Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Doing That Author Thing

I talked about what happen when your book comes out, but a reader wanted to know about the events and what happens during those times. I've only done a handful of events so far, but I think enough to give a decent sampling.


My first event was a trade show a few weeks before the book came out (and my only conference so far). It was for SIBA, the Southern Independent Booksellers Association. I was invited to the "Moveable Feast" and signing the last day of the conference. The Moveable Feast was both intimidating and fun. During lunch, each author started with one of the tables, got to pitch their book to the booksellers there for ten minutes, then when the bell rang, they moved top the next table in the line. (Kinda like speed dating).

You don't have a lot of time, and at first, you aren't real sure what to say. We practice our one-line elevator pitch, but we never figure out what to say for five minutes or have a longer pitch ready. After a table or two, you get a feel for what the booksellers are interested in and it goes much smoother. Everyone I met there was delightful and I was sad to leave each table. One thing I did do though, was come prepared with bookmarks (25 to an envelope) and business cards to hand out. There were 20 or so authors there that day, and that's a lot to remember without a little help.

After lunch, they set us up at tables for the book singing. These books were given away to the booksellers as a way to entice them to order the books for their stores. It was pretty funny to be sitting there with books towering around me, but I only had a few left by the end of the hour.

Book Signings

I've done five so far, and had fun at all of them. The first was at a Barnes & Noble, and they treated me very well. This time I was going to speak and sign, so there was a table for me with my books on display behind me, and rows of chairs for guests. I got to hang out in the office and talk to the staff while they waited for folks to show up, announcing my name and the book over the store intercom (which was way cool). Once I was ready to go out, I stood at the front and talked about the book.

Now, I'm terrified of speaking in front of people, so this was really rough. I was so nervous, especially since over half of the people there were people I knew. You'd think that would make it easier, but it was worse -grin-. When I got really nervous, I just owned up to it and told folks I was nervous, and that broke the ice and made it all go a lot easier. I read some from the book, and then got to questions. I LOVE answering questions, so that part was easy. (for the number folks, I had about 25-30 people show up)

My second signing was at a lovely independent bookstore called Foxtale Books. This one was a workshop for young writers, and you got to attend for the cost of the book. (the gals at Foxtale say they get great response for new authors this way, and they were right). They had about 15 or so people, mostly teens, and I held a fun workshop on figuring out what your novel was about. I made worksheets and printed up information packets they could take home, and we had a great time. After, I signed books, answered questions, and even read some work and gave writing advice.

Next signing was at Borders, and was a more traditional signing. They set me up with a table and stacks of books right at the front of the store so everyone coming in would see me. I got to talk to folks as they came in (and went out). This was the least nerve wracking one since I didn't have to stand in front of any people. (Can't really say how many people were there but folks talked to me the whole time I was there)

Then I did another independent bookstore, Hall Book Exchange. This one was different still (see how many types there are!), as the owner has this awesome little room where they do book club meetings. I got to sit in a very comfy wingback chair and talk to folks as they came in. It was very informal and people hung out and talked about books. This signing I got from someone I met at SIBA. Probably had about 15 or so come visit and chat.

My final signing was back at another Barnes & Noble, this time in conjuncture with a local middle school's book fair. I'd been speaking at the school the day before, and was signing the next day. They set me up at a table in the children's section (where my book is shelved) and the delightful woman who organizes the events hung out with me and was kinda my book barker, getting folks to come over and pick up the book. Again, people came and went so I don't have firm numbers, but I was chatting the entire time.

To advertise these events, I talked about them on my blog, mentioned them on Facebook, and the individual stores did both in-store advertising, and newsletters and online promotion on their websites. The book fair one even had it in their school newspaper.

One thing to remember about events and signings, is that as a debut author, most of the time you won't have a lot of people show up. No one really knows who you are yet. I've been told I've been getting pretty good crowds for a first timer, and I'm grateful for that. My first signing, they only put out nine or ten chairs, so that should give you an idea of what they expected. So if you're about to do your first signing, don't worry if the turn out is small. That's perfectly normal. If it's not, then be happy!

There are also school visits, but I've babbled enough for today, so let's save that for another post. More about marketing tomorrow.


  1. This is all great stuff. I had no idea conferences had that 'speed dating' element - I figured you just sort of showed up and milled around for a bit! What you did sounds a lot more interesting.

    Do you know how commmon it is for author's outside the USA to do these kinds of things? Obviously there are book signings and things this side of the Atlantic, but I'm guessing those are usually organised by the UK/European publisher rather than the US one.

  2. Love these perspectives!!! Thank you!

  3. You've definitely had good turnout for a debut author, and if you ever turn up in the Philadelphia area, you can be sure the First Novels Club will be there!

  4. Thanks all!

    Sean, I don't think all conference do that, but this one was a trade show and this is something I think they've done before. It was quite effective for letting authors speak to booksellers quickly.

    I have no idea how common non-US authors do US events, but I'm sure they do them. I've read about some UK-based authors coming here to promote their book and whatnot. It would probably depend a lot on the book and how much the event wanted that author (as in, they pay for them to get here and put them up in a hotel) or how much the publisher wanted them on tour (they pay again) or if the author happened to be in the area anyway (they paid to get here). It comes down to money in most of these cases. You want to be cost-effective with the events (both author and publisher) or you end up spending more than you make.

    So far my publisher has arranged a lot of my events, but if I ever got to the UK, I could probably call up my editor there and they'd likely arrange something for me if they could. So I think your publisher, wherever they are, would be helpful is any potential events if there were opportunities that make good sense.

    Thanks Donna! I hope I get up there one day :)