Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Fear of Book Signings

During my lunch hour I worked up the nerve to visit my local Chapters bookstore to inquire about selling my book on consignment. I took my one remaining copy of Bad Ice, a typed press release and a letter of introduction with me. I packaged the whole thing in a pocket folder with a dark blue marble pattern that looks like the scarred surface of a pond on a cold Canadian day.

The consignment manager wasn't in, but another manager was kind enough to take my kit and give me information. She flipped through the book, inspected the back and asked if it was fiction. I assured her it was, and pointed out the press release containing a blurb and the two reviews I had received so far. *Note to self: beg for more reviews*

She apparently liked what she saw and suggested I coordinate the consignment and my upcoming newspaper profile with a book signing.

My heart lurched at the mention of a book signing. She must have seen the fear in my eyes and assured me, "Oh, it's easy. Our schedule isn't too full and you can book it a couple of weeks in advance. We put a table right at the front and put up some posters."

I've seen the posters. I've also read horrifying accounts of authors left sitting by themselves with hordes of shoppers avoiding eye contact. I've also heard about signings when the author only brought twenty books and a hundred people showed up. What to do?

I asked, "What comes first, the chicken or the egg? Do I get the newspaper article out first and then schedule the signing?"

She suggested I make the signing shortly after the newspaper article. Many authors have had profiles in the local paper but never informed the bookstore. When customers came in asking for the book, the poor staff had no idea what they were talking about.

My other dilemma is book supply. Since Chapters has a strict ordering protocol, I still haven't seen Bad Ice on their database. Therefore it is up to me to supply the books. I'm still waiting for my shipment of 15 books that I ordered back in December. My publisher is chasing down the order right now.

It wouldn't be a problem if it didn't cost me megabucks in shipping to order my author copies. Then the bookstore takes 45% of the cover price. This is the part that confuses me. At first glance, I'm actually paying to allow my readers to enjoy Bad Ice.

Hmm.... maybe I can write it off in my taxes as a loss. At least local readers will be able to read a book with a familiar setting. Plus, if I get lots of inquiries, Chapters might put Bad Ice on their database.

I have yet to hear from the consignment manager. Is fifteen copies too much or not enough? Should I order more? Will they order directly from the publisher if sales go well?

This is all new to me. I'm basically going into this on my own and I'm scared as all heck, but I'm goin' in.

Cover me.


Charles Gramlich said...

Oh, it can be scary. For my first book signing, I rooked family and colleagues into coming so there would at least be a few people there. Just one or two friendly faces can make all the difference. I did have a signing later where only 2 people came, but at least they were new to my book and enjoyed talking to me.

Good luck, and try to have fun with it.

jjdebenedictis said...

Ooh, good luck! This sounds really exciting and scary at the same time.

Word verification: Priest. Huh. I didn't think the random letter robot was supposed to put up real words. Maybe it got religion recently.

pjd said...

I have of course not done these before, having no book in print. But I can say that from last year's San Francisco Writers Conference, the booksellers, authors, and agents were all in agreement: A book signing is, in part, a way for the author to bring shoppers into the bookstore. That means they (the booksellers) are as much looking for you to bring new people through their doors as you are for them to have people there to get interested in your book. It was clear that if you treat a book signing like Field of Dreams (build it, they will come), then you are likely to end up with a bust. The most successful ones involve the author beating the bushes to get friends and family and coworkers and acquaintances and vagrants and whoever to attend. And of course if you can guilt all your friends into convincing two other people you don't know to come, even better. But that's just what I learned from listening intently to those who should, in theory, know something about this topic.

Rafael said...

Hello. New to the blog, found it through AW. Have you tried a bit of advertising? Facebook perhaps? At the very least to let you know your friends and family that your going to be at the store and have them bring their friends too?

Just a suggestion. I know a lot of people don't like social networking sites, but it's a start.

Chris Eldin said...

Good luck!!!! I hope one day to come to you for advice on this topic!!!!
My audience is children, so I know to bring cookies. That's all I got.

Sounds incredibly fun....go for it!!!

Bernard Lee DeLeo said...

I'm with you, Sandra. I've seen signings at a book store in the Mall with an author sitting alone at a table with a pile of books. I think I'll wait until I'm a NYT best selling author and my book signings are filled in advance... or never... whichever comes first. :)

michelletrudeau said...

wow, seems a door has openend for you. On the otherside is knowledge,if 2 people show or 50 people show remember each one of those people know at least 15 people. Its a networking stategy. those 2 could really mean 30. Your novel is full of excitement and i am proud to already have a signed copy but let me know i will be there to support you anyway.

all the best!

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

I recently started a Facebook page and already friends and family are emerging from their hiding places. I also signed up with a while back but I'm too cheap to pay for the Gold Package. However, I can still post events and old high school buddies will be able to seek me out.

It helps that this is happening in my home town, where people remember my name from the dark ages.

Kanani said...

Why don't you see if you can give a reading at your local library? Or to local organizations that meet once a month for lunch and are looking for speakers? You could give them your press kit, they could place you in their monthly schedule, they could fill in their members with who you are --you speak, and hopefully one or two would buy books. But surely, you'd gain a good local following!

wordtryst said...

I feel your pain. I've managed to avoid it thus far, but I've made a promise to one local store owner who's been very kind. I'm dreading the day - which is no help to you, so...

I have an article or two on how to approach the dreaded bookstore signing. I'll e-mail them to you. Also, I think the idea of coralling friends/colleagues/relatives is a great one.

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

Every experience is worth the read! Some writers have the publishers do everything for them, and others are on their own.

The library is a good idea, Kanani. I talked to a librarian at the ladies' tea party last summer, and she gave me a website to check out. I also visited my local library and took names there, too.

Sometimes other venues are better than bookstores, because you get to keep all the money and give exposure to a business that might not otherwise get traffic. That's something to think about.

Kathleen Molloy said...

Sandra, You have already gotten through the scariest part and that is shaking the story out of your head and hoping you'll continue to love it over time, at least half as much as your readers do.

Consignment managers are scary, true, and book signings can be scary when the weather is nice and the sky is blue and the entire neighbourhood is at the annual street-length garage sale and the only people coming to the signing are folks looking to break bills for small change...

You just keep jumping over the scary hurdles and don't look back. AND get a distributor who will help you get your books on the shelves. You'll never get rich but you'll be enjoyed by a wider range of readers.

Kathleen Molloy, author - Dining with Death

writtenwyrdd said...

I share your fear! But this is a great opportunity for you!

Know what you might consider? In case you do not have enough books, you can have stickers which you can sign and dedicate for the people who show up and can't get a book right away. That way, they can order a book and slap your signature into the book when they do buy it. Additionally, if you can get the graphic for the cover printed on book marks or on a sticker, you can give yourself additional promo umph with those, too--which you can also sign, of course.

(I didn't come up with this one; I read it someplace on a writer blog a couple of years ago.)

Best of luck with this. You are now officially in the know as to why authors don't make as much as people think they do. :)


Amber Green said...

You'll be fine.

What I've seen work really well is if you give a talk related to something in the book, or even to writing or publishing in general, and get the newspaper to announce it. The talk will give people a reason to make eye contact without feeling immediate pressure to buy. It will also take up some of the time.

The bookstore taking 45% may be a mistake. That might be for books the store pays to ship in and takes the risk of not selling. Or it might be for copies you leave behind after your talk for the store to sell (and keep track of). Since you're bearing the risk and expense, and all the store has to do is check the books through the cash register, see if you can get that 45% down to 10% or 15%. Perhaps you could investigate online to minimize the red-faced stuttering I would do while trying to ask questions like this.

Try to get some of those gold stickers that say "autographed by author," particularly if you plan to leave some behind on the shelf for the store to sell.

AstonWest said...

Book signings can actually be enjoyable if one goes into them with the right attitude.

As far as the signing itself, 15 books may be enough, and it may not be. If it ends up short, they still may be able to order through the store and you can come in to sign copies once the order arrives.

One local independent store charges to hold signings. I'm still debating whether that would work or you mentioned, I could always write it off my taxes, I suppose. :-)

Get the signing date set up, and then go to the paper and let them know when the signing is taking place. I had a boost in signing attendance after a review of my book came out a few days before the signing.

If you would like any tips or pointers on signings, let me know...

Oh, and I'm also on Facebook (under this same username)...

DawnB said...

You'll do great! Let me know when it is. I'll come. :-)

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

You guys are terrific. I'm gonna take notes.

I think I have it figured out. First, make sure books arrive (they promise by Feb 25). Next, find out when the article will appear in the paper and schedule the signing for shortly afterward. Then, mention the signing in my interview.

Last.... make puck shaped cookies!

Dawn, I'll be sure to let you know. I can't wait to meet my fellow Canadian RWU pal!

Barbara Martin said...

Sandra, please let me know when you plan to do the book signing. I can get up where you are from Toronto by transit or the GO.

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

I'll be sure to let you know, Barbara.

I visited Olga today, a sweet young lady in charge of Events at the Newmarket Chapters. She made me feel comfortable. I read off all my questions about amount of books, etc. and she was so helpful.

I'm feeling much better now.

Dawn Anon said...

good luck!!!!