Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Book Signing Advice

The first book signings provided good training

A hard copy version of my novel, Somewhere West of Roads, will be available soon, and I’m working on book signing strategies. The signings for my first book were an educational experience that I hope to capitalize upon.

I don’t know why, but book stores are under the impression that lesser known authors are best tucked away, out of sight. Perhaps it’s an embarrassment thing, and they’re afraid someone might think they couldn’t get a major author to show up. 

I found myself in such a situation at my first book signing. Apparently the store managers thought I preferred not to be disturbed by people who might actually buy the book, so they put the table next to the gay/lesbian foreign language reference section. It was lonely. In the entire evening, only one unfortunate, lost soul wandered near the table. That was a mistake. Before I knew what was happening, I threw myself at the potential customer, screaming, “Please don’t leave! I’m so lonely!” All the while clinging tightly to her leg as she scratched and clawed in a desperate attempt to escape.

I’ll say this for that little old lady, she was a scrapper. She got clean away. 

After that first sad signing, I requested the table be put in a location that might actually be considered public. It did, however, require a little hard sell on my part.

“The distributor says you want to be put up front.” 

“Yeah, if it’s not too much of a problem.”

“You know, all us book store people know each other. We heard about the little old lady at the last signing.” 

“Oh, yeah, that. Hey, that was a complete fluke. I just kind of lost it there for a second. It’ll never happen again... promise. By the way, did you hear if she ever came back for her cane?” 

It took some convincing, but my table was eventually set up near the front of the store, where I actually interacted with customers, and on rare occasions was fast enough to actually plug the book. From those experiences, I offer the most common questions a small-time author might expect at a book signing.

Often, customers confuse the visiting author with a carnie person. Which, I suppose, isn’t that hard to do, since we do look like we’re shamelessly hawking something. This question always sounds accusatory, and fairly begs for a sharp reply. 

Maybe a better looking cover will help
“And what are you doing here?”

“I’m here to guess weights. I’m in training for the state fair.” 

There is another version of the question from folks who know they are going into a store, but aren’t quite sure what kind.

“And what are you selling?” 

The reply, “Aluminum siding,” opens up the conversation quite nicely.

Other shoppers apparently can’t believe their eyes. How could someone that looks so illiterate actually write a book? 

“So, is this your book?”

“Nope, it’s the world’s thickest sales flyer.” 

Two part questions are common, but the separate parts often seem redundant.

Common two part question #1: “So, you’re the author?” 

“Yes I am.”

“And you wrote this book?” 

“I must have, I’m at a loss for words.” 

Common two-part question #2: “So, you’re here to sign books?” 

“Yes, I am.” 

“And you’re selling your book?”

“Nope. I’m selling encyclopedias. However, I’d be happy to autograph all thirty-six volumes of the set.” 

The skeptical shopper is the toughest to deal with. These folks want their money’s worth, and can spot a huckster a mile away. They’ve bought bad books before, and aren’t going to let it happen again.

“What kind of book is it?”   

“It’s a humor book.”

“So you say. Is it funny?”   

(I wonder how often Stephen King hears the question, “Is it scary?” I’ll bet he replies that it’s actually sensitive poetry.)

Even after my offer for them to thumb through the book to see for themselves, some folks remain skeptical. 

“So, what happens if I buy your book, and I decide it’s not all that funny?” 

“Then it becomes an ‘any occasion’ gift.” 

This brings us to the most common question the less-than-famous author hears at a book signing.

“Where’s the restroom?” 

That is, without a doubt, the number one (no pun intended) question the guy at the little table up front hears. I have come up with a perfect way to handle that question. I will happily provide detailed, hand-drawn directions to the potty… on the inside flap of my book.

Shameless plug: If you prefer e-books to hard copies, all three of my books are currently available at Amazon U.S. and Amazon UK.

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