Internet marketing is by far the most targeted method authors use to promote their books today. Tweets and Facebook posts are free. Blogging can be free. And there are many, many direct email promotions that can be purchased for little cost. And yes, it’s true—online sales—particularly for eBooks, have defined the future of the old-fashioned “bookstore.”
But I believe authors are overlooking the good, old-fashioned way of selling books—in person, at a signing. Nothing beats the face-to-face (okay, this is my door-to-door salesman dad training talking here.) But trust me, you don’t have to land a spot in a Barnes & Noble. In fact, a major bookseller signing does not guarantee a successful event. My first two books, a memoir and a paranormal romance novel, both came out in February and March of 2015. (And just for the record? My big, Tampa, Florida B&N signing was a bust).
Since then I have hosted about a dozen signings in various locations. I’d like to share my experiences and what I’ve learned. One tip: LOCATION IS KEY.
- Think about where in the world there would inherently be readers who might be interested in your book. One of the best events I have held to date was in a tiny museum in a tiny town in a remote location of upstate New York. Why was it a success? Because that’s where my book was set. Locals love to read about their part of the world, enhanced in a work of fiction. I sold seventeen books (OMG. I’ll bet I captured 10 percent of the population!). And before I left town, I booked a second signing at a local pub up the street for later this fall.
- Don’t overlook your own backyard. There is a small bookstore in the town where I live, and I’ve held four signings there so far, every one of them a success. Plus, the shop owner carries my books on consignment, and is always asking when my next book will come out so she can book me another event. Locals love to meet authors from their hometown, and each time I do a signing, I add at least one fan (in reality, many more) to my reader base.
- So there’s no bookstore in your town, or the place where your book is set? Think outside the box. My first book launch was held at a New Age shop—mine was a paranormal romance, and many of the clientele who visit the shop have an interest in the paranormal. Since then the shop has hosted another event for my second paranormal romance. The author also keeps books for sale on consignment. So, what’s your heroine do for a living? Hairdresser? Check out local salons. Hotel desk clerk? Ask about a signing in your local chain hotel—on a big holiday weekend. Find the link—the key to finding your perfect audience.
- My newest series is called the Love at Lake George Novels, set in Lake George, N.Y. Unfortunately, there are no bookstores in the area, nor could I find a library or a gift shop interested in hosting an event. There is, however, a cruise line that does tour and dinner cruises. I contacted the management, and they were thrilled to host a signing on one of their dinner cruises during a very large car show event the village is holding. I then got a call from the gift shop owner across the street, who wants me to do a signing in her shop for that afternoon before the cruise! She also wants to carry my books (both the Lake George book and the paranormal) in stock. “Bring about a half-dozen of the ghost story, but I’ll take a dozen of the Lake George books.” The best part about this is that every time one of the series comes out, I have a pre-determined market.
So yes, travel may be involved. (Caveat: travel expenses are tax deductible.) And what better way to get to know and gather new readers than in the flesh? Telling your story, and your story’s story, than in person?
Camera shy? Get over it. A recluse at heart? Get over that too. The name of the game in today’s competitive market is to show your face. Shake those hands. Smile and mean it. Trust me—in the long run, it will be well worth it.