Thursday, February 10, 2011

Booksignings Stink!

Please welcome author Christee Atwood!!

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

36 comments:

Jamie (Mithril Wisdom) said...

Great advice. Most of the signings I've seen have broken most of those rules. The author's been unapproachable, they look bored and there's a whole lot of nothing going on around them. Not that good for an atmosphere I must admit.

India Drummond said...

Truly great advice! I've only ever seen one book signing, and she looked so sad and lonely I was scared to approach her.

India Drummond

L. Diane Wolfe said...

That's why the author needs to interact! I love her points. I've always been an author who moved around and chatted and handed out bookmarks and books to every person in the store. Sad lumps behind a table don't sell books!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sounds like a lot of effort if one is to be successful.

DL Hammons said...

This is really great stuff! I'm bookmarking this post for future reference. :)

Mary Vaughn said...

This is a great reference post. Thanks so much.
I must say the title of this book would have caught my eye and I probably would have bought it on the spot. Now I noted the info and will order it.

The Old Silly said...

Christee, this is an AWESOME list of helpful ideas to make book signings more enjoyable and productive. I copied and pasted your post into a Word.doc for reference. Thanks! And thank you, Diane, for having Christee on today! :)

Christee.biz said...

Okay, you folks are much too nice!! I feel like a useful member of the writing world today!! I'm going to print out all your posts and put them on my bulletin board to help me through those times when I'm thinking I should have chosen a more reputable occupation than writer -- like teacher, doctor, or lady of the evening.

Christee.biz said...

Oh oh oh! (Why do shades of Horshack on Welcome Back Kotter come to mind?)

One more I didn't mention in here is an idea I'm going to try for the first time this Saturday. I'm going to create a new book trailer -- so I'm inviting people to come and read lines from the introduction that I'll piece together into a video. I'm also inviting those who have already read the book to visit and do video reviews that I can post on Amazon. I'll tell you how it goes!

Susan Fields said...

That was some really great advice! I'm taking notes, hopefully I'll get to use some of it someday!

Christee.biz said...

Thanks Susan! I'll bet you will get to use it... and come up with some even better ideas of your own.

And if you want to practice in advance, come join me at a booksigning and we'll take turns scaring unsuspecting visitors!

Christee.biz said...

Please remember to join me on Twitter http://twitter.com/ChristeeAtwood
and Facebook http://www.facebook.com/christee.atwood
and Skype christee.atwood
so we can talk more!

Raquel Byrnes said...

This is great stuff! *scribbling in notepad* Its nice to hear the facts.
Edge of Your Seat Romance

Christee.biz said...

I've actually seen authors sit and read a book at their signing table. Such excitement!

The strangest booksigning I've done is more than a little embarrassing -- but it worked... Please don't think too lowly of me for this one.

During National Novel Writing Month, I tied a booksigning with writing my novel. But I wanted to do something really different. I did.

It all started, as most adventures do, after too many glasses of merlot. I saw a full body chicken suit for sale in Target. I wanted to be able to write it off my taxes. So, combining my cheapness and alcohol ended up with me sitting in the window of a Waldenbooks for a month while writing my novel -- and selling books all the time. It was incredible -- I got national news coverage with CBS and Christian Science Monitor. However, I don't recommend it if you are allergic to fake feathers or extreme heat. Or if you have even a semblance of self-respect...

Jemi Fraser said...

Terrific advice!! Makes it all seem a little less terrifying!

Monti said...

What a fun post! Good ideas to get authors up and going when book signings get them bogged down.

Thanks!
Monti
NotesAlongTheWay

Prill said...

These are FABULOUS tips, Christee! I did one signing years ago and vowed never again to sit at a table and wait for people. It was horribly uncomfortable. Since then, I've always signed while doing several of the things you mentioned. But bringing a camera to take photos of people and then emailing them copies? Even I never thought of that. Brilliant!

Karen Lange said...

What great tips! I'm bookmarking this page. Thanks for hosting, Diane, and thanks for sharing, Christee.
Happy weekend,
Karen

Allyn Evans said...

I will never do a booksigning again. What I will do is an invitation gathering to friends and supporters. And I will give presentations. But you'll not find me ever sitting or standing at a bookstore...with my stack of books. Even the booksignings past that I would consider successful, aren't high volume enough for the time and effort.

Christee.biz said...

I don't blame you. Booksignings are not everybody's cup of tea! And for lots of authors, they're not the best use of their time. Sounds like you've got great alternatives that you do.

Here's a dumb idea -- You might want to consider putting both of these concepts together -- how about an invitation gathering of friends ... at a bookstore or some other retail location that ties in with your book? (It's really nice to be the only book in a gift shop, etc.) Then you have a bigger space, other people can join in so you make new friends, and you don't have to clean the bathroom before they come over.

Just a thought. Thanks for checking in!

M Pax said...

I already know it won't be easy. These are great tips.

Love the title. All success to you, Christee.

Clarissa Draper said...

This is really good advice. I'm going to save this post for the future.

Christee.biz said...

Thanks! And you're right, it's never really easy.

There are those times when I first get to that table in a deserted bookstore when I say, "What the heck am I doing here again?"

But two hours later, with a couple of new friends, email addresses, photos, and a bunch of my bookmarks floating around the mall, I realize that I just did the world's most effective 2-hour commercial.

Then I treat myself to a Double Fudge Cookie Dough Blizzard at DQ. That's even better than the promotion...

Helen Ginger said...

Excellent advice, Christee. Worth printing out and saving!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Christee, it was great to have you!

Christee.biz said...

Diane -- Thanks so much for letting me come play with these wonderful writers! This was a joy! And thanks to all of you who visited and commented. Please email me at Christee@Christee.biz or friend me on FB so we can stay connected and share more ideas!

Now -- back to the waiting blank page...

Stephen Tremp said...

Christie's a real hoot! Love that sense of humor. I agree about not sitting at book signings. I like to walk around and mingle. And just stand there and look stupid. And regarding candy, one swipe is enough. Anything more and I call store security.

Christee.biz said...

I like that Stephen! Could save me a fortune on candy purchases. Hey! Maybe I could make a warning sign:

Parents: Children taking more than one helping of candy will be given a set of permanent markers, a drum set, and a free puppy.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I've had mostly successful booksignings. The few I haven't sold manhy books at are the ones where the store didn't have many customers.
The advice about not sitting in the chair is great and I've had to give lots of directions.

TerryLynnJohnson said...

I so enjoyed this post! Especially since my own first signing is fresh in my mind. I did learn quickly not to sit! These are all great tips! And funny too! Thank you both!

Christee.biz said...

Good point Susan -- No matter how good we are, without traffic in the store it's still, "Houston, we have a problem." Then we've got to give ourselves credit just for trying.

TerryLynn -- You made it through your first one!! Congratulations. Can't wait to read your tips in the future! Let's all keep sharing!

BodieP said...

What wonderful ideas! I can see I've been doing my signings all wrong, although I am a very good greeter...

Christee.biz said...

BodieP -- Greeting talents are good ones to have. That means there's a future for us at WalMart!! And sometimes I practice my "Serve you?" so I have the option of Piccadilly...

Solvang Sherrie said...

I'm saving this list! What great ideas. Thanks!

Christee.biz said...

Don't forget to come back and share things that worked for you! We'll just keep adding to this collection of ideas...

Jolene said...

This is brilliant! Thanks Christee for sharing, and Ms Spunk for bringing me here c/o the Crusade :)