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.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Tales from Another Book Signing

I wrote this for another blog after a book signing last year and thought it was relevant and good for this blog as well.

I am back in Texas after a book signing at Mystery Loves Company, a newly opened bookstore in Oxford, Maryland. And I'm back with a 40% sell rate! That's really terrific for a book-signing! Of course, there were only 5 customers in the store during the afternoon, which just goes to show you that you can prove anything via statistics!

There were two other authors who were also selling their books. One of them was a woman who seemed really happy to be there. Actually, she didn't seem happy to be there at all. The other author was a guy who arrived about 15 minutes before we were closing down the event. He was really nice and seemed pretty happy to be there- except he was LATE.

Myself being perfect, of course, I flew into Baltimore on Friday and drove out to Oxford to scope the place out. Then I headed back toward Baltimore and tried to find a place to stay that I could afford. Hotels are expensive there. Very expensive. And it was the wrong side of the weekend from payday for me. I was starting to think that the little roadside park I kept driving past looked rather inviting (except there were no bathrooms, and I draw the line at the bushes!) Finally I found a little hotel behind a fried chicken restaurant.

By the time I found the hotel I was tired, hungry, and just wanted to crash. Now there's a hotel over in Dallas on Central Expressway that the locals call the Come-On Hotel because it is known as a hooker hotel. I'm not saying that the Chicken hotel was a hooker hotel, but the guy who checked me in seemed pretty sure that I would not be happy there. He asked if I wanted to look at the room before I signed on the dotted line. Being as how I was about to drop from exhaustion I asked, "Do I have to? Does it have a bed?"

Well, he did insist that I go look at the room. I opened the door, saw it had a bed, a fridge, a microwave and a bathroom. That was two more things than I needed-- the fridge and the microwave were bonuses for me. I stumbled back into the office and told him the room was fine.

"Now I don't think the remote control works in that room," he said soberly.

Good grief, I thought. Is he going to let me have this room or not? "That's okay," I told him, "I don't watch TV."

"You don't!" he was pretty amazed at that. Then he asked if I read.

"Yes," I admitted. "I'm a reader."

"Not many of those left," he said.

I agreed and then added that I was a writer too, an actual published author there for a booksigning. He asked about my book and I told him that it's about a murdered pawnbroker who comes back as a ghost and haunts the woman who finds him till she finds out who killed him. He seemed interested so, since I had a spare copy in my suitcase, I went and signed one over to him and gave it to him. I expect to see it on EBay any day now.

So finally I was checked into the hotel room, and I won't say it was the worst place I've ever stayed in my life, but at $100 for the night, it certainly wasn't a bargain. However, it was the cheapest thing there was-- I guess the prostitutes either must cost quite a bit more in Baltimore than they do in Dallas or they all go to that roadside park I mentioned.

But it wasn't a bad room particularly, although I did keep the light on all night because I did not want to have to deal with any types of critters who might come out when the lights went off.

The next morning I checked out of the hotel and drove back into Oxford. I arrived at the bookstore 30 minutes early, spoke to Kathy, the owner, and set my bookmarks out where everyone could see them.

Almost immediately a couple walked into the store. Putting on my most chipper expression I said, "Hi! How would you like to buy a book signed by a semi-famous author!"

"Okay," the woman said.

I was stunned. "Wow!" I said, "Kathy, she said yes!" I happily signed the book over to her and started adding up my royalties. Let's see, one sale every 15 minutes, and I was going to be there for two and a half hours so I would sell 10 books. Yippee!

Unfortunately, that was also my last sale for several hours. The other author arrived, but she didn't quite have this chipper business down. She either stayed in the back and spoke to Kathy or she wandered around the store, looking at books. If someone came in, she would nod to them, but that would be about it.

The next group that came in was a group of bikers. I gave them my chipper little greeting, making sure to include my fellow author-- "Hi, how would you like to buy a book by two semi-famous authors?" Well they didn't have any money or credit cards on them. No luck there, but I did manage to press bookmarks on them, both mine and my fellow author's.

Customers were few and far between. A couple of ladies came in who were friends of the owner's but they weren't interested in buying boooks by two pretty darned famous authors. And a young man came in but he definitely didn't want to buy new books. I managed to press our bookmarks on him before he headed back to the used book section, but while my back was turned, I noticed that he put the bookmarks back before he left the store. Geez! I couldn't even give free bookmarks away!

About 15 minutes before we were due to finish up, the third author arrived. He stayed in the back to talk to Kathy, and the other female author started to gather her things up, preparatory to going. The door opened and a young man entered the store. I was the only one out front so I said my chipper little spiel. "Hi! How would you like to buy some books by some semi-famous authors?"

The guy stopped. "Wow!" he exclaimed. "Are you serious!"

"Of course," I said, and I indicated the table where our books were piled. He reached over and picked up one of the books by my fellow author. "Crud!" I thought inwardly. (Although, remembering A Christmas Story, I didn't really say "Crud!") I turned and hollered at my fellow author, "Hey, you've got a customer."

She came out and didn't quite seem to know what to do but she finally signed the book and muttered a "Thanks" to me. I was wondering if I could manage a commission from her but finally decided to let it pass-- after all, we were all good friends there, right?

My fellow author gathered up her things and left, and I started pulling my stuff together. The customer continued to browse the stacks, and the male author stayed in the back talking to Kathy. As I had everything in my hands preparatory to leaving, I turned to the customer. "This is your last chance," I said. "If you want another book signed by a semi-famous author, you need to get it now because I'm on my way out."

He froze in his spot and then said, "What? Are you kidding? You mean there's more than one of you?"

Oh yes, I replied. I pointed out my books and the third author's books. The customer was ecstatic. "This is terrific!" he cried. "This is so cool!" I happily signed a book over to him, as did our third author. The customer was really thrilled-- he was planning to give the books as gifts that evening to a lady who runs a summer camp.

Now at the risk of sounding as though I am bragging, I need to point out to anybody reading this that if it weren't for me, neither of my two fellow authors would have sold any copies of their books. They weren't smiling, greeting customers, and they weren't SELLING THEIR BOOKS. They were waiting for the buyers to come to them, and not making any atempt to go after the buyers.

I'm not a particularly sociable person. I'm normally pretty shy, and hate parties and other social occasions. In fact, I border on being a recluse. Nevertheless, I found it was pretty painless to ask people if they wanted to buy a book by a semi-famous author. Sure, three of them said "No," but two of them said "Yes." One of them said "Yes" THREE times! So I had an 80% sell rate if you count the books by the other authors that I managed to sell!

There's a moral to this-- and it's one that authors hear time and time again. It's not enough to go to a store and sit behind a stack of books. Don't sit down. Get up and move around. Greet the customers. As them for the sale. Smile. Smile. Smile! And if there are other authors there as well, it's okay to push their books too. They may be in the position to do the same for you that day!



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