Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Dreaded Booksigning by Diane Burton

Booksignings can be eagerly anticipated or dreaded. Usually, they don't go the way the first episode of Castle went, with a huge crowd and the publisher providing free drinks and food. They're more like the scene in National Treasure: Book of Secrets where Riley sits alone waiting/hoping for someone to stop by. 

September was a month of book events for me. Each one taught me something new . . . plus something I should have thought of and didn't. 

photo credit: Michael D. Jones
I'm a lifetime Girl Scout. Be prepared is our motto. Sadly, I wasn't as prepared as I should've been. For my first shoulda, here I am on a beautiful Sunday in Ann Arbor, Michigan at the Kerrytown Book Fest held in a farmer's market. This was a big event, with many, many vendors--authors, book publishers, sellers of book-related paraphernalia. Do you see my tablemate's (Michael D. Jones) banner? Do you see mine? It was at home still in its box. My tablecloth did get a lot of comments, though. For this all-day event (10am - 5pm), I shoulda brought a cushion to sit on.

Another shoulda, something I didn't think about. The author next to me had a bowl of chocolates. That stopped people, who politely asked if they could have one. She then engaged them in conversation. Chocolates are messy, especially on a hot day. I brought hard candy to the next event.

photo credit: Tamarack District Library
The following Saturday, I participated in the Tamarack District Library's Bios, Books, and Brunch in Lakeview, Michigan. As you can see from the picture above, many authors participated in this event. That's me sitting on the right. Next to me is Loralee Lillibridge, a long-time friend and author, who shared a table with me. At the opposite end of that row is Maris Soule, another long-time friend and my chauffeur. LOL It's always more fun to go to an event with someone. The conversation there and back makes the trip go faster, you can plot, discuss problems with a WIP, or just catch up on each other's lives. 

BB&B was a much shorter event (10am - 1pm). The library ladies couldn't have treated us authors better. Our tables were set up all over the library, encouraging readers to walk around. They offered free food (homemade scones and fruit) and drinks (coffee, tea, water). Almost like Castle's event. Better, in my opinion. Talking to everyone who stopped was a lot of fun. Asking what they liked to read is always a good conversation starter. One lady told us she'd been in two abusive marriages but was working through it. Her counselor suggested she journal, and what did we think of that. Loralee and I encouraged her to do so, and we chatted for quite a while. About an hour later, the lady came back to buy my book. Talking to people, listening to them, being open and friendly is so rewarding. Not the money she spent on my book. It was the fact that she'd gone home to get the money. I won't forget her.

Alpena Book Festival
Last Saturday, Hubs and I drove up to Alpena on Michigan's east (Lake Huron) coast. If you look at the back of your left hand, Alpena is at the tip of your index finger. (BTW, that's a Michigan thing--showing a location on your hand.) I attended the 3rd Annual Alpena Book Festival presented by the Alpena County District Library and three bookstores. I had such a great time last year, networking with authors and readers, I had to go back again. They offered panel discussions on various topics. (I'm in the corner next to the gentleman.) In the last hour of the all-day event, authors signed books. Did I bring my banner? Yes! Did I bring hard candy? Yes! See, I do learn from previous mistakes, even if I forgot to have Hubs take a picture of me with my banner. 

Something I had no control over but greatly affected the festival this year was the weather. Even in northern Michigan, the temps were in the 90s with high humidity, very rare in mid-September. That did not encourage people to walk around to the different venues. Attendance was lower than last year and disappointing to the organizers. I still had a great time.

Usually Hubs doesn't go with me to book events. But, since it's almost a five-hour drive up to Alpena, it was great having a chauffeur. Besides, he makes a terrific Sherpa. We then went on a mini-vacation a little further north so I could get what Hubs calls my "bridge fix." I love looking at the Mackinac Bridge that connects Michigan's Upper and Lower Peninsulas.

While preparing this post, I realized another shoulda. Get someone to take a picture, if only for a post like this. At my local writers' group, we talked about booksignings right after the Kerrytown event. Jean Davis, our organizer (and my chauffeur to Ann Arbor), talked about standing versus sitting, that standing puts you at eye level with the passersby. Good idea. Unfortunately with chronic low back pain, I don't do well standing. I did bring my business cards, bookmarks, postcards (with book info), my Square device to take credit cards, and plenty of change. Haven't had the opportunity to use Square yet, but I'm prepared. LOL

Authors tend to be introverts. After all, we have characters in our heads that we love talking/listening to. Why do we need to talk to real people? Booksignings can be awkward, painful even, for an introvert. In my mind, I'm an introvert. Anyone who knows me has a hard time believing that. I like to talk. I enjoy panel discussions. Maybe it's my years as a teacher. But before each event, I ask myself what am I doing! My stomach knots up. My hands shake. I should never have signed up for this! When I get to the event, my nerves settle down, and I have a great time.

After preparing the draft for this post, I found an interesting post on the Kobo Writing Life blog on booksignings.

I'm gearing up for the next event presented by the Grand Haven (MI) Loutit District Library on October 14th. 

Diane Burton combines her love of mystery, adventure, science fiction, and romance into writing romantic fiction. Besides the science fiction romance Switched and Outer Rim series, she is the author of One Red Shoe, a romantic suspense, and the Alex O’Hara PI mysteries. She blogs here on the 30th of each month, on Paranormal Romantics on the 13th, on Pandora's Box Gazette on the 3rd Wednesday, and on her own blog on Mondays.


Margo Hoornstra said...

I so missed going with you to Alpena this year. The important thing is you're getting out there with your books. Go you for that. Love the story about the reader went home to get money to buy your book. That's the best compliment ever!

Nancy Gideon said...

Excellent post and information, Di. I, too, share that face-to-face phobia of book events but working with a friend always helps. Yeah, LL and Maris! Once I retire maybe I can get out on the road again to stump for my books and we can car pool again!

Maris said...

Would love to "stump" with you (once again), Nancy. Diane, I had to laugh when I saw what you blogged about here. My blog for this coming Wednesday, 10/4, is about "Author Events", are they worth it or not? Great minds working together? I listed negatives and positives. I like how you chose to point out items (banners, candy, bookmarks, etc.) that can make a book signing more successful. Make your next book signing be more like Castle's.

Jannine Gallant said...

Sounds to me like you're pretty well organized. I haven't done a book signing in years. There aren't a lot of group author events nearby. You had a good time at yours, and that's what matters!

Connie Bretes said...

Diane, all the mentions of places in Michigan made me homesick to come back. Especially Alpena. I love that area.

One of the problems that I have is that my books are all ebooks, and all I can do is offer swag.

Congrats to getting out there and getting all the extra exposure, and great advice.


Rolynn Anderson said...

I'm the one who holds book signings at wineries, golf courses and my favorite Starbucks. I enjoy the conversations with new readers; I think we should celebrate local artist...of all crafts. So I keep on with the book signings. I have some 'do's and don't's blog entries on my website., but the BIGGEST tip...have people who stop by fill out a raffle card with their e-mail address, letting them know you'll contact them via e-mail about your next book. Raffle off a book; raffle off the chance for them to be named as a character in your next book. Building your newsletter list is paramount. I've never had one of these raffle-filler-outers unsubscribe! Diane, I'm proud of all the face-to-face promo you've done this summer...makes me look lazy!

Jean Davis said...

Glad to see you getting out there with your books. Events can be hard on the nerves, but they can also be rewarding, especially those conversations with readers. Looking forward to more author fun with you in grand haven!

Diane Burton said...

Margo, I missed you, too. Next year, for sure. Hubs found things to do, but I'm sure he would've enjoyed fishing with your husband.

Thanks, Nancy. Hope you can retire soon. Love carpooling.

Maris, brilliant minds... :) Peg Herring was at the Alpena event. Glad I'd met her (thru you) at Tamarack.

Jannine, I was surprised at all the events along Michigan's west coast (where I live). Some events are a hike.

Connie, that is a problem. Swag is good. I made postcards (VistaPrint) with the blurb & buy links for the 1st of each series with a coupon code for 50% off at Smashwords. Anything to get my ebooks noticed. Hope you get back to MI so we can do book events together.

Rolynn, thanks for your suggestions. Love the raffle for a character's name. Cool. I think Nelson DeMille will name a character after friends who make donations to a charity.

Diane Burton said...

Thanks, Jean. I'm looking forward to the library event in Grand Haven and A Trail of Michigan Authors at B&N in Muskegon. Thanks so much for letting us know about these events.

Leah St. James said...

Wow, that's A LOT of events in a short period! We have one or two here in a year, and I haven't participated in several years because I haven't had anything new out. I always had candy and other freebies, and have raffled off prizes before. Those are good conversation starters. I love the idea of authors scattered around a book store. That's clever. I also love the non-traditional venues Rolynn mentioned. I once did a book signing at a bakery, and the authors had to buy some of their goodies (for give-aways) in exchange for the table space. Unfortunately the foot traffic was abysmally low and hardly anyone even came in. On the plus side, we brought home some really yummy cupcakes!

Maureen said...

Wow you've been busy! Great tips! The book signing I've done is at a local winery. It's nice but it's waaayyyyy out of town so it's not well attended which kind of stinks. But then, there is wine so... that's one benefit, lol.

Patricia Kiyono said...

It is SO difficult to remember everything! I thought I was prepared for my day at Between the Covers, but there were a few things I missed: a pair of scissors to cut the plastic table skirting, a record of sales for the day, receipts, etc. As for talking to people, I'm also hesitant to speak up and engage. Fortunately, my younger daughter has no such qualms. She was there and introduced herself to people and chatted about my books to anyone who would listen! I need to take her along more often.

Andrea Downing said...

I'm totally amazed at the number of events you've attended in such a short space of time. Good luck with future signings--sounds like you don't need any advice!

Kara O'Neal said...

You've been to a lot of events. I'm afraid I can't help you because you have so much more experience than I do. It sounds like you're very prepared. I think the main thing would be to keep doing them. It sounds like really great exposure and marketing. Thank you for sharing! It was helpful!

Susan Coryell said...

I actually love my book signings, even the ones that are sparsely attended. I relish the chance to talk to folks interested in books and reading and especially MY books. All of your "shoulda-s" are spot on--especially the one nobody can control: weather. I always hope for "cloudy with a chance of rain," for my signings. If weather is too good, people want to be outdoors, not inside a signing venue. If weather is too severe--they stay home. Sigh. Thanks for a great post!

Alison Henderson said...

I haven't done many signings, but I did do one for my Christmas collection last December in a local independent bookstore. I greeted everyone at the door with a dish of chocolate truffles. The candy put everyone in a good mood and made it easier for an introvert like me to chat up strangers. I ended up having a great time and selling three or four times the number of books that store usually sells at an author signing.

Vonnie Davis, Author said...

I've only done one book signing; a wasted day of zero sales. So many of my titles are ebooks. I do have a banner, though, just in case. LOL Loved looking at your pics. I'm glad these events work out for you.

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

I used to love book signings!
Haven't done one in a while though
Great post
Good luck and God's blessings

Diane Burton said...

As many of you mentioned, a lot of events in a short time. I think I'll limit the ones I do from now on. Except around Christmas time at craft shows.

Leah, a bakery sounds delicious. I'd spent anything I earned on a muffin or donut. LOL

Maureen, you gave me the idea for this post when you ask for tips for your post on Monday. I'm eager to read what you learned from others.

Patty, good point about a record of sales. I forgot to mention that one. I discovered my memory isn't that good at the end of the day. You could hire out your daughter to shill for us at the next event. LOL

Thanks, Andi and Kara. Exposure is good, if expensive (gas & hotel rooms). I just hope it all pays off in the end.

Susan, great point about weather. "Cloudy with a chance of rain" sounds good.

Alison, great idea about handing out the chocolates. Easier to talk to people when you're offering them something.

Thanks, Vonnie. I've had those events where I didn't sell anything, too. So disappointing. A friend told me that if you sell 1 book, it's a success. In that case, I've had more successes than failures.

Thanks, Pam. I love your signature blessings. They always make me smile.

Diane Burton said...

That friend I mentioned above (who said selling 1 book is success) is Nancy Gideon who helped me with my first ever signing event wa-a-ay back in 2001.

Brenda Whiteside said...

Loved reading about your experiences. I've done what seems like tons of events. I've sold none and I've sold a bunch. You just never know. I find it funny about the candy. A much more experienced author asked me to remove my candy dish at one multi-author event. Now granted, this was a fest with lots of kids too. My candy drew too many children who clogged our visibility. But she also told me it brought those who only wanted the candy and weren't really serious about our books. But hey, if it works for you, it works.

Alina K. Field said...

Wow, you've been busy! Your post reminds me that I don't have a banner for the InD'Scribe book signing in two weeks! I'd better get busy!

Alicia Dean said...

Thanks for the recap on all the book signings. What great experiences you had! I love that the lady went home to get money for your book. Even if I don't sell books, I always enjoy doing signings and meeting people (except the ones where literally NO ONE comes :/). I prefer doing group signings with other authors. Have fun at your next one, thanks for the tips/reminders.

Diane Burton said...

Brenda, I was surprised about the writer who asked you to put your candy away. But I never experienced a bunch of kids crowding around.

Thanks, Alina. Yep, you'd better get busy on that banner. :)

Alicia, I did one signing where the only people who showed up was my daughter & her family. I loved seeing them but . . . Group signings are the best. At least you have someone to talk to.