September 1, 2007 | Written by admin
Sorry to have dropped off the map for two weeks. We were in the midst of a move, and…well, let’s just say that moving is a pain. I’ve had several people encourage me to blog more often — as in "do shorter pieces more frequently," instead of "do a couple of big pieces each week." It’s an interesting idea. Not sure I can maintain it, but I might give it a shot.
Still, here’s how the blog usually works: You send in questions, and I answer them. So send me anything you want to know about books and publishing, and I’ll do my best to offer some perspective.
Vera wrote to ask, "Are book signings important? I have a book releasing next month, and I’m not sure how much effort to invest in signings."
Booksignings can be incredibly fun, or they can be incredibly frustrating. A couple thoughts to share with you regarding signings…
First, remember that YOU are responsible for marketing your book. So don’t leave everything at a signing up to somebody else and expect that all you have to do is show up and be the star. Maybe a #1 New York Times bestselling author can do that — you probably can’t. So don’t leave the marketing up to the store manager, the shipping clerks, or your overworked publicist. Instead, take the intiative. Call people and invite them to the signing. Turn it into a party. Let everybody know about it. Contact the local newspapers, radio shows, and TV stations. Send promotional announcements. Ask friends in the area to show up. Get it announced in your church, as well as in other churches who know you or have had you as a speaker. Make sure it gets placed in more than one place in the newspaper — for example, in the "calendar" section as well as the "entertainment" section, the "church" section, and the "book" section. by all means, talk with the bookstore management about using their marketing to promote the event. If you leave all this up to someone else, it won’t get done.
Second, if you really want to get more people to show up, offer to give away some books. I once got a radio station to do a remote broadcast from a bookstore just by offering to let them give away a few copies of my book.
Third, learn to work a crowd. Take the time to talk with people — there’s no rush. Ask them questions and listen to their answers. Tell them about your book, and express appreciation for their coming to the signing. Smile a lot. Don’t push your book too hard or you’ll come across as a used-car salesman. If you’ve got a line of people in front of you, the signing will feel like a success…but if you’re sitting there by yourself, everybody knows it’s a dog. So if it’s a small group, you’ve got an opportunity to really chat with some faithful readers. Experienced book signers know they can keep a line of people there by speeding up or slowing down the process.
Fourth, lower your expectations. Don’t assume that because your name is on the bookstore calendar it will automatically garner a crowd. If this is your first signing, and you’re expecitng something that looks like a Budweiser commercial with crowds and dancing girls, you’re going to be disappointed. (A question to ponder: Why is it that beer commercials always have a crowd of bright young people laughing and cheering and having fun, when in real life most of these places are dark dives with lonely people who barely talk to one another? Just wondering.) Yeah, when Jerry Jenkins does a signing, he gets a crowd of 5000. When you sell sixty million books, you can expect the same. But for now, lower your expectations. Call friends and family and ask them to come, do your best at getting the word out, and by all means appreciate the fact that SOMEBODY showed up to see you sign books.
Fifth, make an effort to personalize the experience. Don’t just give them your signature — write "Enjoy!" or "Blessings" or something above your name. If you have time, ask each person what his or her name is, and write it on the title page. (Be sure to ask the spelling — even if it seems simple. I once met a guy named Bob who spelled it "Bobb.") You can also use a simple phrase that ties to the book, and write that above your signature. My wife just received a book from author Mindy Stearns Clark entitled "The House that Cleans Itself." Above her signature, Mindy wrote, "Keep it clean!" A nice touch.
Finally, pick up a copy of Annette Smith’s "Stories to Feed Your Soul" and read her story about her first book signing. They had enough food for an army, plus a pile of specially printed napkins with her name and book title on them. When the attendees left, Annette found that she got to freeze a lot of good food, and later found all sorts of useful thiings to do with her leftover napkins (like, um, when she ran out of toilet paper). You never know what signings can lead to…