The Book Signing
I am a newly self-published author. But you already knew that unless you really don’t read these blogs or you are new here.
Self-published means my book is available to purchase on Amazon if John Doe stumbles across it, but otherwise all the marketing legwork is up to me. Once I exhausted my friends and family with reminders of the book, I had to go elsewhere to sell the next copy. That’s when a friend suggested a book signing opportunity.
A few weeks after publishing, the good folks at As The Page Turns, a bookstore in Travelers Rest, SC, agreed to carry my book. They generously, albeit cautiously, ordered two copies. Almost a month later I checked back to see if the book was still on their shelves. Yep, both copies were still there. But then I soon got an email that they sold and another two copies were needed. Woo Hoo! And that pair only lasted a couple days; now they needed half a dozen! I truly appreciate the support of a small, independent bookstore. As one of their authors, I was offered the opportunity to participate in a multi-author book signing event in their store on a Saturday afternoon.
With owner approval, Jenni and I arrived for the event in Wanda—the star of the book Living With Wanda. We were given permission to park in front of the store to show her off to patrons arriving for the event, so as Jenni maneuvered Wanda’s twenty foot chassis next to the curb, I set up my card table inside. (This is the same wooden card table I had convinced Jenni we had donated to charity a couple years ago; yeah, I found it in our attic.) There were going to be eleven authors participating so I wedged myself into a corner between Adventure and Travel.
I was the newbie. The greenhand. The only author there with ONE book, of which the ink might smear it was so new. Some of the participants had trilogies or entire SERIES of books. The truly experienced ones brought tablecloths for their displays. Dang, it was getting real now. I was there not only to sign and sell my books, but to see how more experienced authors handled events like this and learn from them.
Nothing could have prepared me for my closest author-neighbor who in addition to her multiple book collection had a rolling suitcase stuffed with ventriloquist dummies. (I’m not sure if that’s the proper name for them or not, but when she told me she had been “venting” for 30 years I was speechless and didn’t ask any questions.) My new friend had planned several performances spaced out during the afternoon but it just wasn’t a ‘venting-type’ crowd; I only overhead one master/dummy conversation while I was engaged with a potential customer.
In another corner near me, a gentleman was hawking two books he had written. Actually, he was selling one and giving the other away to anyone who felt a desire to read it. My internal Dewey Decimal filing system placed that free copy under Baptist Books. He was a very nice man. As he engaged any shopper walking by, he offered his free book first and read them the book jacket summary. Word for word. If they were interested, he wrote a dedication to them and gave the copy away. Then he would read the book jacket summary of his second book. Word for word. By the end of the afternoon, I could have covered his table for him and recited his pitch if he needed a break.
As for me, I realized with my first conversation that I had not even considered what my “elevator-speech” would be. I fumbled for words, considered reading the book jacket, and relied entirely too much on the person in front of me to ask questions. Thankfully this individual was another author. I knew he wouldn’t be buying my book after that painful conversation but it broke the ice and I was better prepared when the next person happened along. In fact, I didn’t have to wait very long.
A customer had approached the cashier and asked about the event and then turned my direction. The ventriloquist was on break or venting elsewhere, so she came straight to me. Her name was Cheryl and she may have been an angel. I told her about my book and if she was feigning interest, she was a great actress. I sensed an opportunity and said it would be a perfect read for someone thinking about retirement. She exclaimed “that’s my husband!” It only took a couple more seconds and I had sold my book to a non-family/friend/otherwise-obligated-person!
I had recently read an NPR article which discussed book signing turnouts of well-known authors and how disappointing they had become, sometimes only producing two or three interested parties. I related this to a friend at church and told her I would be elated if I had TWO people show up. When that friend arrived later in the afternoon she immediately asked if she was number one or two! At that point, I could tell her that she was about my SIXTH book to sign! The event totally exceeded my expectations.
So I learned much at my first event:
1) Small business owners deserve a medal (but would be much happier if you just bought something at their store.)
2) Rehearse a 15-30 second spiel before the first person is standing before you.
3) Enjoy the moment. It’s similar to when I sell my photography—if it makes someone smile or recall a great memory, that’s reward enough sometimes.
Gotta go! I’m late for a meeting with my marketing team.