I am wondering how you got a bookstore to host an event for your book and to sell your book.
It's an impressively timely question, given I'll be offering a book signing for my novel, The Wind Thief, and free lecture titled Globalization of the Reading World: Shrinking Boundaries, Expanding Hearts at 4 p.m. Sat., April 17, at Ink Spell Books in Half Moon Bay, CA. (And yes, Half Moon Bay is as gorgeous and dreamy as the name implies.)
My friend's question also implies that she, like most writers, is not backed by a major publisher willing to spend six-figures on a marketing campaign that includes a PR person to set up gigs, or that has a major distributor that automatically ships books to the hundreds of bookstore chain outlets across the country.
Instead, my friend, like many writers I know, had her book published by an independent press, most of which do not have a dedicated marketing person, much less a marketing budget.
Therefore, here are some ideas of how to set up bookstore gigs:
1. Adopt and internalize a motto that captures reality, such as:
I am my own best sales person, which is a good thing, because I'm the only sales person.
Whatever I can do is what will get done.
Then try not to be bitter.
2. Realize that unless your distributor has been approved by the major bookstore chains , your book will not get onto their shelves nor be entered into their database so customers can order the book.
Again, try not to be bitter.
3. Instead, look to your local independent bookstore owners and realize they are your lifeline. They are:
• devoted to their patrons and communities
• often have a very active author events program
• and sometimes even host book-related workshops/groups, such as book clubs, book fairs, language classes and writing workshops, the fees of which help keep the store financially sound
4. Call the store and ask if it offers author events. If so, ask for the events coordinator, who might also be the owner. Once you have the information, get to know the person. This means:
• Look up previous author events hosted by the bookstore and send a similar proposal that's 1) correctly spelled, 2) brief and easy to read (i.e., Thanks for talking with with me on the phone yesterday. I'm the author of ____ and would love to offer a free lecture about ____ at your bookstore to help you sell copies of my book....), 3) and that includes a media kit (your speaking credentials, a press release, an author photo).
• Follow up not once, not twice, but as many times as is necessary to arrange the gig. It can sometimes take up to four months to schedule an event that may not take place for another four months to a year.
• Needless to say, be patient and kind to these folks! If they ask you to stop by and drop off a copy of your book so they can look it over, do so with a smile.
• If you don't have a distributor, be prepared to provide copies of your books on consignment. That means you mail/drop off the requested number of books for the event, get paid for those that sell during the event and take home the rest.
5. Offer an event that will bring readers into the bookstore. Book signings sound glamorous, but if you're a no-name author, you'll suffer the same fate as a naive man who honestly answers his girlfriend's question of "Do you think I'm fat?" Namely, you'll find yourself sitting alone at a table as patrons give you a brief, pitying smile while moving quickly away.
Therefore, offer a free lecture on the subject of your book. If you have an instrument, incorporate a small performance. If the bookstore offers workshops, develop one.
6. Be prepared to help the bookstore promote the event via:
• your email list of readers/fans/friends along with event postings using social media (Twitter, GoodReads.com, your blog, etc.)
• the media outlets surrounding the bookstore, including local newspapers, radio programs, local event websites, etc.
7. Then prepare! Rehearse your program in front of a mirror, your cat, your spouse. Change outfits ten times to figure out which one will be the most comfortable and appropriate. Arrive with time to spare. Bring any necessary materials, and if possible, free handouts. For example, Joylene Nowell Butler, author of Dead Witness, brings cookies. Great! Then make the event wonderful for those who show up by giving them loads of reasons to buy your book, thus making the event wonderful for the bookstore owner, too.
Are you someone who can add to what I've said? If so, please do. (I'd like o say a quick hello to the newest members of our blog community: Joanna, Mardott, Cher and Juliette. Welcome.)