Sunday, June 25, 2006

Booksignings: Everything you Need to Know

How to do Drive By Signings

Your book has made it into the stores! Congratulations!

Your publisher/distributor/sales reps have done their jobs---now it’s time to do yours.

Four out of five books don’t earn back their advance. Half of all books are returned, remaindered, or destroyed. You can accept this as a fact of the business, or you can take the wheel of your career and do something to improve your odds.

Autographed books sell better than their unsigned counterparts. Customers regard authors as celebrities, and a signed book is a value-added purchase.

But how likely is it that your publisher will set up a signing at every bookstore in America? Especially when each store carries just three copies of your magnum opus?

The answer: The Drive-By Signing. You drive up, you go in, you sign the stock, you get out.

For my thriller novels Whiskey Sour and Bloody Mary, I’ve done over 400 drive-by signings in the past 18 months, leaving my signature on several thousand books, meeting thousands of people.

Sound impossible? It’s actually pretty easy to do, once you know the routine.

1. Find the stores.

Go to www.bookweb.org, www.booksense.com, www.bn.com, www.waldenbooks.com, www.american-stores.us/book, www.borders.com, www.booksamillion.com, and search for stores by city and zip code. Or go to the public library and look through the phone books. Try to list all the stores within 50 miles of your home, or within 25 miles of the town you’re visiting.

2. Call the stores you intend to drop in on.

You need to find out if the store still exists, what time they close, and if they carry your books.

DO NOT tell them you're the author. Why? All that does is complicate things. They'll say you have to speak to a manager, or an events coordinator, or they'll say you aren't allowed to come in unless it has been cleared by your publisher, or they'll say that they don't do signings, or they'll set the books aside and then no one will be able to find them when you come in, or you'll set everything up and when you get there no one will know who the heck you are, or... you get the point. Bookstores and publishers have a set of rules about author signings.

You want to bypass those rules. So call and see if they have copies, and ask how many. I wouldn't drive 20 miles to sign three paperbacks, but for three hardcovers I would.

Call a day or two before you plan on dropping by---calling ten days before may result in your books being gone by then.

3. Map out your route.

Use city maps, or Internet sites such as www.mapquest.com, www.maps.yahoo.com, www.maps.google.com. Plot a course going location to location. A GPS navigation unit is heaven sent for touring authors, and saves a lot of time and effort.

Many Barnes & Noble and Borders stores often have locations just a few miles from one another.

Shopping malls often have a Waldenbooks or B. Dalton.

Independent booksellers are generally happier to see you, and more eager to sell your books. Fit as many of these into the drop-in tour as possible.

4. When you get to a store, find your own books.

Booksellers are busy, and you want to be low maintenance and take up very little of their time.

Take your books to the Information Desk, or to a counter, and say your spiel to an employee. Mine is:

"Hi! This is me. (Smiling, pointing to my name on cover.) I'm an author. Great to meet you. (Shake hand.) Thanks for carrying my books! Do you mind if I sign them?"

Start signing when you get the 'yes.' You’ll always get a ‘yes’ (though once I was asked for ID, which I provided.)

Then ask them if they like your genre, and tell them about your books.

While talking to the employee, give them something---a card, a bookmark, or in my case, a drink coaster with my book cover on it, and SIGN THE ITEM. Signing it will hopefully prevent them from throwing the item away, on the off chance that one day you'll be famous and they can sell it on eBay.

Also, ask them if they can check to see if there are any more in the store that you couldn't find. Be patient---if the store is busy, let them take care of customers before you. That gives you a chance to pitch to customers as well.

When the books are signed, ask if they have stickers that say "Autographed Copy". If they do, help them sticker the books. If they don't, use your own stickers, which you took from the last store you signed at.

Barnes & Noble have square green stickers. Borders and Waldenbooks have red triangles. Sometimes Waldenbooks have blue rectangles, and Borders have brown rectangles. Don't get confused.

After the books are signed and stickered, ask the employees to read them.

"You’ll enjoy this, I promise."

A bookstore employee who meets you and reads you is one that will forever sell you.

Often they'll make a display for you. Don't suggest a display yourself--let them suggest it. This appeal for help is important--it shows you're not a snooty author, but a regular person who needs them.

I also tell employees that whoever sells 20 copies or more will be mentioned in the acknowledgements for my next book, and give them my personal email so they can contact me.

5. Meet as many employees in the store that you can.

Thank them profusely for selling your book, and for the great job they're doing. Take their business cards, and add them to your email newsletter list.

But don’t overstay your welcome. They’re there to work, and so are you.

6. If you're at an independent bookstore, never leave without buying something.

If you want them to support you, you should support them.

7. Keep a log of where you visited, who you met, and how many copies you signed.

Share this info with your agent and publisher. You don't have to give them the full list, but an email saying, "I was just in Arizona for the weekend and signed stock at 21 bookstores" will impress them.

8. Return to stores a few months later.

Often they’ll have new stock and new employees. Many stores automatically buy more copies after a book sells. I’ve visited some stores five or six times, and I always meet new people and sign more books.

Obviously, your local bookstores are the ones you’ll visit the most. But whenever you leave town on business, or for vacation, check to see what bookstores are in the area before you go.

Final Words: If you’re planning on touring, you’ll get the most bang for your buck with large cities. A major metropolis like Chicago or Manhattan has over 100 bookstores. Even smaller cities like Phoenix, Denver, Houston, or Indianapolis have a few dozen stores, which is well worth your time.

When planning a drive-by tour, sooner is better. If you wait six months after your book comes out, you may discover your books are no longer there.

If you don’t have time to tour, try to visit every bookstore in your area, and set aside time during business trips and on vacation to hit a few stores in the area. The more places you visit, the more it will help your career.

Contrary to popular belief, signed books can be returned or destroyed. But it’s less likely they will be, especially if you were nice to the staff.

In today’s market, even bestselling writers must do their own publicity, or else they won’t be writers for very long. Drive-by signings are only one weapon in your publicity arsenal. But if done correctly, they can be the most powerful weapon you have.


How to Make a Disastrous Booksigning Event a Success

No aspect of a writer’s job offers more opportunity for euphoria (and anxiety) than a booksigning. But how do these events really go down?

The Fantasy. Your escort picks us up at the airport and drives you to the largest bookstore in the state. She tells you they’ve advertised the event in the three local papers and on the radio. When you arrive, there are a hundred fans already waiting. You meet the excited staff and sit behind a table stocked with a huge pile of books, under a giant color poster of your cover. You read a chapter aloud, receive thunderous applause, and then do a quick Q & A before signing for a solid 90 minutes, people waiting patiently in an endless line to tell you how much they love you.

The Reality. You arrive at the bookstore ten minutes early. There’s no crowd of fans---there’s not even one. No posters, no signs, no table full of books. The employees look at you like you’ve grown a second nose when you say you’re the author and there to sign. Finally you convince someone to help you and they unearth a box of your books and set up a small table for you in the rear of the store, near the washrooms. You sit there for two hours, each second an eternity. People try hard to avoid eye-contact when they pass. Some approach you and ask where The DaVinci Code is. One will always come over and say, “So you’re an author? I’ve got a lot of ideas. How about I tell them to you, you write them, and we’ll split the millions?” No one buys a book. It’s debasing, humiliating, discouraging, and you vow to never do this again.

The Plan. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With proper preparation, and a little bit of self-confidence, you can do very well at bookstore signings even if your last name isn’t Clancy. Here’s how.

A Month Before the Event. Book the signing yourself by calling or dropping by the bookstore and speaking to a manager or an event coordinator.

Often the store is not very receptive---author events don’t ever go well. Convince them that yours will, because you have a different way of doing things.

If you’re with a small publisher, your books may be difficult or impossible to order. Offer to bring the books in yourself and give the bookseller the standard 40% discount.

If you’re with a large publisher, they might refuse to pay the store co-op money (publishers pay stores to host events, often between fifty and several hundred dollars.)

If that’s the case, the store won’t be allowed to host a signing. Tell them you don’t want to do an official signing, but rather a drop-in just to sign stock. Then make sure they have at least twenty copies available.

Two weeks before the event. Advertising is up to you. Make a flyer featuring the date and time of the signing, your book cover, and a few blurbs. Send the bookstore 100 copies.

List the event on your website and in your newsletter, with an address and a phone number for the bookstore.

If you haven’t already, make a large (2 ’x 3’) poster of your book cover and a sign that says “AUTHOR EVENT TODAY.” Often your publisher will do this for you; just ask when you receive the cover art. Or you can have one made from a digital file at any copy shop, like Fed-Ex Kinkos.

Three days before the event. Call the store and make sure they have copies of your book in. If they don’t, remind them that you can bring copies of your own.

Most authors get discounted copies from their publisher. Instead, I suggest you buddy up with a local independent bookstore owner, and ask if she can sell you copies at her 40% discount. That way, they count toward your royalties.

How do you become friends with a local indie? Make them your base of operations, and have anyone who wants a signed copy go through them. Also, use them for your initial booklaunch party---they’ll be happy to help you out after that.

Day of the event. Make sure you have the essentials; 100 business cards with your website on them, flyers that feature some blurbs and reviews, some mints (so your breath stays fresh), some bottled water (hydration is important), and a nametag that says “AUTHOR.”

Dress. Business casual or better. Shaved, bathed, combed, made up and smelling nice.

Upon arrival. Get there fifteen minutes early to set up. Your first order of business is to introduce yourself to EVERY employee in the bookstore. Shake their hands. Give them a signed business card. Briefly tell them what your book is about, and let them know you’ll be there for a few hours.

Bring pizza or donuts for the staff. Employees are used to bigshot authors snubbing them. Be a bigshot author who appreciates them, and they’ll champion your books for life.

Set up. Sometimes the bookstore has already set up a table for you. Try to get one at the front of the store. If not, no problem---you can work around it.

Put your flyers and some business cards on the table, and hang your poster in a prominent place. Make sure your books are arranged in an attractive manner.

An employee might offer you a chair. Kindly tell them you don’t need one—you’ll be on your feet for the whole event.

Ready, Set, Go! If you’re lucky, some people may have come to see you. Usually this isn’t the case. You're a new, unknown author. All of your friends and family have already bought your book. Even if the event has had heavy advertising and publicity, would you go to see an author you’ve never heard of before?

Neither will anyone else.

The only way you'll move your wares is through determination, personality, and fearlessness.

Put on your smile, stick out your hand, and get ready to greet EVERY PERSON that comes into the bookstore.

Does that terrify you? It shouldn’t. People are excited to meet authors. You’re a minor celebrity. Everyone likes to meet celebrities.

Don’t worry about being rebuffed or ignored. You’ve dealt with rejection before. You’re a writer, and rejection is part of the business.

The Approach. People will be preoccupied when they walk into a bookstore. Some are on a mission to buy the new Harry Potter, or latest issue of Guns and Ammo. Some are there to browse genres other than the one you’re writing in.

But all people, no matter their reason for being there, will respond when you introduce yourself and offer to shake hands.

I use one of two lines:

"Are you a mystery fan? I’m a mystery writer." or "Hi, I’m an author. Do you like thrillers?"

It’s extremely rare that a person will ignore an outstretched hand---it’s only happened to me three times, and I’ve shaken thousands of hands.

The Pitch. If I get a yes to one of the above questions, I launch into my pitch.

"My name is JA Konrath. I write a mystery series about a Chicago cop named Jack Daniels. Jack is short for Jacqueline, and she's in her forties, divorced, has a train wreck for a personal life, but she’s great at her job. She chases serial killers."

If they still seem interested at this point (about 1 out of 5) I continue:

"The book is actually very funny, similar to Janet Evanovich or Dave Barry. But it also has a darker side, kind of like James Patterson or Hannibal Lecter/Silence of the Lambs. So it goes from laugh out loud funny, to pretty scary--you'll want to turn on the lights and make sure the doors and windows are locked when you're reading."

It's important to maintain eye contact and keep smiling. Then finish your pitch.

"Whiskey Sour is the first book in a new series. The second is Bloody Mary. They’ve won several wards and appeared on some bestseller lists. I'd love to sign a copy or two for you-- and if you like, I can make it out to EBay."

Relax and Be Casual. No one likes high pressure sales. Selling isn’t about forcing people to buy something they don’t want. It’s about finding the people who are looking for your product.

And yes, books are products. Publishing is a business. Take off the artist hat, and put on the salesperson hat. If you’re shy, or have low self esteem, take a public speaking class. The better you can talk to people, the further you’ll go in this career.

The Hand Off. While doing the spiel I’ll hand them the book itself. That connection is important. Holding something implies ownership, and you want them to look at the cover, read the jacket, and begin to think of this book as theirs.

Adjustments. I tailor the pitch depending on the person's interest. Often I ask questions. Sometimes I answer questions. I adjust the pitch to the individual (if a customer likes romances, I play up the romantic end. If they like thrillers, I downplay the comedy, etc.)

The Rejection. Most people won’t be interested, even after hearing your wonderful pitch. That doesn’t mean you should move along yet.

Hand them a flyer to look at, or autograph a business card or bookmark, and ask them to pass it along to anyone they know who is a fan of your kind of books.

Thank them for their time, and mention it was great meeting them. Also let them know that you’ll be around for a while, if they decide they want something signed.

Often people come back. Sometimes while you’re there. Sometimes days later.

The Acceptance. If they buy a copy, be genuinely grateful. I once did a signing with an author who grumbled, “I hate signing books” in front of the person he was autographing it for. The fan’s jaw hit the floor. I don’t recommend that approach.

Thank the customer for giving you a try, and ask them who they’d like the book personalized to. ALWAYS ask for them to spell the name, even if it’s “Kim,” (I had a Kymm once.)

Then thank them again, shake hands again, and give them the biggest smile you can give.

Enlisting the Staff. Large chain stores will often make announcements. Ask if they can announce you every half hour, or if you can make the announcements yourself.

“Today we have local author J.A. Konrath---that’s me---signing books from the Jack Daniels series. I encourage everyone of come over to front of the store and say hello. Autographed books make a great gift, for family, friends, or yourself.”

If the staff really likes you (and if you brought them pizza, they will) ask if they can pass out flyers, or walk around holding copies of your book and directing patrons to your table.

Does it Work? Typically, 1 out of 5 people I pitch to will buy the book. And I pitch to several dozen an hour--depending on how busy the store is.

I did an event last Saturday, and sold 40 hardcover books in 6 hours. The week before I did 40 books in 8 hours (store wasn't as crowded). Week before, 60 books in 8 hours. My record is 120 in ten hours.

It isn't easy getting a stranger to part with $22. Sometimes there are stretches when I approach 30 people and can't sell a single book. It's disheartening, depressing, and just plain awful.

Other times, I'll sell five books in three minutes--one person buys it and others will wander over to check out what's going on.

To date, using this method I’ve handsold over 2000 books.

Time to Leave. How long you stay is up to you. I think four hours is minimum, and if the store is really busy I’ll stay for six or more.

When you’re finally ready to go, you should once again thank the booksellers--they watched you bust your butt and are on your side.

If you didn't sell every copy, ask to sign the remaining stock, and affix stickers that say "signed by the author."

If the store doesn’t have stickers, use the ones you borrowed from the last place you signed at---the employees shouldn’t mind if you ask to take some extras, and you should always keep a supply of stickers on you from various chain stores.

If you brought your own books, don’t ask to be paid upfront---that’s bad business. Leave your contact information and let them know they can mail a check.

Most importantly, ask to come back in a month or two. I visit some local stores five times a year. Signed books really do well during the holidays.

Staying Positive. Every time I come into a bookstore and see that big stack of my books, I get a little sick inside. There's no way I'll sell all of those, I think. No one will come in to the store. People will ignore me. My pitch is crummy and won’t work. The staff is laughing behind my back. I’m a writer, not a salesperson.
Then I remind myself that the Great Wall of China was built one brick at a time, and that's how I'll sell my books--one at a time.

Each book you handsell is a book that never would have sold without your efforts.

Each person you meet is likely to talk about you to others.

Each reader who becomes a fan will become a fan for life and remember the time they shook your hand.

Each bookstore you visit will have employees who will handsell you for weeks, months, and even years after you’ve gone.

In my acknowledgements page on my latest book, I have a list of a dozen booksellers that I thank, because they’ve each handsold at least twenty copies of my first novel.

In the next book, I’ll be thanking over fifty booksellers. One particular bookseller has helped me sell over 300 hardcovers at one location. I named a character after him in my third book.

Your Goal. There’s no reason a booksigning has to be a stressful, unpleasant experience. In reality it is one of the cheapest, most-effective ways to build your career.

It’s your name on the book’s cover, and it’s your job to sell it. Sales is just like writing---the more you do, the better you become, the more success you achieve.Now go get ‘em, tiger!

Six Keys to a Successful Bookstore Pitch

1. Introduce yourself with a smile.
2. Explain the book’s premise, setting, and lead character in just a few seconds.
3. Compare your books to well known books the reader will recognize (It’s like a chick-lit version of Silence of the Lambs…)
4. Ask the customer a question. (Who do you like to read? What book did you come in for?)
5. Offer to sign and personalize a copy for them.
6. Thank them, whether they buy a copy or not.


Signing Survival Kit

· Snacks for Bookstore Employees
· 3 Good Pens
· 100 Business Cards
· 50 Flyers
· Poster of Book Cover
· Sign saying “Author Signing Today”
· Mints (gum annoys people)
· Bottled water
· Extra “Autographed Copy” stickers
· A Big Smile and a Good Attitude


How to Survive a Book Tour

You just found out your publisher is sending you on a tour. You’re surprised, excited, grateful… and terrified. You’ve heard other others complain about how grueling and disappointing tours are, even with all-expenses paid.

So what can you expect? How can you make sure your experience is a good one for you, the bookstores, and your publisher?

I just went on my very first tour---eight cities in eleven days---to promote my new hardcover thriller BLOODY MARY, and the paperback release of the first book in the Lt. Jack Daniels series, WHISKEY SOUR. I signed 933 books at 105 bookstores in Colorado, Arizona, California, Oregon, and Washington.

Here are 15 things I learned while on the road.

TOUR TIP #1: Use a GPS.

Your publisher will set up official signings for you, and possibly some publicity opportunities such as radio and TV interviews, library talks, and speeches.

Sometimes they provide escorts—those folks who pick you up at the airport and drive you around.

A cheaper, and better, alternative is a GPS Tracker. GPS stands for Global Positioning Satellite. Navman, Nextell, Magellon, and Garmin are some of the big names. These units are mini-computers that attach to the window of your car. You program in addresses, then they visually and verbally direct you to your destination. The best models have millions of addresses pre-programmed into their memory, tell you when you’ll reach your destination, and offer alternative routes if traffic is bad.

A GPS takes a lot of the stress out of being on tour. They can be added to your rental car, or purchased for a few hundred dollars. If you’re an author, you need one as much as you need a website and a cell phone.

TOUR TIP #2: Always allow yourself more time than you think you need to get to a destination.

Sometimes traffic is bad. Sometimes you stay at a store longer than expected. Sometimes you have car trouble.

For scheduled events, always plan on getting there 45 minutes early. If you’re going to be late, phone them as soon as you know. But try not to be late.

TOUR TIP #3: At an official signing, work the room before you begin.

Introduce yourself to the bookstore employees, and bring gifts (I give them a signed bottle of Jack Daniels). Thank them for having you. Praise their store.

Then give each person who showed up a handshake and warm welcome.

Bestselling thriller author Barry Eisler is a master at this---he always arrives early and talks to each member of the audience before he begins. It takes a few extra minutes, but you’ll have the crowd on your side before you begin, and customers and fans love the personal touch.

Be upbeat and show you’re happy to be there, even if you get a small crowd. If no one shows up at all, hang out with the booksellers and talk shop---your positive attitude will be remembered.

TOUR TIP #4: Rehearse your presentation, but pay attention to your response.

At an event, you’ll be asked to speak, or read, or answer questions, or all of the above. Be sure you have something prepared for all possible scenarios.

Monologues are boring and can be done in an empty room. Storytelling is an active, dynamic thing that requires the audience to participate. If they aren't involved, get them involved by making eye contact, asking questions, and smiling. Watch out for speech hesitations (ummm and uhhhh), get to the point quickly, and don’t drone on too long.

If you’re afraid to speak in public, get over it. If you’re unsure of how you present yourself, have a friend videotape you, and watch the recording later.

TOUR TIP #5: Publicly acknowledge your people.

If you have friends or family in the audience, big fans who traveled a long distance to see you, or published authors in the room, thank them by name when you do your presentation.

Also thank the bookstore and the employees again.

Most people love to be mentioned—though some are easily embarrassed. Ask beforehand if it’s okay you say their name in front of the crowd.

TOUR TIP #6: When reading, be brief (no more than ten minutes), and if appropriate, be funny.

Practice until you're smooth and confident. Use inflection and different tones for the characters. Smile while you read---it comes through in your voice.

Also, make sure the passage you’ve picked to read won't offend anyone. Avoid graphic language, sex, or violence---unless you’re reading at a horror convention.

Glance up at your audience often to gauge their reaction and draw them further into your words---people pay closer attention if they see you’re looking at them.

Not good at reading? Get good at it, or don’t do it at all. A poor reader hurts more than helps her cause.

TOUR TIP #7: When signing, always ask who they'd like the book inscribed to, and how to spell their name.

I've met Aymee, Jym, Marscha, Debbera, and Chuk, to misname a few.

Have a few witty phrases that you can use when needed. Since my books are named after drinks, I often write “Don’t Read and Drive!” or “Enjoy in Moderation!”

Take your time when signing to avoid mistakes---those books get returned and destroyed.

TOUR TIP #8: Don't leave without signing everything.

Even if no one comes to your signing, ask to sign all the stock and any posters. Also ask if they have stickers that say “Autographed Copy” to put on the books.

If they don’t have stickers, supply your own. Each time you visit a chain store and sign, ask to take a few extra stickers, so you have some for the next store that can’t find theirs.

TOUR TIP #9: When signing at an independent store, always buy something before you leave.

Support the folks who support you. If there are no books on your want-list, ask for recommendations from the employees.

If you’re signing with another author, or several authors, buy their books. We’re all in the same boat, and need to help one another.

This business is all about building contacts and relationships, and generosity goes a long way.

TOUR TIP #10: Do drive-by signings.

Even if your schedule is packed, you’ll have some extra time to stop by other local bookstores. Signing stock and introducing yourself to bookstore employees is always a smart idea when you’re in a new town. It builds word of mouth and good will. Award-winning mystery author Julia Spencer-Fleming calls it a force multiplier; the more people you get on your side, the better.

Your publisher will appreciate the extra effort you’re making. I had eight scheduled signings, but I signed at 97 extra bookstores during the tour. Everyone at my publishing house was in awe---which can’t hurt when you’re negotiating your next contract.

When you do drop-ins, always have something to give the bookstore employees.

I give them an autographed coaster with my book title, WHISKEY SOUR, on the front. Signed things get kept, and you’ll be remembered.

TOUR TIP #11: When planning your drive-by itinerary, phone first.

Some stores close early. Some stores change locations. Some stores don’t carry your books.

Use the local phonebooks, Mapquest.com, and your good old GPS to help plot your course. If there’s a Borders, there’s often a Barnes & Noble nearby. Most malls have a bookstore. Genre stores can be found through Internet searches, or through writers organizations like RWA, MWA, HWA, and SFWA.

Call to make sure they’re open and they stock your titles.

TOUR TIP #12: At drive-by signings, get in and get out.

Save time by finding your books on the shelf and bringing them to the Information Desk to sign them. Ask the staff to check if there are more copies. Sometimes there are others in the stockroom, or on end caps that you didn’t see.

After you’ve done signing your books and talking to the staff, get out of there. Lingering makes you look bad, and besides, you have more bookstores you have to visit.

TOUR TIP #13: Pay for as much as you can on your own.

Your publisher is sending you to work, not on a vacation. They pay for transportation and lodging. Pay-per-view movies, the beer in the honor bar, and room service are not options if you ever want to be toured again.

If your publisher gives you an expense account, use it wisely. No alcohol, dinner for friends, or theater tickets.

Show your publisher you’re a pro who wants to save them money, and they’ll reward you with more locations on your next tour.

TOUR TIP #14: Be good to yourself.

After visiting ten stores a day for a week straight, everything began to blur. I couldn’t remember what store I was in, where I parked, or what my books were about.

When that happens, take a little break. Sit down. Eat something. Call home. Hearing friendly voices helps you clear your head.

It’s important to dress well, look fresh, and stay healthy. This might be the only time people have a chance to meet you. Make a good impression.

I take a bottle of water with me everywhere to stay hydrated (dry mouth is common on tour), and always try to get at least six hours of sleep per night.

TOUR TIP #15: Let your publisher know how things are going.

They’ll be following your tour, calling stores after your events, and checking to make sure you arrived at the hotels. But they won’t ask you how you’re doing.

Communicate with your publicist through email or phone calls, letting her know how everything is going. Stay upbeat and positive, even though you’ll be exhausted. If something unusual happens, let them know about it from you, rather than hear about it from someone else.

Remember to thank your publisher for all they are doing for you. Not many authors get toured, and this is a tremendous show of support. Be grateful.

Final words: Publishers don’t make money off of book tours, even with bestselling authors. Tours simply cost too much money.

While selling books is important, the main reason for touring is to have the author meet the readers and the booksellers. Building good word-of-mouth, establishing a brand, and making contacts in the business is why you’re on the road.

If you stay focused on the big picture, your tour will be a huge success even if you don’t sell a single book.

35 comments:

Mary Stella said...

JA -- You need your own Autographed Copy stickers. A friend of mine bulk orders them for dozens of us. If you want some, let me know. I also have Local Author stickers. I figure I can use them anywhere in the state of Florida since I live in the state and my books are set here, too.

J. Carson Black said...

Joe, you've done it again. I sometimes think you are my own personal tutor. You are so good to help other writers. You always give me a lot to think about.

JA Konrath said...

Hi Mary--

I've found that the chains in particular don't like stickers that aren't their 'brand.' So when I visit chains, I just take a bunch. The five finger discount. :)

Thanks for the kind words, Carson.

Barry said...

Joe, fantastic post. I'm about half-way through my own coast-to-coast, two-month odyssey, and your advice is spot-on. In various respects I do things a little differently, but the fundamental principles are the same. It'll be fun to compare notes and post some more when the madness is over on August 3...

:-)
Barry

Another Dejected Writer said...

As always, your willingness to teach is much appreciated.

Amra Pajalic said...

I read this on your tips and it blew my mind. I think a lot of writers have a preconceived notion about how things are done. It makes so much sense that if you're in a bookstore, walk around and introduce yourself, yet reading your advice I was a complete wake up call.

While it is difficult to put yourself out there the fact is anyone in a bookstore is a reader. So just starting a conversation will go a long way to helping you promote yourself. As you said if that person doesn't buy your book, they might recommend you to someone else and who knows.

Steve G said...

JA, Have you considered putting all of your excellent advice into a book. I'd be the first in line to buy an autographed copy.

Ellen said...

Thanks so much for this! It couldn't have come at a better time for me, as my debut novel comes out August 1, and you answered every question I have. In fact, I was planning on emailing you for some info, but now I don't need to.

That said, Mary Stella's comment brought up another question. Where can you order those stickers?

Appreciate this so much, Joe. You get the generous author award!

Ellen said...

Did some digging on the internet and found a source for those stickers. Here's a link, in case anyone's interested:
http://www.abflink.com/abflink/dept.asp?dept_id=121.

M.J. said...

Joe - that's a great great great post chock full of wisdom and wonderful advice. Again.

I wish I could get out there and do what you do. But I just can't. I'm not as outgoing as you are and I can't spend as much time on the road. (It takes me pretty much a year to write a novel) so I've had to find other ways to promote.

For everyone reading this blog, do what Joe does if you can. But if you can't don't beat yourself up over it.

He's a tough act to follow.

JA Konrath said...

MJ has a very good point: trying to keep up with the Jonses (of Konraths or Roses or Eislers) can drive you nuts.

There's always someone who is doing more, and there's always more to do.

Do what you can, when you can. Every writer is different.

Jason said...

By the way, Joe spends so much time on the road he actually has a ghostwriter pen his novels. Some guy named James Patterson

PJ Parrish said...

I wish I had read something like this before I did my first signings.

Read it.
Memorize it. Or print it out.
Do it.

Especially the part about NOT sitting down behind the table. I had a clerk at a B&N in Naples Fla tell me this once and I thought he was nuts. But I tried standing up and greeting everyone who came in and damn, it works. It makes you look PROACTIVE and UPBEAT rather than what you really are: a shy, pathetic wretch stuck behind a cardtable with a desperate look on your face. (NO WONDER everybody scurries by you when they come in!)

I also have flyers about my book to hand out. If they don't want to stop and listen to your 10-second spiel, they WILL usually take a flyer. Can't tell you how many come back after they've read it.

Great post, Joe.

Devon Ellington said...

Really great info, as usual. I'm going to print it out and keep it, so I can refer to it often.

You know that single post is enough for its own ebook, don't you? ;)

I was in a B&N a few weeks back. I checked to see if they carried an anthology five of my essays appear in (as Christiane Van de Velde) called SIMPLE PLEASURES OF THE KITCHEN. They had it. I pulled it out and had it in my hand, when an employee came by and said, "Oh, that's a great one. You'll really like it."

I said, "Yeah, I do. I'm in it."

The employee got very excited, pulled the copies off the shelves, found more in the back and asked me to sign all of them. I thanked him and left my contact information (and bought some other books).

A few weeks later, when the copies sold through and they ordered more, he called me and asked me to come by and autograph the new copies.

I'm also big on sending hand-written thanks yous and Christmas (or Holiday, if you're going to be PC) to stores, employees, etc. that I frequently deal with.

And I ALWAYS buy something when I walk into an independent bookstore.

tess gerritsen said...

A terrific wrap-up of everything a writer needs to know on tour! And for authors who'll be flying a lot, don't forget to sign copies in those airport bookstores. It gets a little complicated sometimes because the airport clerks never feel they have the authority to say it's okay, but every so often, they'll be delighted to let you sign your books.

But, I have to ask you, Joe. How on earth do you manage to stay put for FOUR HOURS or more in one store, flogging your book? I find that after two hours, I'm too demoralized to hang around any longer. Most of my sales occur in the first hour or two, and after that, I might as well get down on my knees and beg people to come talk to me. Of course, it may just be that I'm not an outgoing person by nature, and that's why I have to work so hard at it.

JA Konrath said...

Barry-- Congrats on making the LA Times Bestseller list!! Way to go, man!!!

Steve-- I don't think it would be fair to charge new authors for the info I dish out, so I give it freely.

Ellen-- Thanks for the sticker link.

Jason-- I wish!

PJ-- Good advice on the flyer. Giving the customer somethign to read while they browse the sotre often makes them return to your table to buy books.


Devon-- Very cool. Now do that at a few more bookstores!

Tess-- You're right, airports are great. I usually don't wait for approval, I just take them up to the desk and start signing them, and then I usually sell a few to people who are nearby.

Four hours in a bookstore is hard(especially since I'm on my feet the whole time) but the alternative, failure, is a lot harder. :)

JA Konrath said...

On a semi-related note, I'm in Publisher's Weekley today.

Click Here.

Dakota Knight said...

JA,

Thanks so much for this post. Even though my book isn't coming out until December, I've already started planning my tour, and this type of information is invaluable.

I am planning something a bit different for my tour to reach potential readers, but doing drive-bys in the different cities I want to visit is a great concept. I think it'll be important to do even though my book is coming out in trade paperback.

Thanks again!!!!

Eileen said...

I am printing this out and hanging it above my desk. I can't thank you enough for sharing your advice and experience. My book comes out in February and now I feel like I have a plan.

Justin R. Buchbinder said...

JA,

What's scary is that the "fantasy" book signing you have written here PERFECTLY describes the Chuck Palahniuk reading I saw in The Strand a few weeks ago.

Hundreds of people. Heat. No air. Thunderous applause.

Of course, as I said in my review of the Chuck reading, I thought his piece was lacking.

Regardless, that was insane - and I need to balance myself out by seeing one of these more realistic readings you describe...

Erica Well said...

Mr. Konrath --

My husband made a copy of your booksigning advice for me and I read it over breakfast today.Thank you for taking the time and putting together this TERRIFIC advice on how to handle booksignings. It makes TONS of sense.

I haven't read your novels yet, but after this (and because I'm charmed by the name of your heroine and titles of the novels themselves)I'll be on the lookout for them the next time we're at a bookstore. (Which is any day now, bookhounds that we are.)

Thanks again.

Jim Michael Hansen said...

Joe: One additonal thing you might consider for the big 500 coming up. Buy 500 of your remaindered WS at $2.00@, stamp them as ARCs and then give one free to someone at every store you go to. Trust me it works. I always give at least 4 free books to staff employees at every author event. Someone will always make it a recommended read and then the store orders more. But more importantly, it's just a nice thing to do.

JA Konrath said...

Hi Jim--

That's a smart idea, but my publisher beat me to it. They are supplyign me with 500 free books to give to booksellers for this tour.

TBoS said...

JA -- Thanks. I found your site through Tess Gerritsen. She's right. Your site is like a necessary medicine for ailing writers.

Harry Hunsicker said...

Joe, great post as always. Hope you are planning to do some drop-ins when you get to Phoenix. I just got into town, and your books are everywhere.

I'm with Tess. How in the heck do you do an eight-hour signing? Two hours and I am wiped out. I've done three hours when there was a good supply of books and customers but I barely remember driving home.

During a signing, to mix up things up a little, I sometimes use the following on people who walk by my book-laden table:

"Hey, are you looking for something good to read?"

About half the time the customer says, "Uhh, yeah."

I smile mischievously and say, "Keep on going, the good stuff in in the back."

This ALWAYS brings a laugh and a customer who stops at my table.

NL Gassert said...

This is great advice. Like some of the others, I've copied your entry for future reference.

I almost feel left out. I live in Hawaii. There’s one independent bookstore and a half dozen chain stores. Of course, I’ll save a ton of gas …

Christine Fletcher said...

Wonderful post, Joe! And timely, as I'm just starting this process myself. Thanks also for pointing out that keeping up with the Joneses (aka Konraths!) can drive one nuts.

Baby steps, I keep reminding myself. Like anything else, it takes practice. (Deep breath)

Thank you for all this great advice, and thanks to all the other authors who chimed in with their tips!

Pam Calvert said...

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!

Barbara W. Klaser said...

Thank you! I'm so far from needing to do booksignings I don't even really want to think about it right now, but I'm bookmarking this for future reference, because you give such complete advice. Thanks again!

Linda L. Richards said...

Amazing post, Joe. Have you thought about writing a book?

Oh... wait.

The whole drive-by signing thing was very difficult for me at first. In fact, the first time I saw one of my novels in a bookstore, I just sort of looked at and petted it when no one was looking, then slunk out of the store before anyone noticed.

The first time I screwed up the courage to ask if a store would like the book signed, I was pleased and amazed at the response. (Perhaps it was a slow day?)

The staff were delighted to meet me, they made a big fuss and introduced me around the store, even dragging the manager out of her office and she set up a signing for the following month on the spot. Plus I signed a stack of my current book as well as the previous one.

Since then, I obviously haven't always gotten a response like that (or ever again, for that matter) but that first one was good enough to get me to do it again and again.

The thing I've taken away with me is the fact that people who work in bookstores generally like books very much. And they like authors and think talking to them is fun or cool or at least worthwhile. It's important to remember that, I think. It's this passion we're sharing -- books -- and that connects us, in a way. Just as the same passion connects us right here.

Again, thanks for the swell and thought-provoking post.

Anonymous said...

I thank you so much for this, luckily(yay) I got to read this before my first book signing. I'm still really scared though. I've written my first novel and I'm 13 years old. I'm afraid that people won't take me seriously and then there's school to worry about. I don't even like missing a day. I'm so confused.

Anonymous said...

Not to be utterly redundant, but your advice is amazing. I've checked around for booksigning advice on several sites (that's how I found this one), and there were many points included in your post that weren't included on the other sites. I also have you on my Myspace, so kudos on the layout of that site as well. I wish you much success in 2008, JA!

Starr Sanders
author of BloodLust: The Beginning

Dana Fredsti said...

Excellent advice! Having driven up and down the coast of California into Oregon and Washington to do signings, both drive-by and planned, and experienced the gamut of receptions described, I enjoyed reading this even as I cried... :-)

Another thing to add to the list is Blog Book Tours and other cyber promotions!

Robert Kelsey said...

Joe,
This is great advice. I did this with my first book and it went well. With my latest book it is mainly for sale at a airport-style bookstand (WH Smiths if you know the UK), which is great except they have no stickers. Should I sign them anyway? May get me in trouble!
Robert Kelsey
What's Stopping You?

C.M. Mayo said...

Joe, this is terrific, golden advice. It is so generous of you to share it.

I'll add one tip: bring a pad of Post-Its and ask the person at the cash register (or whoever is handling the sales) to INSIST that people write down the name they want inscribed in the book.

Three benefits for the customers:

1. Line moves faster
2. Author avoids miswriting the names
3. No one suffers embarrassment

This last is crucial. It often happens that writers can't recall friends and even relatives (!) names when it comes time to sign a book-- there are too many people out of context, and for many writers, it's a stressful moment.

Book People in Austin-- one of the best bookstores in the country-- used the Post-Its this way when I did a signing for them, and I've packed Post-Its and an extra pen or three ever since. Almost always the organizers of the booksigning find the idea a little strange, but then they are delighted to see how well it works.