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View Full Version : My observations about a book reading by a local author that I stumbled upon today...



hopeful
12-23-2007, 05:49 AM
Okay, as far as I can tell, if you are not a " big name author," doing a book signing can be really TOUGH.

This woman at the reading I stumbed upon today was a local writer and a vet. Her book appeared to be a mystery about a vet that also involved a lot of interesting tidbits about animal behavior. Cute, no? I thought it seemed rather intriguing.

But here was the situation: She was placed in a good spot (near the front of the store), and since this was a Saturday, just a few days before Christmas, there was a TON of foot traffic.

The problem was that all of the people at the store were there for one thing and one thing only: getting their gifts and getting the heck out of there. They were not browsing casually. They were not in the mood to stroll around or to chat up an author they did not know. And so, as well placed as she was in the store, and as many people as there were bustling all around her, she did not seem to be getting much attention at all. It made me sad.

But even I -- knowing the tough spot she was in -- failed to stop by her table, because, like everyone else, I was in a mad rush to get this errand over with and move on to my next errand.

I felt bad/guilty about not showing any solidarity with a fellow "non-big-name" local writer, but at the same time, I had to "keep moving" today or else.

Anyone have any thoughts on this kind of scenario, and/or have any of you observed anything similar?

Thanks!

- hopeful

Don Allen
12-23-2007, 07:40 AM
I think that happens a lot actually. At least that's what I've read. She probably hoped for the foot traffic and maybe the number of people got her some interest. Also, it really helps if you have some sales ability as an author. You need to stand up and shake peoples hands like a politician on a mission...

Dustry Joe
12-23-2007, 11:29 AM
I would say she could probably do better having a table at a vet's convention. When you're working a niche, it's better to play it than the mass numbers

hopeful
12-25-2007, 01:56 AM
Thanks for your excellent observations!

- hopeful

HeronW
12-25-2007, 02:22 AM
Her timing could have been better. Doing it two weeks ago, or even after the holidays when people are returning gifts would have placed her in a less hectic frame.

Inky
12-25-2007, 09:16 AM
I went to one book signing, thinking to support a local author. It was his first book. Not really sure I'll ever do something like that again. Personality is everything, when dealing with strangers and hawking your wares at the same time. This guy was an arrogant jerk. I reached out to shake his hand, announced I was an author too; therefore, understood the commitment he'd just undertook, I was told: 'Yeah, sure, move along..pfff, everyone's a writer--gotta story."

I put his book down and walked away. Turns out, he was rude to quite a few people. So, my opinion, unless you're a big name, perhaps many people simply can't be bothered with the average Joe and his book signings?

Toothpaste
12-25-2007, 09:43 AM
Like what Don said. JA Konrath writes a good deal about this stuff. He says (and I agree) that you can't just sit at the table and expect people to come up to you. You have to mingle, talk with people, and push your product.

I was the BEA (book expo of America in NY city) signing ARCs at my publisher's table. I got a fair few people who came up and wanted one, but this is an environment where everyone knows authors will be signing books so they scout you out (even newbies like me). However, my problem was I was sitting at a table that was set up for meetings not signings, also I guess I don't really look like an author (whatever an author looks like) because even when people came up to the table and picked up the book I had to say, "Would you like me to sign that for you?" And they'd be all surprised and go, "Oh are you the author?!"

By the end of my session I was getting so comfortable at talking to people I would call out to passers by who otherwise would have continued right past me: "Come on, you know you want a signed ARC!" Most laughed and would come over.

Anyway, point is, you have to put yourself out there and not just wait for people to come to you. It's annoying, but true.

Stormhawk
12-26-2007, 10:47 AM
I went to one book signing, thinking to support a local author. It was his first book. Not really sure I'll ever do something like that again. Personality is everything, when dealing with strangers and hawking your wares at the same time. This guy was an arrogant jerk. I reached out to shake his hand, announced I was an author too; therefore, understood the commitment he'd just undertook, I was told: 'Yeah, sure, move along..pfff, everyone's a writer--gotta story."

I put his book down and walked away. Turns out, he was rude to quite a few people. So, my opinion, unless you're a big name, perhaps many people simply can't be bothered with the average Joe and his book signings?

What an arse. He probably thinks he craps rainbows.

Dustry Joe
12-28-2007, 07:40 AM
LOL Now there's a turn of phrase.

But yeah, that's not only ridiculous rudness...it's counterproductive. Why take the time to market if you're going to alienate customers.

Post his name: serve him right.

twnkltoz
12-29-2007, 02:11 AM
Were her initials T.L.? The book sounds familiar.

My book is also about horses. I plan to do most of my signings at horse-related events and stores, although I'll probably do a couple of bookstores, too. I'm going to advertise in the local horse mag when I'll be where, so hopefully that will bring some people and help drive the foot traffic. I hope that the scenario you witnessed was largely a problem with the time of year!

Smiling Ted
12-29-2007, 04:23 AM
While it's easy to say "mingle," it's much harder to do - particularly when your signing takes place in a no-win situation, like the week before Christmas.

If you don't have personality oozing from every pore, maybe there are other tricks that can substitute...

1. BRING A SHILL/CLAQUE - People are more likely to approach you if they see you're already talking to one or two folks, and smiling.
2. BRING AN ATTRACTION - If the vet/author whose example started this thread had brought some animals (like a hamster or turtles), every kid in the store would have been dragging their parents to the stand.
3. BRING CANDY - Like a bowl of Hershey's Kisses. Somebody's already suggested this in another thread (Konrath?) but damn, it makes sense.

If anyone has any other charisma substitutes, bring 'em on. Or if you think the above are lousy/useless ideas, make with the comments (Like "How's someone gonna drag a hamster from town to town, hmm?")

Me, I'd like to know, since I'm personally charisma-deficient (lost it all in a freak jetpack accident).

Dustry Joe
12-29-2007, 04:40 AM
Bribes, drugs, bodyguards... it all adds up.

Cathy C
12-29-2007, 05:02 AM
We've been told by numerous bookstore managers that customers have an innate shyness around authors. We'll have book signings where not a single person stops by. But the moment (and I do mean the MOMENT) we're gone, the autographed books we left fly out of the store. Whether it's because they don't want people to know they read books (or that kind of book) or they place authors on such a high pedestal that they're actually frightened to talk to them, doesn't matter. For a while, we got frustrated and just signed the stock to be done with it, but one local manager convinced us to keep doing live signings. It's not just the fact of having the books in the store, but a perceived "status" of the store (as one that can host a big name author) that actually brings in more customers.

One of those weird marketing things dealing with psychology I don't fully understand. :Shrug:

But it's not just the small press authors who have dead signings. It's most of us, from mid-list to big names. Only the mega stars have lines out the door. Maybe one day I can let you know what that's like... :ROFL:

Susan Breen
12-29-2007, 05:16 AM
This is a very interesting post because it's something I worry about a lot. I have a bunch of book signings coming up and I'm a friendly enough person but I feel very awkward pushing my book--expecting someone to shell out money for something I wrote. I was never good at selling Girl Scout cookies either. So, does it really work to have a bowl of chocolates? What other charisma substitutes are there?

Cathy C
12-29-2007, 05:21 AM
Invite another author to sign with you! The more you laugh and giggle and talk about the process of writing, the more people will stop to listen. Even if you get a turned head, pretend it's a cocktail party and invite them into the conversation with, "So, what do YOU think about points of view? Do you like reading books written in first person?" Or something like that.

Talk to people and they'll stick around. But yes--chocolate works too. :)

Jersey Chick
12-29-2007, 05:51 AM
I remember, a few years back, two authors were signing books and the store was empty. I walked back and forth in front of it forever, debating about approaching them (this was when I was just getting started myself). I felt like an idiot stalking these two women, and when I finally worked up the nerve to approach (I'm not exactly the outgoing, talk to everyone I meet type. I tend to hang back and just observe), they were pretty happy to talk to me. It had been a slow day and they were just glad to have someone else to talk to, I guess. Anyway, I asked a zillion questions and both couldn't offer up enough advice.

I'll have to remember that - just smile and be friendly.

hopeful
12-29-2007, 06:53 AM
Wow - this thread really picked up some steam. Thank you all, for your replies!

- hopeful

Dustry Joe
12-29-2007, 09:35 PM
I think you can buy charisma supplements online.

Oh, no wait a minute. You CAN'T buy charisma supplements. Oh well.

Think about this. If anybody is at your signing, it's because they admire you. You have the edge just walking in.

If you are expected to take the podium before the signature frenzy starts, remember that you can just read something. A section from your next book would be perfect.

The people there are hoping for something that reveals the world inside publishing, your work, your head. Think back to the little anecdotes that amused your friends while you were writing it. Perhaps something interesting about a cool character changed or got shifted around, etc.

Or just read and take questions.

I would suggest prefacing your remarks with something self-deprecating. "Sorry, if I'm not much of showman. If I was good with people I wouldn't be a writer." That sort of thing. Show them you are shy, but trying to bring them what they want.

Don't do jokes or humorous anecdotes unless you are good at it: nothing poisons the atmosphere and creates panic in your soul like a joke falling flat.

Know what you are going to sign, basically. "Thanks, Irene, hope you enjoy my book" is the gist, isn't it?

Make them give YOU chocolates!

twnkltoz
12-30-2007, 04:48 AM
I'll be giving away candy, and also will be doing drawings for themed giveaways.

kimmer
12-30-2007, 09:16 AM
I've never done a book signing but frankly I don't think I will follow the traditional format. I was a public speaker long before I wrote a book (10+years) and what I plan to do is "work it"...as twnklotz said, it's all about marketing and promotions. It's about events, guest speaking, a workshop, etc....where of course you will sign your book as a bonus. You can do this at a bookstore, a business, a school, a community center, a place of worship,etc. To sit at a table and sign books (if you are not a celebrity) is so old school to me, unless you are in a setting full of literary people who appreciate the act. Two cents from a newbie but I'm onto something else.

frimble3
12-30-2007, 10:28 AM
Speaking as a regular bookstore customer, if I see someone with that little table full of books and a shy but eager smile, I tend to shy away. Unless I actually want their book, I'm going to feel guilty giving them the old, "Well, maybe later...". And I certainly don't want to attract the attention of some desperate, lonely writer that I might not be able to dislodge later. I'd go the candy route, or bookmarks, but even better, read from your book, or talk about it, take the focus off the person standing there, wanting to sell something, and put it on the book, even if it's just random exerpts. Maybe ask a friend or bookstore employee to talk to you when you start, so people know it's ok to interact with you?

job
12-30-2007, 11:23 AM
Talk to people and they'll stick around. But yes--chocolate works too. :)

Does anyone know whether booksignings lead to sales? I mean, does being there make the books more likely to sell than just providing autographed copies?

Dustry Joe
12-30-2007, 06:34 PM
Kimmer, you are very right. The difference between creating an event at which you sign books and "sitting at a table with a shy smile" as frimple puts it is like the difference between being on Oprah and having a cheap info-mercial. Thing is, the bookstores WANT events. Borders and such thrive on schedules of speakers and things.

Or course, it's up to you to be able to dream up something that they will want to publicize and people will listen to, but hey, you dreamed up a book, didn't you?

Job (does that name reflect patience or work ethic?) I doubt there is hard data on that. I would say that people would rather have a personalized sig from the author and say they met him than just buy a book with an inscription in it.

But that doesn't mean they're going to flock to a signing or buy books while there. Part of the answer to that is in what kimmer is saying: you sell more by putting on a circus than juggling on the sidewalk.
Even doing something like "New Voices in Local Fiction: Five Writers Discuss Literature in Pocono" is better than the cardtable/shy dread syndrome.

Another thing, people will flock to a signing by a popular author, but not to an unknown with an obscure title. Obviously. I had a non-fiction book out by a local publisher once. The publisher came with me to a reading by my fellow client of a literary agent. His book was a chronical of the immigrant experience. People were buying the book and fawning on the guy and I mean seriously: crying, touching his hands, blessing him.

So she decided to have a reading for my book at a local store. I refused. Those people loved that guy (who I always thought was a bit of a jerk, actually) because he touched their lives and experience, told stories like those of their parents and family. My book was of scholastic interest--although pretty racy. Nobody was going to rush down to the bookstore to get signing for what is essentially a cross-cultural dictionary.

That said, I hang out a place that sells the book referred to in the banner below this (the owner of the store is not only cute, but way cool) When somebody buys the book I identify myself and sign it. Just good for business and goodwill. If people ask about the book, she points me out if I'm there. My unscientific guess would be that people who speak to me about the book are three times likely to buy it than people who just pick it up and skim it.

Cathy C
12-30-2007, 09:31 PM
Does anyone know whether booksignings lead to sales? I mean, does being there make the books more likely to sell than just providing autographed copies?

I don't know the answer to that, job. One bookstore manager tells us yes. The others don't appear to track it. I wish I lived in a more "romance-friendly" area. One of the big problems around here is that people don't want to be SEEN buying spicy romances. It's a bit of a taboo in the bible belt's buckle. But we're told the books do VERY well once we've been in. Partly I think it's a matter of "support your local celebrities" but more I think it's just knowing we exist---seeing that we're real that makes the difference.

But dunno for sure, so I'm just speculating.

Dustry Joe
12-30-2007, 11:15 PM
Have you considered doing your signings in a racy adult type place instead of a regular bookstore?

Cathy C
12-31-2007, 12:59 AM
:roll: You'd assume there would BE one in a combination military base/college town, wouldn't you...?

It's the BUCKLE of the bible belt.

job
12-31-2007, 02:50 AM
I don't know the answer to that, job. One bookstore manager tells us yes. The others don't appear to track it. ... But dunno for sure, so I'm just speculating.

Publishers keep sending authors -- big name authors -- out on tour. So they obviously think it makes a difference.

But big name signings are real different from little tadpole signings, so I don't know whether to do this or not.
(sigh)

Chumplet
12-31-2007, 04:13 AM
I can't wait to have a books signing with my next book because it's a hockey romance and I live in the centre of the hockey universe. Sorry, Calgary.

I should have a signing at a local sports store or something.

Dustry Joe
12-31-2007, 05:26 AM
Not a bad idea. Or at a game? Tailgate marketing?

frimble3
01-10-2008, 12:15 PM
A hockey romance? How about at local kid's league? Something for the moms watching their kids practice? Or at a tournament? Lots of waiting-around time there!

Keyan
01-22-2008, 03:07 PM
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Oh, no wait a minute. You CAN'T buy charisma supplements. Oh well.



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