Thursday, February 10, 2011
When I published my first book, I thought that as soon as it came out, people would rush to bookstores to buy copies for everyone they knew. I just knew there would be long lines, riots in the streets, and Sixty Minutes on my doorstep.
The reality? My mom bought a copy. The line at the bookstore was for a Harry Potter impersonator. And the closest I got to a media interview was a tax audit. (Of course, once they saw my occupation was “writer”, they just laughed, gave me a five, and went home.
What this rather convoluted introduction is leading up to is that writing a book starts looking like the easy part when you get to the world of promotions.
With that in mind, I’d like to offer a few ideas from my lessons learned. They might be useful … or they might just make you laugh at me. Either one is fine with me.
1. Booksignings stink. They’re uncomfortable. You sit and stare at people. They try to avoid your eyes. And occasionally someone approaches you for directions to the romance section. So what can help this snore-fest? Here are some of the things I do to reduce the pain and itching of booksignings.
• Don’t just have a booksigning. Make it an event, a reading, a party, a demonstration. Learn origami if it helps.
• Give people something else to look at or do when they come to your table. How about an emailing list for a free newsletter? A chance to win a free book? A free mp3 of you reading the intro of the book?
• Always have a candy bowl handy because when the kids attack it, the parents rush up to make sure you’re not trying to drug their kids. Or those who have ADHD kids ask you to drug them…
• Have that cool book trailer you did playing as they walk by. You can even stand and watch it like it’s not your book, making comments like, “This is a work of pure genius!” However, this is less effective if your picture is included in the video.
• Give directions to the restroom. And learn the layout of the bookstore, so you can give directions to the sections. At one booksigning, the store wanted to hire me as a greeter. Damn, I should have taken that job…
• Take digital pictures with your visitors that you email to them after the event. It’s a wonderfully tricky way to get their email addresses. You can also put these on your blog, webpage, or Facebook to increase your subscriptions and hits.
• Have loads of handouts – bookmarks, flyers, novelties, or anything that promotes you or your book. Then walk around the store periodically and hand them out to everyone in there. Just be sure to tell them that you’re the author or they’ll assume that you work there and try to get you to carry their bags.
2. Find tie-ins.
• For my latest book, In Celebration of Elastic Waistbands, I’m creating my own holiday. May 8 is the birthday of the fellow who invented elastic. So, Thomas Hancock’s birthday becomes the Celebration of Elastic Day!
• I’m doing events to celebrate, adding media campaigns to promote it, and offering specials. Yes, I’m a discount author – and proud of it.
• Find businesses, organizations, and occasions that match your topic. Here are some of my examples:
o You can bet I’m having a blast with the cookie bouquet people. Now, if I could just talk them into letting me sample the products.
o Women’s Weeks are another natural for my humor books.
o My business topics are great ways to get introduced to the corporate markets.
3. Team up with other groups.
• Do a reading for a group and allow them to make money off the copies their members buy.
• For each book sold at the back of the room, give a donation to their group.
• Learn to use the discount codes on Amazon, so members can continue to promote the book for a few weeks after the program and get money back from additional sales.
4. Don’t do events alone.
• We’re working on a Louisiana authors’ tour so that none of us has to sit alone. The group might change, but it pretty much ensures we won’t have to do solo events.
• Find other authors who have something in common with you and tour together under a specific topic or title.
5. Never sit down at a booksigning unless you’re autographing a book.
• If you sit down during a booksigning, your energy level goes down. You’re less approachable. And you’re easy to ignore.
• Get rid of that chair and move around to keep your excitement up and your rear awake.
6. Continually play with new technology and trends.
• My latest toy is the Skype interview. It’s free technology, it allows me to present programs to groups without leaving home, and it allows them to join in the conversation. How cool is that?
• I’m playing with the Pulse pen to try doing audio booksignings. That way can I can send a mini-podcast that I am calling an “audiograph”. Cool, huh? Or geeky. But there’s such a thin line there … and I tend to ignore it.
• What do you like to play with? Facebook? Twitter? Find new and interesting ways to use them. Contests, soliciting reviews, and conversations about sections of your book keep your audience entertained and make others feel left out if they don’t read it. Never underestimate embarrassment and exclusion as tools to get your book read.
7. Listen as much as you talk. I know that sounds silly. After all, you’re out to promote your book, not to listen to people talk about themselves or their views. But you know how boring it gets to talk to someone who never lets you get a word in? That’s a bore … or a political speech. Either one is deadly, so limit that one-sided talking.
• Ensure that you have your description of the book down to an elevator speech. Thirty seconds is perfect. Just give them an idea of what it’s about and why they would enjoy it. If they want to know more, they’ll ask.
• Ask them what kind of books they like. If it matches your book, tell them why.
• Ask them who their favorite authors are. Are they some of your favorites too? Wow! Now you have something in common.
• Ask if they can think of anyone who would like your book. Ask if they have any ideas of groups you could talk to. Basically, get them involved. This can help increase their interest in your book because now they’re involved in helping to promote it.
I guess what it all comes down to is that the skills needed for promotion are totally different from those that helped you create your masterpiece. Involving tools, techniques, and toys to help fill in the silence and awkward moments can make it a lot easier and more productive. And if that doesn’t work, alcohol is a handy second choice.
Christee Atwood is the author of In Celebration of Elastic Waistbands: Episodes of Imperfection, Insanity, & Occasional Enlightenment - please visit Christee at her WEBSITE and fun-loving BLOG