Book Signing: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly!

This is the second post I’ve written specifically on book signing, as this is a topic I have some experience with. So, I’d like to share what I’ve learnt and what the experience is like for authors embarking on this scary and exciting journey.

Back in 2012, I had a sell out book launch in prestigious ‘Bookseller Award Winning’ Octavia’s Bookshop, followed by a very successful Waterstones book signing tour. It was both exhausting and exhilarating and costly in terms of petrol/gas and parking, but I loved it and sold a lot of books! Yay! Octavia's Bookshop Cirencester

Fast forward to now. I’ve done my first book fair, my first reading and attended my first convention for my novel, White Mountain (published 1st Dec 2014 by Grimbold Books & Kristell Ink Publishing), and am embarking on yet more signing dates. Octavia's Bookshop

Along the way, I’ve learnt things that work and things that don’t and have had invaluable advice from booksellers and staff on what they like and are looking for, and what they really don’t like!

Now, getting any signing dates is an achievement in itself, it’s very tough out there and many bookshops simply aren’t interested in smaller press and indie authors, sadly all they want are the big names and celebrities to draw big crowds. However, another HUGE reason the large bookshop chains such as Waterstones, WHSmith’s, Foyles or Barnes & Noble in the US have pretty much stopped all indie author signings, is due to the bad behaviour of a few over zealous writers who have ruined things for the rest of us.

Stories of customers being accosted by authors prowling the shops, book in hand, and pouncing upon them or frogmarching them to the tills, have effectively given Waterstones the excuse to shut their doors to all of us. Yes, that one rotten apple really can spoil the barrel!

The climate out there for any author wanting to do signings, is certainly not easy. Waterstones in particular have actually stated that they are no longer doing local author signings in any of their stores, this is a new company wide policy, since I did my Waterstones signings two years ago, which has to be at least partly due to unprofessional bad behaviour by a few idiot authors.

So, what makes an author attractive or not to a bookshop? 45-Chepstow-Bookshop[1]

For what it’s worth, here’s what I’ve learnt about the art of book signing, I hope you find it helpful. In no particular order, here are my 8 do’s and don’ts:

DO’S

  1. Do your homework on the shop you’re signing in. What sort of books do they sell more of? What authors have signed there? Do they have a particular specialism or niche? What is the name of the owner or event manager? If you’re prepared, you’ll look like a true professional and will immediately impress the bookshop owner/staff. No, you don’t need to know every little detail about the shop, but you do need to look like you’re interested in them.
  2. Do organise yourself. Plan your event, what to take/is appropriate to take (depending on whether it’s a children’s bookshop, fantasy/horror bookshop, general book store etc.), know your route there, where the shop is, how to get there, how long it takes, petrol/gas needed, tolls, parking, everything. Will you be eating at any stage? Take water…ALWAYS TAKE WATER! Trust me, you’ll need it!
  3. Do publicise the event. You want it to be as big a success as it can be. So set up FB event pages, tell your family and friends and anyone who will listen. If it’s appropriate make up some cheap flyers or photocopies advertising the event that you can leave at work, try to organise some newspaper coverage if possible. 10614253_846486532082170_6044863703050848758_n[1]
  4. Do be professional. Remember that the bookshop is doing YOU a favour in having you sign there. Yes, it’s a mutually beneficial relationship as they will take between 30 – 40% from each book sold. But do be thankful and courteous – humility goes a long way and will get you asked back again!
  5. Do be flexible in approach and practicalities. Obviously bookshops vary in size from the very petite to the large. By all means take that huge banner along with you, but be aware that some shops may not want it taking up precious floor space if space is tight. SAM_5405
  6. Do provide as many visual aids as possible. We are a very visual species, we buy with our eyes, which is why book covers are so crucial and a bad cover can do untold damage on a great book (I have personal experience in having previously had a very crappy cover – I LOVE my new publisher’s cover which is so good it’s edible!). So, provide materials which will draw the customer to you, whether it’s posters, flyers, bookmarks, postcards or illustrations from your book. Use them. A note of caution though, you have to use your judgement here as an over cluttered table will detract rather than attract, so choose a few striking images/visuals only. For me, being an illustrator too, it’s quite easy as I take along an illustration book to showcase my work, pull in curious customers and it’s a great thing for people to flick through. This is especially useful if you have more than one customer at your table, so while you’re chatting to one person the other is kept busy and interested by the illustrations. SAM_5409
  7. Do keep a record of the number of books you actually sign and sell, this may sound obvious and rather daft, but in amidst the nerves, adrenaline and chatting to customers it’s easy to lose track. You’ll need to know the exact number of books sold either for your publisher or yourself so that invoices to the bookshops are accurate.
  8. Do enjoy yourself or at least try to. Yes it can be nervous as hell, embarrassing and buttock clenching at times, but you’ll need to try and relax. No customer is going to approach an uptight nut job. Find your pace, what makes you comfortable and enjoy yourself. Remember, if you can get a signing in a bookshop, that’s one more bookshop stocking YOUR book and before you know it you’ll be wanting to do more and more signings for the rush of adrenaline as much as for the book sales! SAM_5394

DON’TS

  1. Don’t behave like a diva. You’re not the star, your book is. Diva behaviour will GUARANTEE that you won’t be asked back again. Although you should pat yourself on the back for having written a book, you must also temper that ego with the fact that nowadays every other person seems to have written a book too. The market has never been more saturated and sadly, a lot of it is detritus, poorly written and poorly edited, but nonetheless, it also makes it damn difficult for your brilliant fiction to rise above the masses and be noticed. Acting like a diva will get you remembered in the wrong way!
  2. Don’t be offended or put off if your signing table is the size of a napkin, or if you are placed at the back of the shop, behind a sign, next to the toilet, out in the cold entrance, or are given no table are all. Every bookshop is different, EVERY one, even the big chains differ from shop to shop, so be adaptable.
  3. Don’t intimidate your customers. An obvious, eh? Well you’d be surprised how many authors can come across in a very intimidating fashion and end up putting more potential buyers off just by their body language. Be cheerful, approachable, don’t stare or keep eye contact too long if the customer is merely browsing and casting a curious look your way and don’t cross your arms.
  4. Don’t pounce on customers, shadow them, follow them around the shop like a puppy, frogmarch them to the tills, prowl the shop like a cougar book in hand and strike up false conversations. People aren’t stupid, they know you’re bothering them to try to sell them your book. DON’T DO IT!!! You’re not a secondhand car salesman or trying to hock some dodgy stuff from the back of a van. It’s tacky and unprofessional. You are a professional writer, an author, novelist, behave like one. If people are interested in your book, THEY WILL COME TO YOU! If they’re not interested, then shoving your book under their nose won’t get them buying it and again, will guarantee complaints against you and guarantee that you won’t be invited back! Respect your customers enough to let them CHOOSE what they want to buy. Hard sell NEVER works. Honestly ask yourself – when you’re quietly browsing in a bookshop, do YOU want a stranger sidling up to you? No.
  5. Don’t be late. I know I’m terrible at being late for things, but you really cannot be late for signings. If you say you’ll be there at a certain time, BE THERE! In fact, a good rule is simply to be 30 mins early (40 mins if you want), that way you can introduce yourself, see what space you’ll be working in and have time to set up without being too flushed and flustered.
  6. Don’t be too laid back. This is a big thing, someone has actually invited you to sign your book in their store. So be professional, be organised, know your route there, exactly where the shop is, where you’re going to be parking, exactly how long it takes to get there, what materials you need to take with you, etc., etc. Think of it like a job interview, at the beginning you’ll be as nervous as a job interview before you settle into it and start to enjoy yourself, but you need to look and act the part. Be yourself, but on a good day!
  7. Don’t be too pushy. Even when customers are interested and come to you, you still need to sell them your book, get them interested, hooked, in what makes your book special. But don’t be too pushy about it. It is a fine line, but there’s nothing more off-putting that a desperate person. So practice your spiel beforehand on your friends and family, anyone who will listen, so you can perfect how you’ll speak and deal with people.
  8. Don’t stand! This may sound weird to you, but if you don’t follow any of the advice above, FOLLOW THIS! I cannot tell you how important this is and just how many times bookshop staff have said to me that they like their authors to stay seated. It’s what bookshops and customers expect. SO SIT YOUR ASS DOWN! Actually a recent bookshop member of staff put it brilliantly, “People like to feel at ease. You have to make the customer feel in charge, in power, so they have to be taller than you. If you’re sitting down you’re more approachable, so more people will approach you.” Absolutely! It’s basic psychology 101, let the customer be in the position of power. Stay seated and let them come to you. You won’t look lazy, indifferent or too laid back, you’ll look like a professional. Since when did you ever see a major writer standing up to do a book signing? They don’t. They’re always seated. They’re not signing autographs outside of a football stadium or a film premiere, and neither are you. SIT DOWN! Octavia's Bookshop signing 2012

There, that’s about it! Some of the points may seem obvious but you’d be amazed how you forget everything. It’s easy to panic and forget your name when your first customer looms up. Just breathe, try to calm down, smile and be friendly. Don’t talk too fast and remember to sign your books properly. Even after doing quite a few signings, at a recent book fair and in the heat of the moment, I found myself signing my scribbling signature like I’d do for a cheque rather than actually writing my name! Duh! Remember too, that a lot of customers want their books dedicated/scribed to someone, rather than just having an author’s name.

Other than that, just make sure you have a good supply of reliable pens (black looks best), some clear acrylic book stands (not all bookshops will supply you with these so bring your own), water, a notepad, some good visual aids and of course your lovely books!

For more information on the mechanics of how it actually feels doing a book signing, check out my previous post: https://sophieetallis.wordpress.com/2012/10/29/book-signing-what-you-need-to-know-but-were-afraid-to-ask/

There you go! GOOD LUCK my friends and may the pen be with you! 😀 xxxx

SAM_5411

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Celebration! My 100th post and zooming past 7000 hits!

Love

Celebrations come in all sizes…small and intimate to the grandiose, and in all colours – from little hints of pastel, hues to match your mood, to the vibrancy of fireworks or the acid splashes of billowing streamers and balloons.

Well, this is a little celebration for a little achievement but a very special one to me.

At the end of January 2012 I started this blog. I had no grand intentions at the time, no aspirations beyond wanting to share my passions and thoughts in a random sort of way. Having never been able to adhere to the regimented nature needed to write a daily diary entry, this blog has been as close as I can get to it. A way of making some semblance of sense from my chaotic life, of organising my thoughts and perhaps a forum for discussing creativity, the language of imagination.

Blogs are as individual as their creators. Some become mere extensions of the people behind them, streams of consciousness drifting over the internet. For me, it is that, but is also a place to tell stories, share poetry, life events, illuminate my journey to becoming a published writer and all the strange oddities that happen to you along the way.

A little nook n’ cranny amidst the ebbing flow of the web. An ocean of information and dead-ends, a place to get lost in or be swallowed whole…

This is a little modest blog, unassuming, not showy, a welcoming and cosy snug with an over-sized hearth and a shabby rug which reeks of candle smoke and coal but a place which promises warmth and comfort, good advice and honesty. A home of creative thinking (hopefully) and somewhere simply to be.

To ponder…isn’t that what every writer does? To ponder, to think, to imagine, to dream…ahhhh…per chance to dream!

So, on this my 100th post, I say a genuine heartfelt thank you to every passing visitor, every friend and acquaintance, every fly-by one stop blogger, every lingerer, lurker or frequent returner…

THANK YOU!         THANK YOU!         THANK YOU!

Love

Waterstones and Amazon’s Kindle turn a new chapter!

Here is a very interesting article…!

By Leo Kelion Technology reporter 24 October 2012

Leo Kelion talks to Waterstones’s managing director James Daunt about his company’s relationship with Amazon.

It was the twist no-one saw coming.

After previously describing Amazon as “a ruthless, money-making devil”, Waterstones’s managing director, James Daunt, announced in May that he was teaming up with the US internet store and would sell and promote its Kindle tablets and e-readers in the UK’s premier book chain.

Few predicted a happy ending: “A deal for destruction”, “Strange bedfellows”, and “Waterstones let the fox into the chicken run” exclaimed some of the resulting headlines.

Had the former JP Morgan banker doomed the group less than a year after being appointed as its managing director?

“A world that is totally dominated by Amazon will be a poorer one,” Mr Daunt tells the BBC when asked about the decision.

Jeff Bezos and Kindle Paperwhite e-reader Amazon’s boss, Jeff Bezos, says his firm sells Kindle e-readers and tablets for break-even prices

“But that is not to say that I don’t think that Amazon is – within the limits of what it does – absolutely fantastic.”

Secret deal

The 49-year-old has already distanced Waterstones from its roots, dropping the apostrophe in its name to the dismay of punctuation campaigners. But the decision to ditch Sony’s e-readers and promote Amazon’s is clearly his most controversial to date.

For someone who has apparently signed his company’s death warrant he appears focused and optimistic about the group’s future, determined to complete a costly refit programme designed to upgrade its 300 stores.

And though he remains tight-lipped about the terms of the Amazon arrangement, he insists the agreement is to his advantage, whatever others suggest.

“I certainly won’t tell you what I’m going to make with Amazon, but what I will freely admit is that we have a commercial business here, and we make sensible commercial decisions.

“I have, rather flippantly, also said: ‘Do I look like a total moron? Because what you’re describing is the behaviour of a total moron.’

“I may be many things, but I don’t think I’m that.”

Model hold Sony e-reader Mr Daunt ditched a previous deal to sell Sony’s e-readers shortly after taking charge

Although the criticisms may have stung, Mr Daunt believes he has made the pragmatic choice. His customers are increasingly reading books on digital devices with Amazon proving their most popular option.

To ignore the phenomenon, he argues, would undermine the bookseller’s relationship with its readers.

“If they choose to read digitally I have to become involved in that game,” he explains, adding that it would be beyond the firm’s resources to develop its own family of tablets and e-readers.

Instead he plans to offer add-on services – allowing visitors the chance to use Kindles to browse Waterstones’s own recommendations and then read them for free while in-store.

“The principle is simple,” he says.

“You are in a bookshop, you can pick up any of these books – you haven’t bought them yet – you can browse them. Until you leave the shop you don’t have to pay for them, and that same principle should apply to a physical device as well as a digital e-book.”

Ultimately he hopes to be able to tailor recommendations to each shop’s location and staff – but even in its basic state the feature won’t be able to launch until technical issues are worked out and publishers sign up.

Hot drinks

Reports have suggested one way Waterstones would make money out of the deal would be to take a cut of each Kindle sale made over its stores’ wi-fi networks. Mr Daunt would not confirm or deny the claim, saying only: “We make money out of everything we sell.”

A potential problem with this model is that once shoppers try out an e-reader – whether its a Kindle, Nook, Kobo or other device – they often browse bookshops’s shelves, make lists of what they want but then buy via the internet at home.

The e-book trend may be inevitable, critics say, but embracing it will only hasten Waterstones’s decline. Mr Daunt suggests they misunderstand his methods.

Cafe W inside Waterstones in Norwich A Norwich branch of Waterstones was one of the first to be fitted with a Cafe W outlet

“All that we have to do is encourage people to come into our shops and to choose the books,” he says.

“I don’t frankly care how they then consume then, or read them, or indeed buy them.

“But if you spend time in my shops, and you really enjoy it, and you come back more often and spend longer – you’re going to spend money in my shops.”

That money won’t necessarily be on books. Waterstones stores are already stocking more stationery, games and puzzles. The next step is to create cafes inside the chain following a successful trial.

“It is literally the booksellers that’s made you the cup of coffee,” he says. “Yes, it’s slightly grubby that you’ve handed over two quid to get that cup of coffee – but it is extremely nice.

“The conversation as you buy your latte is often about the book and it’s a really fantastic thing. And our sales have leapt.”

The move may appall traditionalists, and making space for coffee and Kindles does ultimately mean less for bookshelves. But Mr Daunt says the action is overdue.

“Do we have an awful lot of books in our shops that don’t frankly sell?” he asks.

“Yes, and they actually shouldn’t be there. I do think the shops will have less books, but they will remain absolutely first and foremost physical bookshops.”

Kindle display unit Kindle display units were installed weeks before the launch

Fiction, cookery and biography will stay, he says, but specialised topics, such as law studies, face the chop.

‘Fundamentally unsatisfactory’

At the core of his strategy is the assumption that if his staff make the right picks and provide the right environment, customers will want to spend time in a book-browsing environment.

“I certainly believe that ownership of the physical book does matter,” he adds.

“Whereas that little file embedded in a piece of plastic isn’t pretty to look at. You can’t lend it. You can’t sell it. And you can’t bequeath it to your children.

“Digital is convenient in some situations – travelling, or reading at night when you don’t want to wake the wife.

“But it is also fundamentally unsatisfactory in all sorts of other ways. And that will preserve the physical book as being the majority choice for some foreseeable time, even fiction.”

Whether Waterstones’s next chapter goes as planned will now depend on how much the public are as wedded to the traditional format.

By Leo Kelion Technology reporter BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-20046568

Many thanks to the BBC and Leo Kelion for this and to Beattie’s Book Blog where I first saw this article! http://beattiesbookblog.blogspot.co.uk/

Interesting stuff, eh? 🙂