Write Wow!

Writing tips and techniques from the publisher of Swimming Kangaroo Books. Send your 3-page writing sample to be critiqued to dindy@swimmingkangaroo.com with the word "critique" in the subject heading. Your submission will be critiqued on the blog, but your name will not be used unless you give permission.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Advice from one of the Kanga-Writes about Book Signings

Swimming Kangaroo Books maintains a yahoo group for its authors (the Kanga-Writes) so they can provide support, encouragement and pass on promotional tips to each other. Janis Susan May, author of the forthcoming Welcome Home and the Land of Heart's Delight recently posted the following to the group and gave me her kind permission to re-use it here.

From Susan:

Okay, my fellow kanga-writes, I'm going to brag a bit, because I've never had anything like this happen.

Last Saturday I did a signing at a big-box bookstore about 2 hours from home for DARK MUSIC, a romantic murder mystery in trade paper by Vintage Romance Publishing.

Okay, it was a nice signing. They ordered 20 books, I sold 13 in just a few minutes over 2 hours - one even before I got my coat off. I had a good time, so when the
manager came up as I was packing my stuff and she had a very peculiar look on her face I didn't expect anything out of the ordinary. She looked at me and said, "I've never had this happen before. Since you've been here two customers have asked to speak to the manager about you."

Oh, law! My stomach tied up in a knot and dropped with a thunk down into my big toe as I wondered what on earth had I done.

The manager went on, "They both wanted to tell me how much they enjoyed you being here and how nice you were. One of them even used the word 'wonderful.' I've been in the book business for years and I've never heard of this happening before."

My stomach uncurled and, with my heart, leapt into my throat. I was speechless. The manager insisted I sign the remaining seven books for stock and, as I was signing, she was putting the 'autographed copy' stickers on the covers herself. She also told me I was under orders to call her as soon as I had another book available so we could set up another signing.

When I came (floated?) home I wrote a report on the signing to the VRP authors' loop - standard procedure for me. Immediately several authors were asking how did I manage that, what did I do at a signing, so I thought and wrote down what I thought about signings.

Now there is a point to all this. At the Kanga-Write Convergence Dindy asked that I write a little something for this loop about publicity (since I was in advertising/PR for many years) and the desirability of having a publicist. I'm going to do that, probably over next weekend. For now I'm posting a copy of what I wrote for the VRP loop, since so many over there seemed to enjoy the information and maybe there is a newbie or two here who might find it helpful.

The VRP post (VRP names deleted):

As for your request, D****, you've made me think, and think hard. My first response was "Oh, I was just being myself" which doesn't help anything. I really had to sit and think about what I do.

J**** (the manager) said as I was unpacking my stuff - and talking to people as I did so - that she was glad I was so cheerful and outgoing. She said some (if not most) authors just sit there like a bump on a log. Of course, it helped that I had sold a book
before I got my coat off. I cannot understand people doing a signing and not talking, not with so many people to talk to. Of course, I love to talk - my father used to say, wind me up and I talk! (Ask T**** - she's seen me in action.)

I have a few props - since there is a snowman on the cover of DARK MUSIC, I have a glass snowman about 8 inches high that sits in a bowl of hard candies. If nothing else, the candies attract the children, and I always say they may have one if their mother/father says they may - that has to bring the parent to the table and into striking range. During the Valentine season I used a white lace tablecloth and sprinkled it with red silk rose petals. Christmas, a silk holly garland. Anything within reason to attract the customer's eye!

I guess the most important thing to do is be approachable and friendly. Have fun!Enjoy yourself and by your demeanor invite others to enjoy with you. You are so happy to be there and to be sharing your wonderful book with them. As an old acting coach of mine used to say, there are only three important things in doing a performance (and you'd better believe doing a signing is a performance) - energy, energy, energy! No, you don't go bouncing off the walls or doing push-ups in front of your table - I mean an interior energy, a radiance that attracts people.

Smile! And don't stop. Yes, your cheek muscles will petrify, but who cares? And it has to be a genuine smile - not a frozen rictus that will scare small children.

Establish eye contact. There are some people who will not stop for you if you were on fire and handing out hundred dollar bills. Forget them. There are some who will talk to you no matter what. Most have to be lured in. I say something semi-silly, like "Have you met an author today?" or "Would you like to hear about the best book in the store?" Some will say no and keep going. To them I always smile and genuinely wish them a nice day.

Once the customer has stopped, give them the spiel about your book - I use about three or four long sentences, maybe a half a minute of talk. Be enthusiastic - if you aren't about your own book, who will be? Also, practice until your spiel is letter-perfect. You don't want to stutter and stammer and sound as if you haven't read your own book.

Listen to the customer. Really listen and really be interested. At every signing I hear about spouses, children, grandchildren, trips, plumbing problems, surgeries... you name it. And I care. Now don't go too far; you're not their psychotherapist or their doctor, but a minute or two of genuine interest has often sparked a sale.

There are those (mercifully few) who are writers themselves and want to talk about the business or (even worse) wanna-be writers who delight in telling you that you're doing everything wrong OR how they're the best writer in the world but there is a conspiracy to keep them out of the business. Be kind; talk a minute; brush them off with as much delicacy and grace as you would an importunate duchess at a cocktail party. Every one of them I've had has left happily (and some even bought books) except for one, a real nutter on whom I had to call store security. Not at this signing; that was a long time ago.

Never forget that you are there to sell the books on the table... but you are also selling yourself, your future books (I have a brochure with all my books, bio, website contact info, etc and I stick one in every book sold) and the store itself. Can't tell you how many people I've pointed toward the bathroom or the cooking section or whatever; remember, you do want to be invited back! Point - be sure to be kind and friendly with the store help. I usually take one of my personalized mugs as a gift for whomever my contact person is there and I always have an extra or two with me in case someone goes above and beyond. People love to feel they are special.

Laughter and happiness go a long way. Most people seem so sad. In a way a signing is sort of like hostessing a very important party where you don't know the guests but the responsibility for its success is all on you.

Oh, D****, how I have rambled! I hope this is coherent - and I refuse to re-read for fear I'll delete the whole thing and never re-write. If you have any questions I'll be
happy to try and answer.

Maybe the most important thing is for you to find what works for you. This works for me.

Thank you Susan for allowing me to post this!



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