometimes I answer questions. I adjust the pitch to the individual (if a customer likes romances, I play up the romantic end. If they like thrillers, I downplay the comedy, etc.)

The Rejection. Most people won’t be interested, even after hearing your wonderful pitch. That doesn’t mean you should move along yet.

Hand them a flyer to look at, or autograph a business card or bookmark, and ask them to pass it along to anyone they know who is a fan of your kind of books.

Thank them for their time, and mention it was great meeting them. Also let them know that you’ll be around for a while, if they decide they want something signed.

Often people come back. Sometimes while you’re there. Sometimes days later.

The Acceptance. If they buy a copy, be genuinely grateful. I once did a signing with an author who grumbled, “I hate signing books” in front of the person he was autographing it for. The fan’s jaw hit the floor. I don’t recommend that approach.

Thank the customer for giving you a try, and ask them who they’d like the book personalized to. ALWAYS ask for them to spell the name, even if it’s “Kim,” (I had a Kymm once.)

Then thank them again, shake hands again, and give them the biggest smile you can give.

Enlisting the Staff. Large chain stores will often make announcements. Ask if they can announce you every half hour, or if you can make the announcements yourself.

“Today we have local author J.A. Konrath---that’s me---signing books from the Jack Daniels series. I encourage everyone of come over to front of the store and say hello. Autographed books make a great gift, for family, friends, or yourself.”

If the staff really likes you (and if you brought them pizza, they will) ask if they can pass out flyers, or walk around holding copies of your book and directing patrons to your table.

Does it Work? Typically, 1 out of 5 people I pitch to will buy the book. And I pitch to several dozen an hour--depending on how busy the store is.

I did an event last Saturday, and sold 40 hardcover books in 6 hours. The week before I did 40 books in 8 hours (store wasn't as crowded). Week before, 60 books in 8 hours. My record is 120 in ten hours.

It isn't easy getting a stranger to part with $22. Sometimes there are stretches when I approach 30 people and can't sell a single book. It's disheartening, depressing, and just plain awful.

Other times, I'll sell five books in three minutes--one person buys it and others will wander over to check out what's going on.

To date, using this method I’ve handsold over 2000 books.

Time to Leave. How long you stay is up to you. I think four hours is minimum, and if the store is really busy I’ll stay for six or more.

When you’re finally ready to go, you should once again thank the booksellers--they watched you bust your butt and are on your side.

If you didn't sell every copy, ask to sign the remaining stock, and affix stickers that say "signed by the author."

If the store doesn’t have stickers, use the ones you borrowed from the last place you signed at---the employees shouldn’t mind if you ask to take some extras, and you should always keep a supply of stickers on you from various chain stores.

If you brought your own books, don’t ask to be paid upfront---that’s bad business. Leave your contact information and let them know they can mail a check.

Most importantly, ask to come back in a month or two. I visit some local stores five times a year. Signed books really do well during the holidays.

Staying Positive. Every time I come into a bookstore and see that big stack of my books, I get a little sick inside. There's no way I'll sell all of those, I think. No one will come in to the store. People will ignore me. My pitch is crummy and won’t work. The staff is laughing behind my back. I’m a writer, not a salesperson.
Then I remind myself that the Great Wall of China was built one brick at a time, and that's how I'll sell my books--one at a time.

Each book you handsell is a book that never would have sold without your efforts.

Each person you meet is likely to talk about you to others.

Each reader who becomes a fan will become a fan for life and remember the time they shook your hand.

Each bookstore you visit will have employees who will handsell you for weeks, months, and even years after you’ve gone.

In my acknowledgements page on my latest book, I have a list of a dozen booksellers that I thank, because they’ve each handsold at least twenty copies of my first novel.

In the next book, I’ll be thanking over fifty booksellers. One particular bookseller has helped me sell over 300 hardcovers at one location. I named a character after him in my third book.

Your Goal. There’s no reason a booksigning has to be a stressful, unpleasant experience. In reality it is one of the cheapest, most-effective ways to build your career.

It’s your name on the book’s cover, and it’s your job to sell it. Sales is just like writing---the more you do, the better you become, the more success you achieve.Now go get ‘em, tiger!

Six Keys to a Successful Bookstore Pitch

1. Introduce yourself with a smile.
2. Explain the book’s premise, setting, and lead character in just a few seconds.
3. Compare your books to well known books the reader will recognize (It’s like a chick-lit version of Silence of the Lambs…)
4. Ask the customer a question. (Who do you like to read? What book did you come in for?)
5. Offer to sign and personalize a copy for them.
6. Thank them, whether they buy a copy or not.


Signing Survival Kit

· Snacks for Bookstore Employees
· 3 Good Pens
· 100 Business Cards
· 50 Flyers
· Poster of Book Cover
· Sign saying “Author Signing Today”
· Mints (gum annoys people)
· Bottled water
· Extra “Autographed Copy” stickers
· A Big Smile and a Good Attitude



How to Survive a Book Tour


You just found out your publisher is sending you on a tour. You’re surprised, excited, grateful… and terrified. You’ve heard other others complain about how grueling and disappointing tours are, even with all-expenses paid.

So what can you expect? How can you make sure your experience is a good one for you, the bookstores, and your publisher?

I just went on my very first tour---eight cities in eleven days---to promote my new hardcover thriller BLOODY MARY, and the paperback release of the first book in the Lt. Jack Daniels series, WHISKEY SOUR. I signed 933 books at 105 bookstores in Colorado, Arizona, California, Oregon, and Washington.

Here are 15 things I learned while on the road.

TOUR TIP #1: Use a GPS.

Your publisher will set up official signings for you, and possibly some publicity opportunities such as radio and TV interviews, library talks, and speeches.

Sometimes they provide escorts—those folks who pick you up at the airport and drive you around.

A cheaper, and better, alternative is a GPS Tracker. GPS stands for Global Positioning Satellite. Navman, Nextell, Magellon, and Garmin are some of the big names. These units are mini-computers that attach to the window of your car. You program in addresses, then they visually and verbally direct you to your destination. The best models have millions of addresses pre-programmed into their memory, tell you when you’ll reach your destination, and offer alternative routes if traffic is bad.

A GPS takes a lot of the stress out of being on tour. They can be added to your rental car, or purchased for a few hundred dollars. If you’re an author, you need one as much as you need a website and a cell phone.

TOUR TIP #2: Always allow yourself more time than you think you need to get to a destination.

Sometimes traffic is bad. Sometimes you stay at a store longer than expected. Sometimes you have car trouble.

For scheduled events, always plan on getting there 45 minutes early. If you’re going to be late, phone them as soon as you know. But try not to be late.

TOUR TIP #3: At an official signing, work the room before you begin.

Introduce yourself to the bookstore employees, and bring gifts (I give them a signed bottle of Jack Daniels). Thank them for having you. Praise their store.

Then give each person who showed up a handshake and warm welcome.

Bestselling thriller author Barry Eisler is a master at this---he always arrives early and talks to each member of the audience before he begins. It takes a few extra minutes, but you’ll have the crowd on your side before you begin, and customers and fans love the personal touch.

Be upbeat and show you’re happy to be there, even if you get a small crowd. If no one shows up at all, hang out with the booksellers and talk shop---your positive attitude will be remembered.

TOUR TIP #4: Rehearse your presentation, but pay attention to your response.

At an event, you’ll be asked to speak, or read, or answer questions, or all of the above. Be sure you have something prepared for all possible scenarios.

Monologues are boring and can be done in an empty room. Storytelling is an active, dynamic thing that requires the audience to participate. If they aren't involved, get them involved by making eye contact, asking questions, and smiling. Watch out for speech hesitations (ummm and uhhhh), get to the point quickly, and don’t drone on too long.

If you’re afraid to speak in public, get over it. If you’re unsure of how you present yourself, have a friend videotape you, and watch the recording later.

TOUR TIP #5: Publicly acknowledge your people.

If you have friends or family in the audience, big fans who traveled a long distance to see you, or published authors in the room, thank them by name when you do your presentation.

Also thank the bookstore and the employees again.

Most people love to be mentioned—though some are easily embarrassed. Ask beforehand if it’s okay you say their name in front of the crowd.

TOUR TIP #6: When reading, be brief (no more than ten minutes), and if appropriate, be funny.

Practice until you're smooth and confident. Use inflection and different tones for the characters. Smile while you read---it comes through in your voice.

Also, make sure the passage you’ve picked to read won't offend anyone. Avoid graphic language, sex, or violence---unless you’re reading at a horror convention.

Glance up at your audience often to gauge their reaction and draw them further into your words---people pay closer attention if they see you’re looking at them.

Not good at reading? Get good at it, or don’t do it at all. A poor reader hurts more than helps her cause.

TOUR TIP #7: When signing, always ask who they'd like the book inscribed to, and how to spell their name.

I've met Aymee, Jym, Marscha, Debbera, and Chuk, to misname a few.

Have a few witty phrases that you can use when needed. Since my books are named after drinks, I often write “Don’t Read and Drive!” or “Enjoy in Moderation!”

Take your time when signing to avoid mistakes---those books get returned and destroyed.

TOUR TIP #8: Don't leave without signing everything.

Even if no one comes to your signing, ask to sign all the stock and any posters. Also ask if they have stickers that say “Autographed Copy” to put on the books.

If they don’t have stickers, supply your own. Each time you visit a chain store and sign, ask to take a few extra stickers, so you have some for the next store that can’t find theirs.

TOUR TIP #9: When signing at an independent store, always buy something before you leave.

Support the folks who support you. If there are no books on your want-list, ask for recommendations from the employees.

If you’re signing with another author, or several authors, buy their books. We’re all in the same boat, and need to help one another.

This business is all about building contacts and relationships, and generosity goes a long way.

TOUR TIP #10: Do drive-by signings.

Even if your schedule is packed, you’ll have some extra time to stop by other local bookstores. Signing stock and introducing yourself to bookstore employees is always a smart idea when you’re in a new town. It builds word of mouth and good will. Award-winning mystery author Julia Spencer-Fleming calls it a force multiplier; the more people you get on your side, the better.

Your publisher will appreciate the extra effort you’re making. I had eight scheduled signings, but I signed at 97 extra bookstores during the tour. Everyone at my publishing house was in awe---which can’t hurt when you’re negotiating your next contract.

When you do drop-ins, always have something to give the bookstore employees.

I give them an autographed coaster with my book title, WHISKEY SOUR, on the front. Signed things get kept, and you’ll be remembered.

TOUR TIP #11: When planning your drive-by itinerary, phone first.

Some stores close early. Some stores change locations. Some stores don’t carry your books.

Use the local phonebooks, Mapquest.com, and your good old GPS to help plot your course. If there’s a Borders, there’s often a Barnes & Noble nearby. Most malls have a bookstore. Genre stores can be found through Internet searches, or through writers organizations like RWA, MWA, HWA, and SFWA.

Call to make sure they’re open and they stock your titles.

TOUR TIP #12: At drive-by signings, get in and get out.

Save time by finding your books on the shelf and bringing them to the Information Desk to sign them. Ask the staff to check if there are more copies. Sometimes there are others in the stockroom, or on end caps that you didn’t see.

After you’ve done signing your books and talking to the staff, get out of there. Lingering makes you look bad, and besides, you have more bookstores you have to visit.

TOUR TIP #13: Pay for as much as you can on your own.

Your publisher is sending you to work, not on a vacation. They pay for transportation and lodging. Pay-per-view movies, the beer in the honor bar, and room service are not options if you ever want to be toured again.

If your publisher gives you an expense account, use it wisely. No alcohol, dinner for friends, or theater tickets.

Show your publisher you’re a pro who wants to save them money, and they’ll reward you with more locations on your next tour.

TOUR TIP #14: Be good to yourself.

After visiting ten stores a day for a week straight, everything began to blur. I couldn’t remember what store I was in, where I parked, or what my books were about.

When that happens, take a little break. Sit down. Eat something. Call home. Hearing friendly voices helps you clear your head.

It’s important to dress well, look fresh, and stay healthy. This might be the only time people have a chance to meet you. Make a good impression.

I take a bottle of water with me everywhere to stay hydrated (dry mouth is common on tour), and always try to get at least six hours of sleep per night.

TOUR TIP #15: Let your publisher know how things are going.

They’ll be following your tour, calling stores after your events, and checking to make sure you arrived at the hotels. But they won’t ask you how you’re doing.

Communicate with your publicist through email or phone calls, letting her know how everything is going. Stay upbeat and positive, even though you’ll be exhausted. If something unusual happens, let them know about it from you, rather than hear about it from someone else.

Remember to thank your publisher for all they are doing for you. Not many authors get toured, and this is a tremendous show of support. Be grateful.

Final words: Publishers don’t make money off of book tours, even with bestselling authors. Tours simply cost too much money.

While selling books is important, the main reason for touring is to have the author meet the readers and the booksellers. Building good word-of-mouth, establishing a brand, and making contacts in the business is why you’re on the road.

If you stay focused on the big picture, your tour will be a huge success even if you don’t sell a single book.
As always Joe..great advice and great website! nice seeing you online.

Diana Castilleja
08-01-2007, 04:16 AM
This is incredibly wonderful advice! I just did my first signing, and have a second one booked. I'm sharing this with the group I'm going with so we'll be better prepared. I've also marked it. I'll be back for refreshers, I can guarantee it. Amazing info! Thank you!

Gary Clarke
03-20-2008, 03:50 AM
Thank you so much JA, I'm just setting up my first book signing and I was utterly terrified until I read this. FanTAStic advice, can never ever tell you how grateful I am for it!

Mr.H.
05-01-2008, 10:44 PM
Thank you for the help and advice! I'm somewhere in the process now, but planning ahead and thinking optimistically! I'll definately refer to this post again when the time comes!!

cooeedownunder
07-23-2008, 06:33 AM
I signed some books today that were being sent overseas.

Enjoy a taste of Australia

hastingspress
07-25-2008, 11:26 AM
here's a Q: what if it's self-published? do you bring copies? how does that work?

I'm self published. What is the question exactly?

James Protzman
08-06-2008, 04:58 AM
Thanks!

ChessSafari
11-15-2008, 04:15 AM
Thanks Jack. Lots more good stuff on your web site.

Does anyone here have experience with approaching local boutique sellers (maybe a small card & book shop with limited titles) and offering to do a live signing? Perhaps they have a small inventory and don't carry your book, or are not even aware it exists.

In other words, a "support your local author" approach. Might that work under the right circumstances?

YukonMike
05-28-2009, 12:18 AM
Great info! Thanks everyone for sharing their experiences.

COOKBEAUX
08-05-2009, 06:28 PM
I sure wish I'd seen this BEFORE last week-end, which was my first booksigning. I liken last week-end to the first gig I ever played: Lots of high expectations and excitement, followed by my feeling like a red, smacked ass.

I thought I'd covered all the bases. A $300 full-page ad in the local weekly. Several other papers in the area gave the event a blurb...one even added my picture...IN COLOR... to the story, and is part of Gannett
Newspapers. I figured with the name recognition from playing in bands all my life around here, coupled with all the ink I had in the papers, I might just sell two or three hundred book.

I sold 11. Five went to guys and gals that I've played with at one time or another. One went to my son's father-in-law, who, I suspect, showed up just to see our mutual grandson, who was in tow on his mother's hip.

No less than three thousand people walked past me on Sunday, between 1 and 4 PM, in The Berlin Mart. I was supposed to stay until 5, but, like I said in my profile, I get bored easily. Plus, my pool was waiting.

It occured to me that just because I was sitting there, smiling, saying "hello" a thousand times per hour to the strangers that tried to smile back at me, wasn't a good enough reason for folks to buy my book, let alone stop and ask what the hell I was doing sitting there in their way. They paid more attention to the 2 ft. x 3 ft. poster of the book's cover I had propped up on the floor mirror stand I nixed from my wife's bedroom. One person wanted to BUY the floor mirror stand, but never asked why I was sitting there, or picked up a book.

I love people.

So, I need to get a buzz going about this book of mine, I've leaerned. People have to WANT to buy it. Then, I'll have another booksigning, this time WITHOUT the dancing bears, flame-thrower carrying Special Forces units, and naked maidens serving chocolated insects.

Bradcollen
08-11-2009, 12:33 PM
Thanks a lot for the advice

nitaworm
08-12-2009, 02:57 PM
Awesome advice, definately going on my to-do list.

kayleamay
09-07-2009, 12:27 AM
I think I'm going to print this, laminate it and hang it on my office wall. Excellent instructional guide. Deepest thanks!

srjohannes
11-23-2009, 09:12 PM
is this on a blog or anything. Id love to link to it in my Friday marketing roundup

Bookewyrme
02-26-2010, 02:44 AM
Someone asked earlier, but I didn't see it answered. What do you do if you use a Pseudonym? How do you approach booksellers/bookstores? I presume, you sign the pseudonym when you do a signing.

KathleenD
02-26-2010, 05:35 AM
Just posting to say thank you. It's been a few years since this was posted, but it's still awesome.

terrylynn
03-11-2010, 02:49 AM
I've just found this, so late to the party. But WOW! thank you, thank you, thank you

mtrenteseau
03-11-2010, 10:59 AM
Just about the only thing that's no longer accurate is the line about most malls having a B.Dalton or Waldenbooks. :(

mf3201d
09-09-2010, 07:42 PM
Great info. Thanks!

Lavinia
12-02-2010, 08:27 PM
This is great information. Everything I have read recently has pointed to the fact that in-store signings just aren't a very effective way to sell books. So, I think that has indeed changed or gotten worse since this was originally posted. However, the exception is signings in your own geographical area. For my book for example, I will most likely do signings in the Pacific Northwest. Obviously, I don't know huge groups of people in these cities. This info will REALLY help me. Great suggestions!

stranger_friction
03-31-2011, 12:10 AM
the idea of doing a signing terrifies me. as a musician i've played shows for audiences of 2,000 people. being the singer and main composer i generally have to meet and greet the fans afterward. but, the idea of standing by a table in a bookstore is far scarier.

W.J. Cherf
06-10-2011, 08:35 PM
I wish to thank you for this seminal post. The many insights and shared experiences were marvelous.

One possible addition to it would be to insert a dedicated business card as a book mark.

Best with all of your future writing projects!

LadyLex
08-19-2011, 12:37 AM
Wow...this was such an informative post. I'm definitely going to bookmark it. Thanks.

ianuschristius
01-17-2012, 01:05 PM
These are very usefull informations. But currently I don't have that option due to the fact that I published my book through internet(on Amazon), so to give an autograph, first I should buy a lot of my books from CreateSpace(Amazon's selfpublisher) and then come to some local bookstore and offer them to buy autographed books.

But, for all those that publish through local publishers, these are great advices.

Greets from Croatia:)

Matty C.
04-14-2012, 10:12 AM
Amazing advice! Thanks.

janananna
04-20-2012, 10:08 PM
Your post is great!!!! Thank you so much... You have freely given a lot of really great ideas here. I have so much to learn about publishing and marketing my upcoming book... so I am extra appreciative that you have shared so much here.

Sue

ThatKnight64
12-19-2012, 04:21 PM
A really informative post! I'm looking around trying to learn all I can about being an author (outside of the write the book phase) and this thread is very helpful! Thanks a lot for the great ideas and advice!

Preacher'sWife
09-04-2013, 06:43 AM
I need help. I have a signing on Sunday at my hometown festival (I'm coming back just for this). I'll be on the street in front of a bookstore at a nice table with a canopy. An author from Colorado who is doing a signing there the day before is staying overnight and wants to do it with me. The shop owner is all for it, saying it will bring in more people and has asked me if it's okay. My concern is that my book is a gritty, upper young adult, paranormal (romantic suspense) and the other author's book is a read-to-me children's alphabet book. Should these two really be sharing a table? Will folks buying his be offended by the naked chested teen phoenix on my cover? Am I worrying for no reason? One thing to consider--I'm the "hometown girl". I already have several dozen of the townies who have reserved books and are coming. The other author's illustrator, who will not be there that day, is from our state capital about 40 miles away, but the author staying has no connections. I'm supposed to let the shop owner know tomorrow if I'll share the table. Any advice?

Undercover
03-08-2014, 01:26 AM
Some of this book signing advice is outdated.

I'm trying to plan a book signing and live in a big city area and it's extremely hard to even set up a book signing. You have to be pretty big for it.

If I can round up around 20 people in my area that are willing to come (like for sure) then I can do it. I've told her to go to all my sites and evaluate the book more. I said I would promote the event that way and maybe have some giveaways? Can I do that?

I know my publisher will supply the books, that's not the problem. The problem is guaranteeing the crowd. This is a children's store, I believe. But they don't have many book signings for YA authors.

Should I keep searching? How else do I approach this? My publisher has a brick and mortar store, but that's in Arizona, and I don't think they would pay for air expenses. Although, if I could get there, that would be awesome. But like I said, not sure if that's possible.

Hastings-Press
03-10-2014, 12:46 PM
I'm trying to plan a book signing and live in a big city area and it's extremely hard to even set up a book signing. You have to be pretty big for it.

In my experience unless you are famous it's pointless.

I once wasted £20 on train fares, a whole 12-hour day of time and a huge amount of effort sitting in a bookshop that specialised in exactly the genre of my book. I was extremely grateful to be invited by the shop, as it was in central London.

I was surrounded by posters that took me hours to create, and a pile of my books, and greeted every person that entered the shop with a big, warm smile and an invitation to have a look at my book (browsing copies were left around invitingly) without bordering on pushiness.

I didn't sell a single copy. I went home feeling terrible. Not only at the waste of time and money, and an aching jaw from smiling all day, but the raised then shattered expectations, and the humiliation of it. I've never done one since.

I think that spending the same amount of time and effort on online promotion of your book might prove more effective!

Good luck

ericgore
06-07-2016, 08:49 AM
Wow, great advice! And the best part about it is, you've actually done the things you're saying to do, so I know it works. If I ever get the opportunity, I'm going to follow your advice to the letter! Thanks!

Bassel
04-09-2017, 03:12 AM
This seems great, thanks for sharing!

KBUpdikeJr
06-11-2017, 12:55 AM
Desperate author in
muddy glasses
. . . tumbles toward the morning
caffeine in the coffee shop,
cigarette light inhaled.

50 copies of his lulu memoirs linger stagnant upon the magazine rak,
his mouth inhales the entirety of the
decoction, sitting by a near table

. . .

awaiting drive by signing opportunity.

nelehjr
10-01-2017, 05:18 AM
Awesome! One thing I always had a question about was "WHAT THE NUMEROUS HECKS DO I WEAR?!" For my first book I kind of just wore the same shirt which I got from my mentor who wore it to her book signings... While that's nice, it's kind of weird to have an album on my facebook page where I'm wearing the same exact outfit on different days. :Shrug: Now that I work in a library I know the meaning of business casual. (Just kidding. I know how to be fabulous and so extra it makes people uncomfortable *throws glitter*) My advice: Just dress nice enough so people know you're not homeless and fabulous enough people know you're an artist.

rihannsu
10-27-2017, 11:52 AM
Have any of you signed up to participate in a book fest? Our state allows for even self published authors to sign up as vendors in an "author's alley." They don't charge for the slot/ table, which makes it a great deal. I'd have to get my books from CreateSpace and there's the other costs involved in going out of town, but I'm really considering doing our book fest next summer.