Monthly Archives: September 2012

Learning to Sign my own Name

I am happy to say I’ve done it. If I can just cross bungee jumping off my bucket list my life will finally be complete.

I’ve had a book published, and hosted a signing.

Now, due to popular demand – and by ‘popular’ I mean, like…three people – here is the process I went through to arrange and host my first book signing/launch party.

The most important thing, I found, was figuring out how to sign my own name.

I have been to several book signings, but all on the other side of the table. And every time I’ve seen an author – and I mean a real author, not a hack like me – write a little blurb to the reader and sign their name, it was always done with smooth flourish and professional ease.

Me? I had to practice so I didn’t screw it up.

Once that little feat had been conquered, the rest was relatively easy.

As I’ve discussed in previous posts, I was unable to have my book launch in a big name book store due to cost and circumstance, but I found a pub that was more than willing to reserve a bunch of tables for me, in exchange for the promise of bringing a couple dozen people through their doors to drink their beer and eat their food. This little event was a success for everyone.

I had about 40 to 50 people show up, and I sold 34 books; not quite the number I’d hoped for, but, I gotta say, it was a lot of fun. Friends and colleagues showed up, shook my hand, bought a few books, and listened to me talk about my story a little. We had a few beers, something to eat, and shared a significant quantity of laughs. One of my friends even got roaring drunk and professed his undying love for me.

Okay…that was a little weird, especially since my wife was there, but despite that a good time was had by all.

A few lessons were learned during the entirety of the process, however, and they may be of use to someone who might find themselves in a similar position in the near future.

First of all, before you order a large quantity of books thinking you’re going to have a big party in a book store in front of your adoring public, ask what the consignment rate is. Depending on how much it costs you to get your books in, whether you’re getting them from your publisher or having them printed yourself, it might not be viable to have the launch in a book store and you’ll have to find an alternate venue. A pub, I found, was a simple, easy, and readily available alternative. It didn’t cost me a dime, and the book signing led into a healthy party that made the event fluid and easy.

Second, make a realistic determination of how adoring your public is going to be, and then order books accordingly. One of my main advertising platforms was Facebook (because it’s free), and I had well over one hundred people confirm their attendance. Of those hundred that confirmed, about 15 actually showed up. The rest of the people who came did so through word of mouth, or personal invitation through other means. This isn’t a complaint, it’s just an urging to take a realistic look at your numbers before you bring in books. I brought 100 copies with me to the pub, and took two thirds of those home. There will be other venues and opportunities to sell them in the future, but I was a little disappointed.

Third and finally, have fun with it. If you’re launching your first book or your fifteenth, it really should be an enjoyable process, not an exercise in stressing yourself out and making the people around you miserable as they bask in the stench of your worry.

When you write you should be writing for you, telling a story that you want to tell because you’re compelled to tell it, not because you’re hoping to make a buck off the words you’re cranking out while praying that someone is going to want to buy it. I’ve been told that the average first Canadian novel sells approximately 90 copies; if that is the case then you cannot expect your first book to be lucrative. Exceptions will be made, of course, but averages don’t often lie.

Once I got past the stress and worry of buying the books, finding the venue, and coaxing people to come, I found it was actually really cool to share my book with the friends who came out to support me. It was not huge, but it was good.

Take the whole thing lightly, and it will be good for you too.

As long as you can figure out how to sign your name.

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Shameful Self Promotion

Me: “Hi, I’m a local author and I was wondering if you’d be interested in consigning some of my books.”

Bookstore Girl: “What does ‘consigning’ mean?”

Me: “Uh, it means I bring you some of my books, and you sell them, then keep part of the money.”

Bookstore Girl: “Oh. Are your books available anywhere else?”

Me: “My publisher is pretty small, so right now they’re just available on places like Amazon.”

Bookstore Girl: “Your book is about the Amazon?”

Me: “Uh, no. My book is about Mounties fighting evil in a small coastal town.”

Bookstore Girl: “Oh. So is it available anywhere else?”

Me: “…Is there anyone else I can talk to?”

I would like to be able to say I fabricated the above conversation, but that would be a horrid lie. Every word is true, and took place in small, local bookstore, and was just as frustrating in real life as it looked in text.

The reality of being a small author, with a small publishing house is that you are largely on your own for promotion and sales. As I discussed in a previous post, “The Long Road”, getting into a big chain bookstore, even for a launch, is somewhat costly and a little difficult. Getting into a small bookstore has not proven to be any easier.

The main goal of the author (and publisher), whether you are a massive name with a 50,000 copy print run, or a small-time fledgling with a 200 copy print run, is to get your books into the hands of readers. In my effort to do so – the process I like to call “Shameful Self Promotion”, I’ve run into a great deal of road blocks, and it has not been anywhere near as easy as I’d hoped. But, despite the roadblocks, there have been a few successes, and there are resources if you’re willing to look for them. Yes, this will require leaving the safety of your writing desk, and actually talking to people, but it’ll be worth it. Trust me.

In planning the launch I took the advice of my publisher, and several friends who had used such a method, and sought out a public venue to hold it in. This, I found, was extremely easy. I walked into a local pub, where my coworkers and I have been several times, and introduced myself to the serving staff, and told them I’d like to have a book launch in their establishment. When they learned I wanted nothing more than some space to set down some books, with enough elbow room to sign a few copies, and would be bringing a couple of dozen people who would eat their food and drink their beer, they became very enthusiastic about the prospect. They reserved a space for me without hesitation, and put up some advertising on their facebook page.

That done, I didn’t feel quite so bleak.

Once the book launch was set, I knew I needed to get the word out to more people. I have a facebook page (with a separate author’s page), as well as a website, and this blog. But, all that said, the viewing traffic is not substantial, and, between my publisher and myself, the event advertisement would only be seen by a thousand people, at best. Out of those thousand people who see the event, I figure I can realistically expect about 2% to attend. I had to figure out a way to generate some more traffic.

We’ve all seen reviews of books in newspapers, and that seemed like a ridiculously good idea. I emailed several publications, offering to send them a copy of my book if they were willing to review it. I have, so far, been ignored by the really big papers, but I got a reply to my email from a local guy the same day I sent it. He didn’t do reviews, he advised me, but would be interested in doing an interview with me, if I had the time.

Once I’d finished dancing about and frightening my wife I said I’d check my calendar, but was pretty sure I could squeeze him in.

The interview was not a grand affair, but he asked me a bunch of intelligent questions and snapped a few pictures to put a piece in the paper, which will come out in a couple of days.

There are levels to the publishing industry, I am finding. The people who are on the higher levels, like the big, nationally syndicated newspapers, likely won’t have time for the local author whose sales can be counted without the removal of your shoes. But, the local papers are accomodating, and fairly helpful, if you’re willing to put in enough hustle to actually reach out to them in the first place.

Since I’ve made the decision to start taking matters into my own hands, and being the master of my own publishing destiny, I’ve found there are numerous in-roads you can take, as a small, fledgling author. You just have to be willing to talk about work with anyone who will listen. Email the papers, look for local festivals and conferences who are willing to talk to small print writers, doing anything you can to get your name out there, and your books in the hands of people who will want to read them.

As we’ve discussed before, this is a long road, but it is passable. You just have to be willing to get off your ass and start walking.

Stay tuned, there will be more.

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