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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46 Top Websites to Promote Your Book for FREE

Some very helpful tips and websites here for promotional opportunities, some of them you know well, others perhaps not. Check it out folks – how to promote your book for free!!! 😀

Savvy Writers & e-Books online

Book Store Stand out Against Thousands of Books

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Added June 23, 2013:

Dear Reader:  This list of websites, which we compiled in March 2012, grew in the meantime to almost 100.  Please visit our two new blog posts with even more possibilities to announce your work for free:

http://savvybookwriters.wordpress.com/2012/11/03/50-web-links-to-let-your-book-go-viral/

http://savvybookwriters.wordpress.com/2012/11/04/part-2-45-more-websites-to-promote-your-book/

All three blog posts are officially copyright registered.  To link to our blog posts, and let your own readers know about these websites, please use the RE-BLOG link on top of this page. Thanks!  Please learn about re-blogging here:
http://savvybookwriters.wordpress.com/2013/06/01/re-blogging-vs-copyright-infringement/

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Original Article from March 11, 2012:

1. Goodreads
Use your free membership to promote yourself and your books. Reviews are essential and reviews on Goodreads site help your book to really stand out to millions of visitors.

2. Wattpad
Wattpad has experienced explosive growth since its inception and has become the world’s most popular destination to publish and…

View original post 771 more words

Rankings!

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Okay, we all know the addictive game of watching the rankings on Amazon – that wonderfully fickle pastime of seeing our beloved and cherished masterworks slide up and down the proverbial scales like a demented yo-yo dieter!

Well, I’m as guilty as the next author of taking a sneaky peek at my rankings from time to time. We all know the routine, keep quiet when your book falls and jump up and down shouting from the hills when it shoots up the charts.

So, delight of delight…although my highest ranking was the day after my book was first published, a wonderful 23,737 out of over 7 million books, White Mountain – Book 1 of The Darkling Chronicles, is STILL doing remarkably well!

59,981!! UPDATE!!!! Now, 37,774!!!!!!!!! That’s totally awesome especially for an unknown indie author with a debut novel which was published well over two months ago! I’m SO thrilled!!!!!

Just HAD to share! 😀

BooksFantasyEpicLast 90 daysPaperback›English

21.
No.21!!!! Yay! 😀 xx

‘The Next Big Thing’ – I’ve been tagged!

Still chasing my tail here, but a few weeks ago I was very kindly tagged in “The Next Big Thing” – a blog hop where you answer a series of questions about your work in progress or your NEXT BIG THING, before nominating others for the same award. http://youngbyname.me/2012/11/14/my-next-big-thing/

I was tagged by fellow indie author, Debbie Young, who had her first book, ‘Sell Your Books!’ published only two weeks after my own.

Product DetailsDebbie Young also works for Readathon UK http://www.readathon.org an amazing national organisation that promotes children’s reading in schools and libraries across the country. I was utterly thrilled when Debbie and Readathon UK approached me to do an interview, especially considering the literary giants such as Michael Morpurgo, Anthony Horowitz, Michael Rosen and Julia Donaldson (The Gruffalo) who support them. Great company to be in! http://www.readathon.org/blog/2012/11/author-teacher-joins-forces-with-readathon/

Anyway, back to ‘The Next Big Thing’!

Ummm, right, my next project/work in progress…well, I have many (head stuffed with ideas thankfully), but I am currently writing the second book of my epic fantasy trilogy!

1) What is the working title of your next book?

The sequel to White Mountain and Book 2 of The Darkling Chronicles? Well to be honest that is a tricky question to answer. I had always envisioned and planned for the book to be called ‘Darkling Rise’, a title I love and an appropriate one for the story, as it revolves around the rise of a ‘darkling’ – a growing dark power. However, this may not be the final title…

2) Where did the idea come from for your book?

032Years ago, when I first had the genus for White Mountain, I knew the general direction the story was heading in. I actually have the ending for Book 3 in my head, though the journey to get there isn’t worked out yet! A lot of The Darkling Chronicles story was inspired by my four-month odyssey around New Zealand back in 1997, an astounding country of epic scenery and breathtaking views. This was truly an inspiring and life-changing experience and one I have written about in my series of travelogues on this blog. The other ideas for the story simply came from my own personal life and experiences, many of which have been rather traumatic and verging on the melodramatic to say the least. I am very pleased to say that those times are behind me and life is now a myriad of happy days…or should I say…a happy daze! 😀

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Chapter Twenty-One - Into The LightEpic fantasy! Sometimes referred to as ‘classic’ or ‘high’ fantasy. Having said that, it is also a contemporary fantasy as the story is set now within our modern world. It is also an adventure story, a mystery, a romance, an adrenaline fuelled action thriller, a children’s book, a Young Adult (YA) novel and a poetic saga!

4) Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

To be honest, I do have a rough screenplay of White Mountain. It would make an AMAZING film as it is so epic and cinematic in scope, so who knows? Maybe one day…

But I do LOVE this game! Christopher Plummer or Patrick Stewart would be my first choice for Mr Marval Agyk due to his natural gravitas, similar appearance and receding hairline not to mention that wondrous voice! Besides the wonderful Sir Ian McKellen has portrayed Gandalf so well, that any other wizard part would draw too many comparisons. Rufus Sewell would be stunning for the voice of Gralen, that lovely blend of age and sulkiness. Either Henry Cavill, James Purefoy or Tom Hardy as brooding Korrun and new British actress, Felicity Jones or Gemma Arterton or even Anne Hathaway as Wendya. Peter O’Toole would be simply perfect as eccentric and frail King Dorrol and maybe even Gary Oldman as King Baillum? As for my arch-villain, Morreck, I always saw the character as a mixture of Brad Pitt and Pol Pot! A character electrifying, charismatic and handsome, described as ‘perilously fair’, a person you would be instantly attracted and drawn to, but a figure who despite his beauty, is rotten to the core. I’m sure Brad Pitt is a lovely person, but as he is a great actor and is, let’s face it, gorgeous to look at – he would be PERFECT to play Morreck The Corruptor! 😀

If I had my pick of directors…it would have to be Christopher Nolan or Ridley Scott, two real visionaries!

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

For White Mountain – Book 1 of The Darkling Chronicles:

Attacked and drained of most of his powers, a dying sorcerer must race against time to save himself and the fate of all, from an enemy intent on cleansing the planet and destroying humanity…

For ‘Darkling Rise’ – Book 2 of The Darkling Chronicles:

Darkness spreads as prophetic warnings come to pass and a series of disturbing murders and disappearances multiply across the globe – the hunt is on and the war to end all wars is upon us…!

6) When will your book be published?

Book 2 will be published in September/October 2013, with Book 3 due for publication in 2014.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Ahem…I’m still writing it! My first book had a gestation of over 10 years, yes, 10 years! – creating the back story, the world and universe that the story takes place in, not to mention my exhaustive research. My time frame for writing Book 2 is considerably shorter! 😀

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Wow! That’s hard. Certainly readers of Book 1 have compared it to J.R.R. Tolkien, David Gemmell, Terry Goodkind, David Eddings, Terry Brooks, C.S. Lewis, Rick Riordan even G.R.R.Martin in it’s epic scope. I would place my work somewhere in there, hopefully between the poetic nature of Tolkien and the dark gift for character of Pullman and George Martin.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Again, personal life experiences good and bad. Places I’ve been to, natural landscapes hold a real magic for me and of course, I had an epic story I wanted to tell. Book 1 is the beginning of that story and is an inspiration in itself, but now the story has a life of its own and it wants to come out!

Humanity beware – you’re in for a nasty awakening!

10) What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The fact that it is an epic fantasy in the classic sense but with a contemporary twist and that it is set within our modern world. Humans and millenia old magic are about to clash…head on! Can our technology save us from an ancient force determined to cleanse the planet of the plague of humanity?

*****

Now to highlight and ‘tag’ some other writers for “The Next Big Thing”! In no order…

Product DetailsAndrea Baker – A great writer of paranormal fantasy, Worlds Apart’ – Leah, from deepest darkest Warwickshire! Check out her wonderful debut novel…

Leah knows that her mother died in a car accident when Leah was small and that her father, who used to be the gentlest dad in the world, has become increasingly controlling and occasionally violent. She also knows that her recurring dreams are telling her something more about how and why her mother died, and why her dad turned nasty, but they are becoming progressively more disturbing and confusing. When Leah meets Ben, she is excited to have a friend she can confide in and have fun with, but is he what he seems? The voice of Leah’s mother repeatedly tells her to rely on her instincts, but when Leah is run over in a freak accident and Ben’s family take over her welfare, are they protecting her or using her? And why would anyone, good or evil, bother with an ordinary girl just about to go to university? http://www.andreabakerauthor.com/
*****
Image of Lindsey J Parsons

Lindsey Parsons – A fantastic fantasy writer with a huge imagination! Check out her debut novel…

Product DetailsVortex is a fantasy romance novel aimed at the upper teen/young adult market. It is the first book in a trilogy called The Return of The Effra. Back cover description: On a night when prophecies stir, an outraged dragon vents his anger, Damian is ripped from everything he knows and Sam’s nightmares become real… Sam isn’t enjoying university life, she’s disillusioned with her course and having second thoughts about her future. It doesn’t help that she keeps having a scary, recurring nightmare and when she thinks things couldn’t get worse a creepy man follows her back to her room. Damian is unique, he has silver eyes, horns and wings, he is also being visited by a ghost girl. She looks so sad and frightened he feels compelled to help her, but the night he reaches out to save her from a dragon’s fiery breath he gets ripped from his life, his world, from everything he knows. Now it’s Damian who’s lost in an unfamiliar world that’s devoid of magic and full of strange monsters. His only connection with home is Sam who he recognises as the ghost girl. Sam has to put aside her fear and disbelief in Damian’s explanations about himself to try and help him find his way home. But in a world without magic is this possible? http://lindseyjparsons.wordpress.com/

*****

Product DetailsProduct DetailsProduct DetailsWill Macmillan Jones – A prolific razor-sharp wit and laugh a minute purveyor of comic fantasy. He makes Sir Terry Pratchett seem only mildly funny! Check out his latest novel, the third in his wildly hilarious and anarchic, The Banned Underground series…! http://willmacmillanjones.wordpress.com/

The Vampire Mechanic, the third book in the Banned Underground series, is a unique mix of fantasy and Terry Pratchett-style humor for the rock generation and their kids. Different from other comedic fantasies, it parodies the touring music scene, bureaucracy, taxation and with its tongue-in-cheek slapstick humor, witty puns and word games.

*****

Katrina Jack – An excellent writer of gritty urban fantasy. Land of Midnight Days (The Silver Flute Trilogy) available in Kindle Edition and soon to be released as a hardback! Check out her first novel…Product Details

What would you do if your life was filled with fear: hide, run away – or would you fight back?

In a city at war with itself, Jeremiah Tully already knows how to survive, now he must learn how to live. Mute from birth, of mixed race heritage and his only possession a charmed flute, Jeremiah tries to
discover where his remarkable talent as a musician will take him. http://kateannejack.wordpress.com

*****

Many thanks again to the lovely Debbie Young for tagging me! It’s been great fun and a real honour.

Please check out her websites: http://youngbyname.me/ & http://offtheshelfbookpromotions.wordpress.com/newsblog/