Thursday, November 18, 2010

Book Signings, Past, Present, and Future?

This week at Acme Authors the discussion has been on book signings. Do we? Or don't we? Is it worth our time? Our money? Our effort?

My first book signing was at a Barnes and Noble in a nearby college town. I was so excited; my promo material had just arrived, so I had posters to display, post cards to hand out as well as business cards. I had my easel, I had my press release and sent it to the bookstore a few weeks in advance. It included a display poster for promo purposes to advertise the day and time of my book signing. I had also included professional looking hand-outs to be used at the registers. I had read how to make a book signing a success and I was ready. The book store had ordered twenty books. I prayed I could sell half of them.

I arrived early, a big feat for me who is always running late. I clamored through the door looking for my display poster and noticed a small smudged picture that resembled my book cover with a hastily written notice about time and date. I couldn't read it and wondered if anyone else had bother to look at it.

The store manager greeted me and we set off to the book signing table. Once I set all my stuff down, I looked around and wondered if there was some mistake. I was in the cookbook section which would have been fine had I even one recipe in my historical. But alas, my book did not include food preparation of any kind.

I sold three books that day, one to my husband, and one to each of my daughters. The store manager returned my press release packet, saying she hadn't had time to display it, but didn't want to throw it away in case I needed it for another book signing. Since all was dated for the event, it was pretty much useless at that point.

I learned many things at that book signing:
1. No one cares about my book's success as much as I do. The sooner I accept that concept, the sooner the pain of reality will diminish.

2. No sales does not mean failure.

3. Success should not be equated with money earned. SUCCESS SHOULD NOT BE EQUATED WITH MONEY EARNED. success should not be equated with money earned ... repeat as needed.

4. Diversify!

5. And most importantly: To pick myself up, dust myself off, and try again!

I've been at book signings with dozens of other authors and enjoyed every moment chatting and networking. I learned not to expect much in the department of sales and have been surprised when things went great and have learned to accept it when the sales were not there. I've stood in the cold and heat at bazaars, been to craft shows where someone forgot to promote the event and hundreds of vendors were disappointed. I've been the lone book seller at an airport and giggled at the many ways folks can ignore a person. I've received numerous notes, not just emails, from people who told me they bought a book because I looked friendly and then were delighted to have enjoyed my book. I've attended many library events, knowing full well library patrons do not generally buy books, they borrow books! But they are avid readers and all I need is a chance to entice them to read mine. And most libraries treat authors GREAT!

Book clubs continue to amaze me. I've attended probably a half-dozen for each of my books and am always surprised when the members have read one my books and want to talk about it. I LOVE THIS! Discussing my plot, my characters and the consequences of their actions is a high-light I treasure. That's when I know I've hit the SUCCESS mark! I know I should care if they bought one book or a dozen, or if they got their book from the local library. The important fact is they read my book, they readily discussed it and hopefully urged someone else to do the same.

Book signings in the future? Sure, I'll participate as I'm able, mostly to reach my goal to educate book store managers on how to run a successful book signing. I've attended book fairs in Kentucky and big book signings in Phoenix and Chicago, plus American Library Association luncheons. All book events have their quirks that drive authors crazy, but beyond that they have what all authors crave - folks who love books!

Til next time ~

DL Larson


Debra St. John said...

Great post, DL.

Book signings can be a disappointment sometimes, but I agree, it doesn't mean the author herself (or himself) isn't a success.

Sometimes just having the time to sit back, relax, and chat with fellow authors makes a signing worthwhile.

Anonymous said...

I am not an author yet. I attend book signings whenever I can. I look forward to the day when I do signings myself. I was thrilled to be able to attend all the ones my husband has done thus far. Each one is different and unique. all were fun from my perspective as helper and attendee and time flew.

In one library group signing the library did NO publicity whatsoever and told no one that bunches of authors were in the basement, not even using the little sign they use for private parties. Needless to say, no one did terribly well on that one though a couple of us had put out a tiny bit of publicity ourselves. It was fun talking to the authors and having time to look at their books.

Deb Larson said...

you're so right, Deb. I've learned so much from book signings and meeting other authors!
And Anonymous ~ experience shows when dealing with any public entity. Hopefully the person in charge learned to better prepare for the next time!

Thanks for sharing your views!
DL Larson

Anonymous said...

Amen; Amen; Amen! to all you said - thanks for sharing - an interesting and timely blog.

Jackie Griffey