Book Signing Checklist

checklistLast weekend I participated in my first large book fair as an author at the Women’s Expo in Grand Rapids, MI. Attending the event was a last-minute decision and I’m the first to admit I was woefully unprepared. I arrived ten minutes before the expo began carrying an ambitious stack of my YA mystery, Trail of Secrets, some bookmarks, a pen, and a Square Reader for accepting credit card payments. My hopes were high as I made my way back to the author room in the corner of the enormous expo hall, but my heart sank as soon as I saw the swag all the other authors had incorporated into their tables. I’d miscalculated the “sales” aspect of the book fair.

Did I sell any books? Yes. A few. I’m guessing I could have sold a lot more if I’d bothered to read a blog post about how to stand out amidst thirty other authors at a book fair. I’m going to chalk it up as a learning experience. This checklist is for others who may have a book signing in their future (and  a note to myself to step up my game next time!)

  1. Candy (or some other giveaway) — Everyone (except me) had a bowl of candy placed on their table. Some authors had additional freebies to attract people, such as keychains or soaps personalized with the name of their book. This may seem like a gimmick, but it works! Once people approach your table, they’re much more likely to talk to you and buy your book.
  2. A sign, poster, or banner — Take the time to create an eye-catching poster, sign, or banner that clearly displays the cover of your book and why people should buy it. Once again, I did not have any signage with me and it put me at a disadvantage. I’m currently having a foam-board poster made through Overnight Prints. FastSigns also sells attractive pop-up banners.
  3. Square Reader and small bills for change — Register for a free Square Reader to plug into your phone or tablet. Square Readers allow you to accept credit card payments for your book. You don’t want to miss out on a sale because someone doesn’t have cash on them. Similarly, remember to bring small bills so you can provide change to people who only carry $20s.  
  4. Bookmarks or Cards — Place your bookmarks or business cards next to your book and encourage people to take them. People may not be ready to buy your book at that moment, but at least they’ll remember the name of your book later.
  5. Email signup list — Print out a professional-looking sign-up sheet for people to receive your author newsletter. This is a great way to connect with readers and keep people coming back for your future books.
  6. A suitcase with wheels — This is a classic case of “Why didn’t I think of that?” My arms practically ripped off my body as I lugged grocery bags full of books out of a parking garage, across a city street, and through an  enormous expo hall. Meanwhile, other authors glided past me with their book-filled, wheeled luggage. Next time…
  7. Books — Obviously. This probably should have been number one on the list.
  8. Pen — Make that pens, in case one runs out.
One additional thought–when deciding whether to buy a table at a book fair, be sure to consider the crowd who will be there. I learned this the hard way last weekend. The majority of the women attending the Women’s Expo seemed to be there for the free cheese samples and makeup demos–not to buy books. This reflected in sales. In the future, I’ll likely only invest in book fairs where books are the focus.
I hope this checklist helps you arrive at your next book fair prepared and confident! Do you have any other tips to add to the list? Let me know!

 

Book Signing and NaNoWriMo Check-In

book signing 2Last Saturday, I participated in my very first Book Signing at a local coffee shop–Biggby Coffee in Commerce Township, MI. The owners contacted me after seeing an article about my YA mystery, Trail of Secrets, in the local paper. Of course, I was thrilled to accept their invitation. Nothing makes a writer feel like a real, live author more than holding a book signing!  On the flip-side, I was also a little terrified. What if no one bought my book? What if no one showed up?

On the morning of the book signing, I arrived fifteen minutes early carrying a bag full of books and bookmarks. A table had been set up for me at the front of the store with a sign reading “Author’s Corner.” Another sign outside read “Book Signing Today, sign10am-2pm.” My heart skipped a beat. I couldn’t believe this was really happening! The owners of the shop even provided me with a free cup of delicious coffee–not that I needed any additional caffeine. My husband and kids arrived a few minutes later and sat at the table next to me. People looked at me, ordered coffee, walked past, looked at me again. I smiled and offered free bookmarks. Several patrons told me stories of books they’d written or attempted to write. My husband and kids left about twenty minutes later. I still hadn’t made a sale. I wondered what I’d gotten myself into.

Then, a woman burst through the door and marched directly over to me. “Are you the author? ” she said.

“Yes,” I replied.

“I’ve been waiting weeks to get my hands on this book!”

She had? I signed the book for her, not even attempting to hide the huge smile on my face. She paid me and we chatted for moment. Then another person came over and bought two books. Then a man walked in with his daughter and told me they’d seen my flyer and wanted a copy of my book. The girls working behind the counter bought copies. Mothers of teens and tweens came in to buy books for their horse-loving daughters. A few friends stopped by and bought books. At one point, I worried I might run out of books!

In the end, it was successful day. I sold sixteen books in four hours. I met so many interesting people and was floored by how many of them were willing to take a chance and buy and book from an unknown author. I owe a big thank you to the owners of the coffee shop for supporting local authors. More stores should follow their example, as it seemed to be a win-win for everyone.

The only downside to the book signing? I didn’t get to add to my NaNoWriMo word count last Saturday. It’s a little over the half-way point and I’m Printchecking in at approximately 20,000 words. That’s short of the 25,000 I should have had by November 15th, but I’m plugging along. I’ll check in again at the end of the month with my final word count!

Have you done a book signing recently? How did it go?

Book Marketing: Exiting the Comfort-Zone!

When I dreamed of the joys of being a published author, I guess I skimmed over all the parts about book marketing. I’m completely aware that authors are almost always one-hundred percent in charge of their own marketing, I just never promotionstopped to think about what that would mean for me until I was in the thick of it. After the first couple of weeks of promoting Trail of Secrets to everyone I know on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, newspapers, bookstores, libraries, and around town, I started to wonder if people were getting annoyed with me. Was I too “in your face”? Was I being too braggy? Were people sick of hearing about all the reasons to read my YA thriller? Despite my hesitations, I have to give my introverted-self a pat on the back. I’ve completely stepped out of my comfort-zone in order to do everything in my power to market my book.

Here are a few examples of things that I NEVER thought I would do:

1.  A podcast (Done!)
     Click HERE to listen to my podcast on Straight from the Horse’s Mouth Radio!
2.  A book signing event (Doing it on November 14th!)
     Click HERE for details!
3.  Speaking at a teen writing conference (Doing it on November 21st!)
     Click HERE to register for the Get Inked! Teen Writing Conference!
4.  Writing guest blog posts on other people’s blogs (Doing it! I’m currently writing three guest posts.)
5.  Meeting with owners of bookstores and librarians to persuade them to put my book on their shelves (Done! Trail of Secrets is in at least five MI stores and several libraries in MI and AZ.)
6.  An interview with the editor of a newspaper (Done!)
You’re probably wondering how all of this activity translates into sales. I’m wondering that, too. I’ll find out at the end of the quarter when I get paid by my publisher. As my husband said, it’s kind of like playing a football game and not finding out if you won or lost until months later. That might be true, but I know one thing for sure. Win or lose–I’ve played my heart out!
Have you done something you never thought you’d do in order to promote your book? Tell me about it!