Book Signings and Braces

 

Since, you know, publishing a book, I figured I should do my best and sell that little monster.

Easier said than done, no?

F’real.

Anywho. . . 

As an extrovert, you’d think book signings would be exciting for me. To get out with people instead of sitting inside, by myself. (Which would be my introverted husbands heaven.) But that whole added factor of hey-total-stranger-here’s-my-book-please-support-the-fund-to-get-my-kid-braces.

Whether or not I have kids is a moot point.

The first person I went to to help me find my courage, and teach me the ropes about book signings, was Jennifer Bailey. Probably one of the most innovative writers for book signings ever. So then I decided to share the love.

Here’s J.S. Bailey to talk to you about book signings.

You’re very welcome.
Rages Echo,Land Beyond the Portal, JS Bailey

The Signing of the Books

(Not to be confused with The Running of the Bulls.)

My name is J. S. Bailey. I write books. Sometimes I sell them.

As a relatively-new author, most people have not heard of my stories. I engage with people on social media, and while I have met many wonderful people that way who ended up becoming my friends (Way to go, Musers!), it doesn’t generate much in the way of sales.

I am a naturally withdrawn person who rarely speaks, so becoming a published author has made me step waaaaay outside of my comfort zone. Since I don’t get many online sales, I have to get my hands messy and step out into the world where the people are, even though people are scary and I’m afraid that half of them might actually be serial killers.

What do I mean by this?

I set up book signings.

By myself.

At places I have never been before.

(insert horror movie music here)

Most of these places end up being one of the 5,000 local Starbucks, or bagel shops, or pizza places. Basically anywhere that people go to sit around and chill. I set up a table, neatly arrange my books in an aesthetically-pleasing display, sit down, and wait.

And wait.

While my insides are all tied up into knots.

Then, slowly, people begin to notice me. I greet people as they pass by. Some stop to chat, which is cool. Others will pick up my books and read the backs. Then I’ll see that somebody on the other side of the room has their smart phone out and is eyeing my table as they surreptitiously Google the titles of my books. Since Rage’s Echo is a ghost story, some people start telling me about creepy things that have happened to them. (Future story ideas, anyone?) The ones I talk to the most end up purchasing one (or both!) of my books, which I then sign for them in red pen. I thank them profusely for their support before we part ways.

And even though I’m so nervous, I love every moment of it.

Especially these gems.

“Do you take credit cards?” a man asked me at a bagel shop in Mason, Ohio. “I could take your credit card,” I said, “but I don’t think you would like it very much.”

Or the time a young woman came to one of my bagel shop signings in Anderson Township, Ohio with a copy of The Land Beyond the Portal she’d bought online. I had no idea who she was. As it turned out, she’d seen a book signing poster I’d placed at another location and came to that signing, instead. To this date, she is the only stranger who has come to a signing who already had a copy of my book. Her name was Mindy. Hi, Mindy!

Or the time when a man and his wife and son showed up at a signing in Eastgate, Ohio. “Hi,” the man said. “I’m your cousin.” Baffled, I said, “Which one?” To which he replied, “Brian.” That’s right. A cousin I hadn’t seen in years dropped by, and it was awesome.

My writing journey has been a long adventure. I have experienced great stress and great joy. But even though this has been harder work than I ever imagined it would be, every moment is worth it because I know that my stories have touched hearts and brought joy to those who needed it the most.

What about you, writers? Have you had to step outside of your comfort zones once your stories were released upon the world?

J. S. Bailey is the author of Rage’s Echo, The Land Beyond the Portal, Weary Traveler, and Vapors. She lurks in the eastern suburbs of Cincinnati with her husband and a sickly collection of houseplants. Visit Bailey at www.jsbaileywrites.com and www.facebook.com/jsbaileywrites, and be sure to follow her on Twitter @JSBailey_author!

Here’s her amazon author page in case you want to check out any of her thrillers. Rages Echo, for the record . . . oh. em. gee.

Don’t sleep with the lights off.

Comments

  1. says

    Book events and signings terrify me, although like you, I enjoy people’s company a lot. But I have done some when my book was published a year and a half ago. You have to know that the people who make the effort to come see you are nice. So it helps a lot. Then, as anything in life it doesn’t last. You are in for a hour or two and then you are gone, back to safety. Honestly, it went well for me. Often very well, again because of people’s kindness.
    I’m a non-native English speaker and it is an added challenge because as soon as I open my mouth I got all eyes on me and it is very embarrassing.
    Do not worry, Katie, go ahead.
    When you will talk about your book and your journey, you will (almost) forget that you aren’t alone.
    You will be just fine, Katie. Enjoy and congrats again.

    • says

      Evelyne-

      That helps, actually. It does help a lot. I think people are very kind for the most part, and when they can interact with an actual human about the book, more likely to buy. Plus, that’s the fun part of writing, I think.

    • says

      Thanks for dropping in, Evelyn! Events like these become less terrifying after awhile. I still never know what to expect, though–one time I sat in a coffee shop for three hours and sold a total of zero books, and another time at a bagel shop I sold 12 books. I guess the worst part is the uncertainty of it all, but I tell myself that even if I don’t sell a single book, having public events helps get my name out into the world.

      • says

        I agree that the hardest part is the unexpected and also that not selling (although it would be nice to sell!) doesn’t stop the excitement of going to meet some potential readers. Good luck to you.

  2. says

    I’ve had a blast at a couple of my books signings. But that is because I have lots of awesome friends, and most of them came to offer moral support. And to buy a book. I’m not sure how this will go once I run out of friends, which should happen any day now.

    • says

      Haha, you had me LOLing, Kathy. That’s hilarious. I can’t imagine that people like you ever run out of friends :) I plan on doing some book signings in my hometown because everyone knows my mom and wants me to do one. Bonus!

  3. says

    I’ve had two successful book release parties; at one, I signed copies: it was a passionate flurry to put down words on the spot, at the back of the book, to the certain individual whose life I was hoping to impact; it was beautiful; at the second book release, I had pre-signed the books to those who had placed pre-orders, and that was lovely too.

    I think, simply setting up a table and waiting for the world to come your way is a beautiful thing, one that takes guts and nerve (and perhaps a lovingly small dose of insanity which is really just passion towards your own writing). I respect you both very much for what you’ve done, and what you’ll do someday.

    Cheers.

  4. says

    Hahaha! You don’t take credit cards?
    170 people showed up to my book signing on April Fool’s Day. This was my 2nd book so I already had a following. Uh, I’m not people person. What I did to overcome my aversion to people: I started small. My first audience was only 15 – 20 people. I was nervous in the service but quickly figured out I didn’t suck. Then, I took baby steps until I began drawing crowds. No biggie now, but still, I’d rather not. But, you have to sell books. Another thing I did, since my books are dog comedy mystery novels: I started handing out a Milkbone dog biscuit with every purchase. It was fun and a real ice breaker. Props are a big plus. Props make people talk, take notice, and ultimately purchase books.
    Katie, you have really great posts. They are always interesting and helpful. Thank you.

    • says

      Milkbones are a cute idea!

      170 people?!?!? I think the most I’ve ever had come to a signing is about 10. Maybe I should invest in Milkbones. You might be on to something. :) Congrats, by the way!

    • says

      First of all, Cary. Flattery will get you everywhere with me, so well done on earning Best Commentor of the Day Award. :D

      The milk bones are a good idea! I’m boggled at your numbers. 170? Yikes! That’s awesome! So are you going to do a guest post for me on all your marketing secrets and such?

  5. LaDonna Cole says

    Good info! My problem is I keep trying to think of other things to put on the table besides my one lone book. lol. Props ^ is a great idea. I thought about taking my ukulele and singing while I wait for people to stop by. lol. IDK. I need to work on confidence in my writing, I guess.

    • says

      Bookmarks and business cards work to fill in empty table space. Also, I lay out purple doilies I crocheted myself. Because purple doilies are awesome. And a purple piece of fabric. Because, yeah.

      Also consider enticing people with chocolate.

  6. says

    I’m feeling nauseous just reading about book signings. BUT, a year ago, I would have told you I’d never, ever, ever be on Facebook. HA! I’ve decided instead of saying, “I could never do that” I will say, “I can’t do that now, but I’ll be ready when it’s time.” This gets me through any hyper-ventilating.

    How do you approach people to do a signing in their establishment? This is what I can’t fathom. I think that will be harder for me than the actual book signing….cuz at least I know I can beg my friends to show up.

    • says

      Beth, approaching people is tough, but it gets easier the more you do it. What I do is call various venues (such as Starbucks), tell them I’m a local author, and ask if they would be willing to host a book signing at their location. Being polite is key, even if they say no! But it helps to remind them that events like this can boost their business. :)

  7. says

    J.S., what are the extra chairs for?

    And I can’t imagine myself doing a book signing by myself. I would be way too nervous and probably just shout out: “Hey everybody! Here, take it!” And proceed to give everyone free copies of my book, then pack up and go home within ten minutes of arriving. :)

  8. says

    Good on you Katie! :) After my book was published, I was interviewed in a live radio station – way, way out of my comfort zone. I pushed myself to do it, even though every part of me was screaming nooooooo! It is amazing how good it feels to push the fear to the side. Keep going for it. :)

    • says

      Live radio station?! Eek! That would be scary. Good for you!

      That pushing really can help us get outside the box and is so good!

  9. says

    I have to say YAY YOU! I talk to authors ALL the time trying to convince them to do signings. They do one, get frustrated and don’t do another (indie authors mainly- but some with pubs too). I think that just doing a bunch at random places and maybe not expecting much, is a good idea. And if nothing else you get some good conversation and you never know, they might order your book in the future or something. I definitely think authors should try to do more signings. Set them up anywhere and everywhere. Spend your Saturdays visiting bookstores and coffee shops all over the place and you WILL sell books. Slowly, but in the end it’s worth it because those people will tell people and eventually the reviews will build as well as the sales.

    • says

      I think you’re right: it’s a great way to get exposure, even if it’s slow growing. I just told myself that every bookmark out there was one more chance at another reader. It helped, as cheesy as it sounds.

  10. L.M.Steel says

    I would love to do book signings, although seriously scary I think they’d be a great way to connect with readers. I have however found it very hard to find venues that will host me.

    Great piece and full of helpful ideas and hints..x

    • says

      The best venues that I’ve found have always been something you wouldn’t expect. Small town coffee shops have been the easiest to work with. Independent book stores are more difficult (and so are the chain stores sometime), but thinking outside the box really, really helps.

      The town I live in now hosts a ‘Spring Fest’ where they have a bunch of stands for people who want to sell their wares, type of thing. 20,000 people moved through. I did a signing then, sold at least five books and gave away tons of bookmarks.

  11. says

    I admire your courage J.P. Most people wouldn’t get out there and expose themselves like that. And just a small FYI, I live in Ohio as well.

    (cue Psycho music)

    That being said, there seems to be more of a consensus among many authors that book signings are a waste of time and going the way of the dinosaur in the traditional sense. The scraps from the old days of publishing desperately trying to hang on. A book signing presupposes a following so unless you have a following, it’s probably not the most productive use of your time. Even then it may not be. J.A. Konrath is pretty vocal about this and I lean in that direction as well. I believe book signings are good when coupled with something else that’s an actual marketing effort.

    For example, a book signing coupled with the main event which is a book reading. Letting people get a taste of what it is they’re missing out on then having them buy and sign it at the same time. Or putting together a speaking engagement tied to an aspect of your book and then signing it after the engagement. This only works for those who like that kind of thing of course. I think you could do it. If you’re willing to get out there and have people sign your book, and you’re willing to write a book, then you’re willing to talk about it whether you feel it or not.

    Book signings can be a great way to connect with current and potential readers but by themselves for beginning authors, there’s probably something else you could be doing that capitalizes more on your time investment. My one and a half cents. Hope there was something in that you could use.

    • says

      Actually, I have say that I’ve had the opposite experience as a beginning author that does as many book signings as I can.

      Although some may say it’s not worth it without a following, and I can see the reasoning behind it, the opportunity to get out and interact with other readers has been phenomenal. It’s all in how you do it, really. If you present yourself as a person first (which hopefully you are ;) and then talk about the book later, I’ve found that I’ve made a lot of friends and contacts that way. I’ve stopped people to talk to them about their dogs, or the gym the work out, and then they end up taking a bookmark from me, discussing my book, and then buying a copy.

      Honestly, I think that success with book signings would depend on genre. The teenagers I talk to about it always get really excited, and I think it helps that they meet someone associated with the book, to encourage them to read it. A lot of people like meeting an author. With non fiction books, some kind of appearance would, I think, be vital to success.

      At any rate, I’ve been really happy with my experience with book signings, and I’m always glad to meet new people, and, consequently, people who are authors always come out of the woodwork to ask me questions.

    • says

      In my personal experience, my book signings have been a better marketing tool than using social media, but I know this will be different for every author. :)

    • says

      We could only be cousins by marriage since I’m married to Mr. Bailey. :)

      And book signings aren’t nearly as terrifying as they used to be. The more you step out of your comfort zone the more comfortable you’ll feel there.

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