By Paula Margulies
In a recent post, I described some tips on how authors can build audiences at bookstore signings. Here are a few more suggestions, based on some of my clients' experiences:
Hit the Malls
Candy Davis, who manages the B. Dalton Bookseller at the Los Angeles Mall, doesn't have room for a signing inside her store. But she loves to set up authors at a table right outside the door, especially during the noon-time rush. "We get all kinds of business professionals at the mall during the lunch hour," she says. And those professionals are interested in meeting authors and buying books. Melissa Wiles at Borders Express Tower City in Cleveland, Ohio, has the same situation in her store. "I set up my authors outside in the mall walkway," Melissa says. "It's a great way for them to be seen." Melissa also hosts an annual book signing table during the holiday season. She invites seven or eight authors to come and sign during one of the busiest times of the year for book buyers.
If you don't have a lot of friends and family to call on, consider partnering with another writer for a joint signing. Perhaps you're a fiction writer with a story about a baseball-loving detective. That non-fiction writer you know with a book about coaching in the minor leagues might be just the person with whom to partner. You'll bring your friends and acquaintances to the signing, and he'll bring his. And the book store manager will love you both for helping to sell two books at one event.
Consider Holding Your Own Low-Cost Book Tour
I've heard about one writer who takes his annual vacation from his day job in the summer and uses those three or four weeks off to create his own book tour. He packs his wife and kids in the car (along with lots of copies of his book in the trunk) and schedules stops across the country with friends and relatives. At each town he visits, he prearranges bookstore signings and also gives talks at public schools, libraries, and universities. He stays with his friends and family, so he doesn't pay for high-priced hotels, and the folks he stays with help get the word out about his signings and talks.
Promote on the Cheap
If your budget is thin, there are inexpensive ways to promote your signings. Create your own flyers and post them in super markets, college student centers, and community libraries. Email the same flyers to your friends and family and reward them (maybe with a complimentary copy of your book?) for passing the word along. List your signings in free event calendars on newspaper and magazine websites and on announcement sites like Craigslist. Mount printed posters of your book cover on foam core and send these to bookstores for in-store promotions. Give the owners at speaking venues your printed giveaways (bookmarks, postcards, business cards, magnets, etc.) to hand out to customers and guests. And finally, if you're lucky enough to have a friend who's gifted at walking up to people and convincing them to come and hear you speak, ask him to work the room the next time you're scheduled to sign. You could even consider offering him a percentage of your sales. It might be the best money you ever spend.
Paula Margulies is a book publicity and promotions expert in San Diego, California. You can reach her at email@example.com, or visit her website at www.paulamargulies.com.