Wanky title? You betcha! I’m totally ad-libbing this whole post, but I’ll try to include some stuff about motivation, marketing, writing, and life in general. Prepare to meet my CRAZY!
If you can’t tell, I’m having fun with this post, but fuck it. Most weeks I have my Thursday post ready to go by Tuesday night, and I might even do a quick scan for typos and such. Not tonight. I’m less than 12 hours to my deadline, but I’m not breaking my chain of consistently being here for you on Thursdays.
If you want me to write about something specific, you should let me know.
Anyway, there’s always fun stuff brewing in my noodle, so let’s see what I come up with. How about for starters…
How to Get an Author Signing at B&N, or Anywhere
First off, unless you have some huge name (or just a fortunate name) like Patterson, King, Collins, Rice, or any other author you’d like to gloat about (and secretly hate every time you shell out another twenty bucks on a book of theirs because you can’t stop), you might be surprised at how many books you will sell at your average signing. I confirmed this number with the staff of a local Barnes and Noble, where I’m doing a signing Saturday. Their number matched mine. Average sales, around 3.
What? Three? Yes. Unless you’ve pulled the family/friend card, hijacked a bus full of tourists, and crashed a plane in the parking lot, you probably aren’t going to have a line going around the building. I’ve done “signings” where I’ve sold ten or fifteen books, but others where the only purchase was made by the librarian (who probably felt sorry for me as I hammered out a good chunk of my next MS at the table). Sometimes you get a break, other times not so much. It all depends.
One thing though, be prepared to do something dazzling. Get a big poster to put in front of your table, give out cookies, smile and say hi…wait, nevermind, this is about getting the deal in the first place. I’ve gone off track again.
#1, and most important thing ever if you want a signing at B&N, BAM, or any other respectable book retailer. They want to sell the books. If you are local, you have a leg up, because you can, ehem, convince…yeah, convince, friends and family to show up and buy a copy. (Have it on your birthday for extra sensationalism). The store owners know this.
#2, and even more most important thing ever. The book MUST be available from a distributer they already use. THEY want to sell the book, which means they want it scanned through their POS (not kidding, that’s what the scanner system is called, it means “point of sale”) system. They want their 55% discount, they want returnability, and they don’t want to do any fussy paperwork involved in setting up a new customer ordering system. What this means is, the physical book (paperback or hardcover) needs to be available through Ingram, Baker and Taylor, or some other big distribution. Not Amazon.
Keep this in mind before signing a contract with a small press, or while setting up an indie book.
#3, Go up to the counter, wearing a shirt and shoes, and looking halfway like a respectable human being, and tell the person/people standing there that you are a local author. Ask them if they’ve done any book signings, and if they would like to have you in their store to do one. If you did #2 above, there shouldn’t be any hangup. They might ask about your book, or about your local presence or whatever. If it sounds like something they want to do, then they’ll point out the requirements, which pretty well all pertain to #2. Have a date in mind, because they might ask.
#4 There is no number four. That’s it. Brush your teeth, put on some clothes, and go ask. You have to talk to another human being, and I know it’s uncomfortable, but that’s really all there is to it. You could also ask a publicist to take care of this part, but if you are going to be in public signing books, then you need to work up a little courage anyway. Practice being friendly and pleasant. You can also try this at local comic shops (scifi/fantasy/horror), museums (nonfiction), smaller bookstores (some will be inviting, others will be jerks), etc. The same rules generally apply, but some places (like libraries) will let you bring in copies. Oh, and if you are doing a signing at a library, drop off a couple copies for them to stick on the shelf if they want them, be nice.
If I find the magic beans, I promise I will put them here for you, but I’ve been doing a lot on the promotion front lately, and I’m starting to make some headway “breaking in” to a few promising promo companies.
I gotta say, so far, twitter and FB (or any other social) pushes don’t really work for me. I have my books on a once (or was it twice?) rotating thing where each book get’s a tweet roughly every third day. At least the ones on my tweet carousel. (I use recurpost to handle these) Sometimes these get clicked, but mostly not. I don’t do the Auto-DM think because I think it’s annoying as hell when people do it to me. And I’ve enlisted a couple of book pushers to do my dirty work from their own twitter handles (sneaky, right?) because the people who follow them want to see new books in their feed (I follow most of them too for the same reason).
A LOT of sites are going to want 5 reviews and an average rating of 5 stars. Which is annoying if, well, you know, nobody has read it yet (which is why you’re doing promo in the first place, am I right?). But there are a lot that don’t require any. That’s why I did the blog post last week and added some little gems to my resources page. We’ll see when my promo starts how much response I get, but if a couple more readers pick up and like my book, I’ll be happy enough. I haven’t listed any of the paid sights or some of the more fiddly ones, because the thing hasn’t gone down yet. If my promo turns out to be a winner, then I’ll probably do a detailed list of everything that I did. I’m all about sharing secrets, but I don’t want to blab about advertising companies that failed to deliver, unless they’re free and easy, in which case you lose 5 minutes, and someone might just happen to see your cover and click.
Either way, little promos lead to some readers, and if they like the book and leave reviews, this opens the door to more leads on the next promo, to make it a bigger promo, etc.
You can also get reviews by contacting book review bloggers 😉 Sometimes it takes a minute for them to read it, but it’s worth the wait. With VS, I started sending these out once I had the book itself in final format and a release date scheduled.
There’s other ways, too. You have to be clever, and willing to have a little fun to get your book out there. For FTDB, this was easy, as I did a “free library” thing through Smashwords, I made a “free version,” I gave away some copies at NaNo events, and somehow, through all the mess, I just did a search, and there’s not one, but a bunch of 30s DailyMotion video clips about the book that I have no idea how they got there. (For real, no clue whatsoever). I did videos, made some funny memes, and even started posting on a #finishthedamnbook hashtag. Obviously you can’t give away all of your writing and hope to make any money doing this, but free novellas, short stories, and flash fiction can help readers find you.
My thoughts on the matter. Use social media for socializing. You can put your book stuff up there and announce events and stuff, but when I click on your twitter handle, show me something other than a long string of book promos. I like making blog posts, so most of my twitter is devoted to that. I think of these a REALLY long tweets, without the hashtags.
Um. Okay, that’s 1400 words, so I’m going to hop off for the night. Hope there was something helpful or stimulating in here. If there’s something writing related you want me to talk about next week, ask. It’ll be good practice for approaching that scary desk at Barnes and Noble 😉