Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Book Signing Tips

This past Saturday, I spent a glorious few hours at a table promoting my book, Write Your Life: Create Your Ideal Life and the Book You’ve Been Wanting to Write, at the annual Decatur Book Festival. I was invited by my publisher, Booklogix Publishing Services, to be a featured author at their booth, and what a time I had! 

I love the energy of festivals and fairs; the people, the entertainment, the booths, the food. I just love it! Book events, however, can be taxing on an author. Whether a book signing or book festival, it can sometimes be difficult to get the most out of the event if you don’t go into it with a clear strategy and expectations. What do you want to accomplish? Do you know the audience that will be at the event? What is the overall cost to you? How will you measure your success? 

Unfortunately, many authors don’t consider these questions when they commit to doing book events. They think they’re going to show up, spread out their table linen, set out some books, and sell, sell, sell. Well, I’ve got news for you self-published authors; it doesn’t work that way. You must have a strategy for any appearance you make – whether it’s a speaking engagement, a media interview, a book signing, or a book fair

In my years as a marketing professional, I’ve coordinated dozens of trade show booths and appearances for authors, companies, and organizations, so I know what it takes to leverage your investment of time and money while onsite. Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years:

Count the cost: Determine how much the event will cost you in booth rental, linens, signage, product (books), chachkis (giveaways), and most importantly, time.

Help me out: Be sure you’ll have some help while onsite. Depending on the size of the crowd, one person might be plenty, but in some instances you’ll need 2-3 people to help answer questions about your book, take payments, and more. Be sure your assistants know someting about you, your book, and your platform.

Speaking of your platform: Your appearance should be an opportunity to enhance, expand, or increase the visibility of your platform. You want to sell books, of course, but also be prepared to share about your bigger vision, whether that is your business or your cause.

Make the rounds: Arrive early, set up your table, leave your trusty assistant there, then visit the other booths. Introduce yourself, pick up their business card, and be cordial. You never know who might be a good partner, referral, or customer.

Stand up and stand out: For goodness sakes, get off your tush! Please do not sit down the entire tme. Stand up and greet people as they walk by, especially when they walk up to your booth. Nothing says, “Please don’t bother me,” like someone sitting behind a table.

An avid journaler and aspiring author
purchases my book, Write Your Life.
Grab them: Not literally, but come up with a short, catchy phrase or question to grab the attention of people walking by. At DBF, my grab line was, “Hi there; have you written your book yet?” You’d be amazed at how that stopped people in their tracks and at some of the replies I received!

Collect leads: Many authors hand out bookmarks, postcards, and business cards at their table, but few actually collect leads. This is one of my primary reasons for attending fairs and festivals. I want to be able to follow up with those who visit my table. Send a follow-up email to thank them for stopping by your table, add them to your ezine subscribers list, invite them to follow your blog, visit your website, or come hear you speak next week. You have to maximize each and every contact.

Measure success: Before you even arrive, decide how you’re going to measure the success of the event ... and please don’t let it be by book sales alone. Also consider how many leads you want to collect, important connections you want to make, booth and signage positioning for visibility, media opportunities.

Interviewed live on the radio from DBF,
"Write Here, Write Now"
with guest host Vanessa Lowry
Trade shows, fairs, and festivals are not for the weak-hearted author. It takes focus, determination, strategy, and stamina. So, the next time you sign up to participate in an event to promote your book, keep the above tips in mind.

Now, for those interested in how my “no labor on Labor Day” proclamation went ... well, I almost made it. On Monday, I slept in late, leisurely sipped my coffee, prepared a few personal things for the week ahead, washed a load of linens, unpacked my bag of stuff from the book fest, added some cool pictures to my vision journal, and even baked a batch of homemade chocolate chip pecan cookies (the best I’ve ever made, I might add). 

But then, the sky turned gloomy, it started to drizzle, and I got in a working mode. I love to work inside on gloomy days; for some reason, that kind of weather inspires me. So, I followed up on my leads from the book fest, reviewed my calendar for the month, returned a few emails, cleared away a stack of mail, and emailed an article to one of my editors. Okay, not too bad. I’ll just say that when you do what you love, it’s hard to turn it off. 

So, for all you entrepreneurs, when was the last time you took a full day off?

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