Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A Modest Proposal to Improve Conference Book Signings by Rolynn Anderson

I’m going to the October InD’Tale Conference in Burbank.  Brenda Whiteside and JL Wilson are going as well (I kind of talked them into the adventure…gosh, I hope they find it worthwhile).  Though the conference rate and the hotel price are reasonable, each of us also shelled out $50 for half a signing table ($100 if you want one by yourself).  

Now, I’ve played this game before and I’m determined (because I love the InD’Tale folks) to improve this ‘wasteland’ called a conference book signing.  We all know about the reader-rush:  they blow right by lesser-known authors to line up for big name writer autographs. Truth is, these readers, are shy about chatting with authors they don't know, even if these authors tell stories in their genre.  

I’ve taken on the task to get conversations going between readers and writers.  I'm laying out my proposal below, hoping you'll critique it.  InD’Tale has given me the go-ahead to make this idea work!

1.  I collect $2 from each book-signing author (50)…for a $100 Amazon Gift Card
2.  I make up a Scavenger Hunt List of all the authors who paid $2 each.  Beside each author’s name is the genre.  (The reader’s e-mail address. is at the top of the Scavenger Hunt List; it's up to each author to make note of the reader's e-mail address)
3.  Each author provides a unique short question/prompt (for the Scavenger Hunt List) that the reader must come and ask the author.  Example #1: Which heroine is most like you?  Example #2: Which book was the hardest to write?  The author answers the question for the reader (an answer which the reader writes down-short version) and the author puts a sticker next to the answer.  The hope is, further conversation ensues…and a sale is made!  (Another way of doing this is to have a list of 20 prompts, and the reader picks a different one to ask of 20 authors.  That way authors don't continuously answer the same question.)
4.  When the reader gets 20 answers, she’s done, and turns in her Scavenger Hunt List. There will be a time limit. (About 50 writers will be involved, we hope.  I'm keeping the answers to 20, because of genre considerations, and instead of a race to get answers, some conversations get going).
5.  All scavenger hunt sheets are checked for authenticity…the winner is drawn at random.  Wins $100 Amazon gift card.

I’d gather the $2 through Pay Pal and make up the Scavenger Hunt List via Google Docs.  The list would be finished and copied BEFORE the conference (there will be a deadline).  READER’S WOULD BE ENTICED TO COME BECAUSE OF THE PRIZE.  Each reader would know $100 Amazon Card can be won…each will get the Scavenger Hunt List.  

So, now shoot holes in this as well as tell me the strong aspects of this idea.


So here’s my golf/spelunking novel, BAD LIES

Italy’s haunted caves spell danger for an American golfer and a NATO geologist
Sophie Maxwell is a late-blooming, unorthodox golfer, and mother of a precocious thirteen year-old. Determined to put divorce, bankruptcy, and a penchant for gambling in her past, Sophie goes to Italy for a qualifying golf tournament.
Jack Walker turned his back on a pro golfing career to become a geologist. As a favor to his ailing father he’ll caddy for Sophie; off hours, he’ll find caves on the Mediterranean coast, suitable for NATO listening posts for terrorist activity.
Someone is determined to stop Jack’s underground hunt and ruin Sophie’s chances to win her tournament.
On a Rome golf course and in the Amalfi coast’s haunted caves, all the odds are stacked against Sophie and Jack.  In their gamble of a lifetime, who wins?

Seven Suspense Novels Spiked with Romance

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Leah St. James said...

I love it, Rolynn! I have been to many author fairs/conferences and vendor shows, and it's exactly as you described. I've tried engaging people walking by in a (hopefully) non-threatening way by asking something general, like, "Do you like to read?" Some of them smile and stop; others scurry away as if I'd asked them if they'd like a root canal. Anyway, this is an opt-in game with a prize. I think it's brilliant. My only question is how the winner is notified. (Did I miss that?) I had tried a contest with a group a few years ago, although on a much smaller scale. We had asked the entrants to come back to our table at a certain time so we could pick the winner and give her the prize. I think only one person came back. So that was a flaw in our design.

Anyway, like I said, fantastic idea. I hope the other authors appreciate all you're doing to help get some attention. Good luck!

Brenda Whiteside said...

Leah, you missed the email of the reader at the top of their sheet.

Oh Rolynn, I am so in for this. Great idea. I've done a lot of book fairs and craft fairs but only a couple of reader conferences. I'm looking for any help or advice you can impart. Way to go and thanks!

Rolynn Anderson said...

Thanks, Leah. I have such empathy for writers who carefully lay out their shiny things and their books of the heart...and readers walk on by. We have to fix that. Yup. As Brenda said, we'll notify the winner by e-mail. Appreciate your enthusiasm, friends! Do you like the 20 question list that readers can draw on or the one unique question per author?

Jannine Gallant said...

I like that this will engage the reader. As for the question, the list of 20 seems a better idea so the author doesn't die of boredom answering the same question by rote over and over. My only concern would be that the reader would get their answer then rush off to collect the next answer without engaging or pausing to buy books--and that's the ultimate goal. What about an extra entry for each reader who actually makes a purchase. Add another sticker next to your question for each book bought. You didn't mention how the winner is chosen. If you're simply pulling a sheet out of the pile, that wouldn't work. But if you're giving the reader a ticket for each sticker then drawing from those, it would give people who purchase books extra chances. My mind works in crafty ways to actually make more sales, so that's my input! Overall excellent idea to engage, though.

Brenda Whiteside said...

I like the 20 question list.

Rolynn Anderson said...

Jannine, isn't there some rule about how you can't make someone buy a book in order to win? Where did I hear that?

Andrea Downing said...

Sounds like a great idea, either method, though maybe 20 questions is too much to choose from and 1 is, as you say,boring. Ten? Having sat next to you at the very first InD'Tale book signing and seen you in action, I don't think you personally need any help in getting readers, Rolynn. My best signing was when I had the first table in a museum and everyone had to walk past me!!

C.B. Clark said...

Great ideas, Rolynn. My friend was doing a book signing at a conference, and she was stuck in a narrow stage-like setting beside Diana Gabaldon. Hundreds of people were lined up for Diana, and my poor friend had to sit there and watch. No wonder she needed a glass of wine after it was over.

Your suggestions are great and sound like fun. I think they'll work. At least, people will be engaged.

Thanks for suggesting these things.

Rolynn Anderson said...

Thanks, C.B. My theory is that a good portion of readers AND authors are introverts...they need a prompt to start conversations...and an incentive, too :-)

Alison Henderson said...

I can't wait to hear the outcome of your experiment. Be sure to share!

Rolynn Anderson said...

Andi, thanks for your kind words about my personality...and for the good idea. 10 questions might be the way to go!

Diane Burton said...

Sounds like a fun idea. Let us know how it goes.

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

Good luck with this. I'll be eager to hear how it all works out. Some people like to play games. Some don't want to be bothered. The goal is to engage them. Have a ball, you three!

Angela Adams said...

I admire all the work and thought you put into this project, Rolynn!

J L Wilson said...

I tend to stand around at my book table and engage people as they walk past, handing them my promo (recipe cards or whatever). I like this idea, but as someone noted, I've been to conferences that had scavenger hunts and people scurried around to get their answers and didn't engage at all.

That being said, the author isn't obligated to do her part immediately, so the author can try to engage as well.

I think it makes sense to have a variety of questions to each author (as someone said, reciting the same answer can get boring). Maybe have each author answer 3 questions. The readers get a sheet with one of those 3 questions (I hope this makes sense). Then the reader trots off to get an answer to that question.

Thanks for organizing this. I have it on my list of things to do to start thinking about this conference once I wade through a bunch of deadlines in May. This is going to be a fun time for us all!

JoMarie DeGioia said...

I love this idea, Rolynn! Please keep me in mind. I'll be signing at the Literacy Signing in Orlando. I think that 3 questions would be perfect. Favorite food? Name of pet? One surprising tidbit of information? Just brainstorming here.

Rolynn Anderson said...

Thanks, JL. I got lots of responses from my PAN friends, as well. Let me tweak some more and I'll run it by you another time. I didn't quite understand the author with 3 questions and the reader with one. Please explain. So glad you're going to InD'Tale!

Rolynn Anderson said...

JoMarie, thanks for dropping in to critique my idea and for leaving your e-mail. Helps so much! Hope you can come to Burbank!

Alicia Dean said...

I like this! Way to be creative. I think you received some good suggestions. Like Jannine, I think having them get extra entries for purchasing a book is a good idea. I don't think it's against contest rules, because I think it's just illegal if they MUST purchase to enter. People can enter without purchasing. I don't know the law, though, so I'm not sure. Good luck. Can't wait to hear the results!

Ed Hoornaert said...

It sounds like an interesting idea, Rolynn. You'll tell us how it works out, I hope.

I remember a NINC conference book signing many years ago where I was sandwiched between Vicki Lewis Thompson (100+ books) and Jayne Ann Krentz. A few readers took pity and talked to me, but for the most part I felt like I had B.O., bad breath, AND leprosy.

Rolynn Anderson said...

Ed, you have my attention! I'm an extrovert, and even given the situation you faced, I'd have melted succumbed to BIG DOUBTS about book signing. I hope this plan helps ALL authors and readers!

Rolynn Anderson said...

Alicia, thanks for your comments. I want to follow the rules, but I also want to connect readers and writers. We'll see how well I do!