A few pics from the Indie Book Fest book signing I did in Orlando yesterday, plus a few priceless tips on working an event.
HOW do you make your author event a WINNER?
I’ll tell you.
Whether you have done them before or never done one ever, here are a few tips – in no particular order – to make your experience successful.
Signing autographs is fun!
And awkward. After a while it’s like signing your credit card receipt for dinner at Golden Corral – you just do it and don’t think much about it. But the first few times, yeah, it’s weird.
Have a Sharpie and a regular pen and ACT LIKE YOU SIGN AUTOGRAPHS ALL THE TIME. Try to act that way, anyway. You are a real life author – and fans want that ambiance. BTW, if you are signing a book and they want it made out to their sister, have a notepad handy and get the correct spelling of her name – or you may end up doing it twice – and they aren’t buying the misspelled one.
Selling books is fun, too. You’ll be nervous – will my phone thingy charge their credit card properly???
Test it ahead of time and when you get there. I mainly do cash (which means I have enough singles on me to look like I’m headed to a stripper bar or just finished my shift at one), plus pennies and about a hundred bucks in $10s. (Hit the bank the day before. If you forget, the hotel or event forum won’t have small bills you can buy but the local grocery store will.)
What about the setup and tear down? I get hot. I sweat.They may not turn on the A/C until the event starts (that’s just brutal here in Florida).
I bring a change of clothes. I wear shorts and a T-shirt to set up my booth, go to my room and change, and then go back to the event looking like a respectable citizen. Didn’t get a room? Hotels have big restrooms with BIG handicapped stalls, perfect for changing, as do most venues. Have a change of clothes in the car and change in the bathroom. No big deal.
I change back when it’s time to tear everything down. No need to look respectable then. That’s me. Others do other stuff. Like fuss at whoever is with them.
STRESS!!! STRESSSSSSSSSS!!! I get it. Events are challenging. You’re nervous. Don’t take it out on whoever is with you, especially if that person is your spouse or child. Or the event planner.
Go early and plan an extra hour to set up your booth. Even if it only takes five minutes, plan an hour. Better safe than sorry. Things go wrong. Extra time = less stress. You’ll be amazed at how much less stressed you are. And if you’re still stressed, you’ll have time for a cocktail. Just sayin’.
Comfortable shoes, knowing where the bathroom is so that you can go quickly and return to your booth, and something to drink so you can manage the three-hour signing without your tongue sticking to the roof of your mouth…
Why comfortable shoes? I’ll be sitting.
Well… You can sit. I don’t.
If you sit you are less likely to engage with the people meandering around known as prospective readers – and more likely to reach for your iPhone. If you stand – and if your iPhone is under the table where you can’t get to it – you’ll be more likely to engage with those prospective readers (known as people who buy books). That’s why you’re there, so engage. Stand. And stay off your phone. And:
It’s not the Miss America pageant, but you need to have a face that says you are happy. Smile.
Yes, consciously remind yourself to remain smiling no matter what. For three hours. Nonstop. Even when nobody’s at your table. You can do it, and you can take Advil afterwards for those aching cheek muscles.
That also means NOT reading your iPhone! Being on your phone says This Event Sucks or I’m Not Selling Any Books – which to a prospective reader says MY BOOK SUCKS. That’s bad.
Most people tend to get a restful face or a semi-frown when they are reading on their iPhone. Their head is down and their body language says “don’t bother me.” That’s bad for sales, too! Instead, you want your appearance to say, “Hey, I am a happy/ friendly/ approachable person – coincidentally I would like to tell you about this awesome book/sell you its sequel. Let’s be friends. Come talk to me. There may be cookies over here.” But there ARE no cookies because
Swag. This is a bone of contention for me. You are there to sell books, not give away as much stuff as you possibly can.
You need a reason for people to stop at your booth. But wait – aren’t YOU the reason? You and your books?
Yes. And no. In a room filled with 100 other authors, what’s the reason for them to stop at your table? Well, maybe your cool-looking banner or your nice display of your books. Maybe your big smiling face. But maybe something like some swag. Maybe.
People like to give tons of crap away. I don’t. The money spent on bookmarks and cute little toys and letter openers and all that other stuff, that’s neat but that’s costing you money and not necessarily getting you customers. Instead, a simple thing that says sign up for my newsletter/ mailing list and you’ll go into a drawing for an Amazon gift card (or a signed paperback, whatever), that’s better because they’re investing in you.
Now, there are people who swear by swag. I’m not putting them down, I’m just telling you what works for me. You have to do what works for you. Some of the authors spent days making stuff to give away. I can’t do that. If you have a ton of people at your booth and nobody buys a book, I’m not sure the swag works. If you can’t talk, swag may be your bridge to readers.
If I try swag at one event and no swag at another, I can judge the results.
If you have a drawing, they need to write their name and email address – legibly – on your sign up sheet, which says they’ll be added to your email list. Now you have an email list. Congratulations. Oh, and start the event with a few friends’ names and emails, or fake ones, already on your signup sheet. See Jenny and Allison’s names in that picture? In my handwriting? Nobody likes to go first, but everybody will do whatever everyone else is doing. If you are putting the names on paper and putting them in a jar, fold a dozen up and put them in the jar before the event so it looks “busy” already.
But while they are writing, you are talking. “What sort of books do you like to read?” They’ll say they like everything. You’ll say, “My new novel is about…” and you’re off. It takes time to write your name and email. Use that time to pitch your book. Or start a conversation and work your book in. The more time they spend at your table, the more likely they are to buy a book from you.
Analyze the benefit of event.
Will you make money? MOST AUTHORS DON’T. Let’s avoid that by being smart.
If you add up the cost of the booth and the cost of the books you had to buy to be able to have books to sell, and a banner or whatever swag, and your gas to the event, odds are you’re not gonna make a profit the first time. But you are going to gain customers and sometimes events are an investment. You will learn and you will network. That’s a benefit. Other times you will make a profit. How will you know which events will do what? You have to do them. Just like you have to figure out which paid advertising works, some events are better than others, and some methods of working a booth are better than others. You have to try different things to see what works for you. Observe what’s working at the busy tables. After you do three or four, you will know what works for you – but you’re going to have to do three or four figure that out.
When I worked as a sales manager, we did lots and lots of home shows with sales reps in a booth, and because of that experience I don’t do a lot of swag and I do a lot more of smiling and talking. Swag may be better for you if you’re not a talker. Try to talk, though, because
Sell the experience they’ll have in the book.
I’m not anti swag. I’m pro talking. When people read your book, they are going on a journey. If they meet you first and you tell them about the journey they’re going to take, that’s interesting. They may spend $8 or $10 or more on your book just because they liked talking with you and because you were friendly and nice. Not because you had cool letter openers that you were giving away while you were on your iPhone. Something to think about.
Doing an event forces you to work on your elevator pitch.
You are going to tell 100 people about your book. You need to be able to do it quickly. Even if you can’t do it quickly when you start the event, you’ll be able to by the time it’s finished because you’ll have done it 100 times in between. So work on it a little bit before you go, but work on it while you’re there. Look at the peoples faces while you’re telling them your pitch and you’ll start to figure out what works. Use that feedback. It may help you with your blurb and it may help you when you have to pitch to an agent.
Remember, your event is good if you win (sell lots of books) or if you learn (networking with others). Selling lots of books is awesome, but so is meeting people who know what you’re going through and who can help you get to the next step. They advertised in X and can tell you what not to do. They know a great editor. They blogged about a topic and got more followers. They thought a different event was better than this one because that event was geared more for your genre. Whatever. They know stuff. SO DO YOU. Share.
So? What events have YOU done and what did you learn from them?
Share your tips below!
Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the amazingly great sci fi action thriller “The Navigators.” Click HERE to get your copy of The Navigators – FREE on Kindle Unlimited! Also now available in paperback.