Book Signings 101
Today’s topic – of which I don’t really claim to be an expert – is book signings. We’ve all heard of them, perhaps a few of you have attended them as readers, these mass events where hundreds of authors set up a table in a big room and they all vie for the attention of eager readers who love to purchase signed copies.
It’s a sort of bizarre concept. Like a craft fair in form, but far more unique. For the most part writers are tucked away behind a computer and readers are tucked away behind the pages of a book and ne’er the twain do meet. There is a desire for some to physically connect to people who they feel a mental affinity towards.
And thus, these events are born. They are a place for readers and writers to meet, shake hands, have pictures taken, chat, eat sweets, grab swag, and all that jazz. It’s a very insular world with a specific set of social parameters, and quite frankly I went into it with as much understanding of what I was doing as a child trying to fly a helicopter. I wanted to push all the buttons and make it work first time – somehow, more through luck than judgement I assure you, I managed not to crash and burn. I did come away with a few bruises and a lump that will never subside no matter how much I prod it, but the experience was well worth the effort.
Some points to note for anyone considering attending one of these affairs:
They aren’t always profitable.
You have to purchase print copies of your own book – which are often far cheaper than the retail price, but still an expense. You have to make a judgement call on how many copies you take. Take too many and you come home with handfuls of unsold books. Take too few and you sell out too soon.
If you travel to the event across the country (or even overseas) you have to factor in travel costs – hotel fees, eating out, petrol (gas to my American friends).
The ancillary items can stack up to big bucks. The swag you offer, the table decorations, business cards, book marks, pens, banners, as well as the cost of attendance – it all adds up.
When you outlay hundreds of pounds (dollars) up front and only come away having sold a few copies it can be disheartening, BUT…
It’s not all about sales.
These events are all about opportunities. They are a chance to meet other authors and build your network.
You can learn so much from people who are experienced attendees as well as make connections that can help to further your writing career at a later date, and cement friendships that you otherwise wouldn’t make. These benefits are difficult to quantify monetarily (as I tried to explain to my husband when attempting to justify the cost of the event – with very little success) but should not be discounted.
Book marketing is a murky world of uncertainty and a lot of trial and error. The marketing monster is a crazy creature with multiple tentacles. The tentacle that represents unwritten alliances between authors who share and promote each other’s books, therefore spreading the potential reach to a greater reader base is an important tentacle to consider – if a little difficult to tame.Branding is key. #author #autograph #writing #advice Click To Tweet
One thing I knew from the outset was how I wanted my table to look. I have a mixture of genres – both erotic fantasy and steampunk. I split my table but with a form of cohesion between the two sides and decorated it how I saw fit. My assistant Nici (who dressed in a sexy steampunk outfit) and I got a lot of nice comments about our set up, and although I spent a great deal of time trying to explain what steampunk was to people who had never heard of it before, I know the style we adopted drew people to our table. They might not have known what they were looking at, but it caught attention.
You need to consider the style of your books and you as an author and somehow form that into a brand that will get you noticed. Above all, be consistent. There is no point in having a banner that makes you look like you write children’s books when you are actually a hard core erotica writer. That may be an extreme example, but you get the point.
Know your place.
As a newbie, I knew I wasn’t going to sell hundreds of books. No-one knows who I am, and people are naturally skeptical of new writers. I assumed – incorrectly – that I would be in a room full of people at a similar level to me. I thought the people with a big following would be setting up in a national bookstore for their signings, not slumming it in the mass events with the likes of me. I assumed incorrectly.
There will be a range of other writers at the event. Some will be utter newbies, some will be very experienced mid-range successes, a handful will be big name authors. Those guys will have a queue at their table all day long. The lady opposite me, none other than CM Owens herself, was busy all day. Readers were falling over each other to buy signed copies and chat to the author. They bought her cakes, cards, balloons, and swooned as she posed for a photo. I was simultaneously jealous (yes I can be petty at times – I’m only human after all) and completely in awe. I sat watching the circus opposite and thought “one day…”
I heartily recommend writers consider attending an event like this. They are good fun if nothing else. I’m already looking forward to my next.