Monday, October 24, 2011

Booksignings: worth doing?

Booksignings are something authors love to do or hate to do. There seems to be very little middle ground. Saturday I had one at a new-to-me store, Open Door Bookstore in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Why would I drive two hours to sell a few books?

1. I want to support the local Christian bookstores. I didn't know this ahead of time, but Open Door is a beautiful free-standing store. It's the kind of store I would shop in and spend lots of money in if we had one locally. The staff was friendly and knowledgeable and the fiction section was HUGE! If a local store is going to ask me to sign, I will try to make it work. While I was there, I helped sell books and cards. Fun!

2. I sold books. And the people I met had never read my books. In fundraising, we call that donor acquisition. In publishing, I call that reader acquisition. Without readers, publishers aren't going to be interested in more of my books.

3. I tried a couple new things. Sitting at a table watching people avoid eye contact is not fun. So I grabbed a stack of my bookmarks and circled the store several times. Each time I would hand a bookmark to a customer, let them know I was there, and then keep moving. Everyone took a bookmark. Even if they didn't buy a book that day, they now have information about me and my books. I also introduced myself to the staff. Once I did, the gals at the check-out counter started telling people I was there and even sold some books for me. I bet they'll remember me later, too.

4. I set a goal on the number of books I wanted to sell. Guess what? I hit it. I also stayed a few extra minutes to make sure I got over my goal. It helped me step out of my comfort zone and talk to a few more people.

5. I added the booksigning on my way to another event. That way I wasn't driving two hours just for a signing. Instead, it made for a longer day, but a very efficient day where I met new readers at the bookstore and then at the women's retreat I spoke at.

I know some people won't do booksignings anymore. I certainly understand why. But if we're smart, I think we can still make them a valuable part of the reader experience.

Have you ever attended a booksigning? What made it enjoyable? Or have you participated in a signing? What worked for you?


Richard Mabry said...

I blow hot and cold on book signings, usually depending on how well the last one went, but you've hit on the heart of the matter when you point out that an author's participation not only draws in new readers, but helps support bookstores--a vanishing breed nowadays.

Anne Mateer said...

I had my first "real" book signing this weekend-- i.e. it was just me and the customers, no friends or family to bolster the sales and liven up the place. It was interesting. I watched and learned. Reading your post, I learned some more. It definitely wasn't comfortable, but would I do it again? Probably. Mostly because I felt like I starting building a relationship with the bookstore and its staff and it at least exposed people to me and my book even if they didn't buy one that day. A NYT bestselling author told me recently that book signings aren't about the number of books you sell. They are about relationship building. It helped to remember that during the lonely signing.

Cara Putman said...

Richard, I know what you mean. Anne, so glad you had one this weekend. I really think I have to keep my focus on building those relationships. With bookstores struggling, I want to do all I can to help. And if a booksigning helps, great.

Janna said...

As a reader, not a writer, I love booksignings (as you know). In our little podunk town of 25,000 we in the last month had Beverly Lewis at our Christian bookstore (she had a great turnout) and then 2 weeks later had Bryan Davis (who also did a short writing workshop for our older homeschoolers at no charge to us). Guess who gave themselves a bunch of new readers? Our teen homeschoolers are now all over Bryan Davis' books because they made a connection with him and his daughter Amanda. It is definitely about the relationships! Sarah has made many relationships with authors because of ACFW (hello Jenny B. Jones!) and consequently she comes home and gets her friends to read those author books as well which in turn leads to their moms reading them and so on and so forth. It may not be comfortable but definitely important!

Bruce Hennigan said...

I had my fourth book signing in a month yesterday (Saturday the 29th). Of the four, the first far exceeded my expectations. The store sold out on my books and I had to haul in some from my car. The second in Lexington, Kentucky was at a convention and I only sold a few -- but I donated three books to four church book stores and four church libraries. Third book signing I had a great response at a Lifeway in Austin. Great staff. They greeted everyone walking in the door with a slip of paper about my book. I had the opportunity to talk to about a dozen people about spiritual issues, apologetics, the state of Christian fiction, etc. The signing yesterday was tepid. Only sold a few books, but they were new readers who had never heard of me (not surprising since this is my first book out in five years) but I sent my daughter around in a tee shirt with my info on it passing out book marks. I still like to do book signings to support the book stores. They appreciate it, I hope and I love to meet people.

Cara Putman said...

Bruce, thanks so much for stopping by and leaving your recent experiences. I like doing them to help bookstores out. The bookstore and its staff make such a difference.


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