It's a very sad sight to see an author alone at a booth or signing table looking like they'd rather be somewhere else. Even worse is seeing two or more bored authors making small talk to pass the time.
Promoting anything means creating a buzz, but generating a buzz can be a challenge at book signings and public events. If you're a new author most people will not have a clue as to who you are or what your book is about.
So, how do you make a pitch to a passive audience?
You learn to grab attention and keep the crowd buzzing around your table.
Crowds draw interest by piquing curiosity. Once you've gathered a crowd, it's up to you to make the audience feel connected and appreciated. People who like you are more likely buy your books.
With a little preparation, sales etiquette, and the help of some crowd rallying specialists (whom you'll meet in Promotions 101: Part Two ) you will never have to stand alone.
~ A PRESS RELEASE ~
If you can get news coverage to bring people to you, fantastic! If not, a news story still gives you some exposure.
Press releases don't carry much weight without a good story behind them. Many successful authors are visible and have a great story to tell beyond the book.
Often new and self-published authors think just sending a press release announcing their book will get them covered, but this is not the case.
You will have better luck digging deep to find something that makes you special. Maybe you have expertise to share, are a spokesman for an event, or have a human interest story to tell.
Which sounds more appealing?
a) Author, Bob Carroll, to sign books at Barnes and Noble.
b) Local mentor for troubled teens, Bob Carroll, debuts his novel, Team Spirit, at Barnes and Noble.
The latter gives the press something more interesting to cover than a book signing, and you're more likely to get a full write up about you and your book instead of a blurb in announcements.
If you never wrote a press release, here's a great page about how to write a press release.
~ THE SET UP ~
If you don't have a publicist, you'll be making arrangements for signings and events. Make sure to get your promotional materials on site in a timely manor.
If the signing is at a store offer to send the display packet a week or two ahead of time. Small or large, they will want to put up your poster or flyer with the date in a prominent area.
Get there early. No one wants to watch you panic during a last minute set up.
Keep back up supplies like an easel in the trunk because smaller stores and large halls may not have these on hand for everyone. It's also a good idea to keep extra books in the car. If you're really good the store will sell out:)
~ DRESS CODES MADE EASY ~
Clothing defines who you are. I say as long as you're clean and don't smell anything goes.
However, I would not expect a cyberpunk novelist to arrive at a book signing in an Armani suit. By the same token, I would do a double-take if Jackie Collins attended a signing in sweat pants.
If you have a book traditionally published, you have a good understanding of your audience and most likely have the same taste, so go with it.
If you're self-published do the research. You really should know your audience.
~ BE ON YOUR BEST BEHAVIOR ~
- Avoid Sitting
Always stand if possible. People feel just as intimidated towering over someone as they do when someone towers over them. Unless you're physically unable to stand or you stand too tall at seven feet, do your best to be up and open so you can work the room.
- Avoid Gabbing
If another author is at the signing table with you keep the conversation light. People won't want to disturb someone if they think they're engaged in a deep discussion.
- Put Away the Cell Phone, iPod, and Newspaper
This should all go without saying, but I was shocked to see an author reading the newspaper at a signing. You're there to meet, greet and attract potential readers... period. If you look disinterested people will be afraid to bother you.
- Never Burst Out Laughing
Don't laugh, but people tend to get giddy when they are anxious and go into hysterics over something they saw or something an author partner said. Laughing could make people around you paranoid. Think about how you might interpret someone breaking out in laughter as you pass by.
~ WHAT MAKES YOU SHINE AT A BOOK SIGNING ~
While all of the above will bring and keep people to the signing table, your best asset is your smile, wear it with casual dress and you will create fans as well as make book sales.
Any additional advice from veteran authors? I'd love to hear.