By Paula Margulies
I was heartened today to see that Success Magazine has listed Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle as one of its American Comeback success stories (www.successmagazine.com), especially since a number of my clients have appeared there over the years. One of the reasons for the Elliott Bay Book Company's success is that the managers there, like many other booksellers who are struggling to stay alive in the current economic climate, have realized that hosting author appearances is a great way to get people into their stores (and to sell books).
Although in recent years many booksellers (and even some of the larger libraries) would not consider shelving books by self-published authors, the changes in the industry have forced them to reconsider. This is good news for authors and their publicists: it's now much easier to place both traditionally published and self-published authors in stores for signings, especially if they have written books that appeal to niche audiences or have compelling and/or newsworthy platforms.
Because of the enthusiasm booksellers are beginning to showing for author events, and because there's a good chance that more brick-and-mortar stores will go by the wayside in the future, authors should seriously consider doing a book tour now. Bookstore appearances provide authors with a vital opportunity to network and connect with readers. They also give booksellers a chance to meet authors directly and learn about their books first-hand, so they can promote those books to store customers when the signing is over.
There are some changes in the way bookstores handle author signings that are worth noting. Many independent booksellers are beginning to charge admission fees for author events. Generally, these fees are nominal (usually in the $10 range) and can be applied toward the purchase of a book. And others require that publishers and/or authors pay co-op fees (typically between $100-$200), to help offset the store’s promotion costs, including designing and sending eblasts, printing posters, drafting releases for local media, staffing, and clean up. While some consider these requests controversial, the decision to agree with admission and coop fees is entirely up to the publisher or author and is something to be aware of when booking events.
For those authors considering appearing at bookstores (and, again, I encourage all authors to do so before more brick and mortar stores close), here are a few tips on how to best reach out to booksellers:
Start with a good publisher
Avoid known vanity presses and be sure that your publisher is able to provide your book through the distribution channels that booksellers use to buy books (these include distributors/wholesalers like Baker & Taylor or Ingram).
Be professional in your approach
Show that you respect a bookseller’s time by being professional and courteous when you call. When phoning a bookseller, try not to waste time with small talk (avoid empty phrases such as, “Hi, how're you doing?”). Instead, tell whoever answers that you are an author interested in appearing at the store and ask to speak with the person who handles events. When that person is available, introduce yourself, state the name of your book and the ISBN number, and tell him or her what you’re looking for (a reading, a formal talk, a general book signing, a meet and greet, etc.). If there are specific dates when you’ll be available, have those in front of you so you can provide the information quickly. Be ready to describe your niche/audience and how many people you think you can bring to your event. If you’re offered a date, follow-up with a confirmation email message, so that the manager has all of the relevant info about your event in writing.
Many booksellers can’t afford to pay for shipping on books that they know might be returned. Be willing to bring books if a bookseller doesn’t want to order from the distributor or publisher. Negotiate for a percentage of sales (I’m seeing many booksellers be very generous with their terms, with some even allowing the author to keep all proceeds and decide themselves what percentage to offer the store).
Also, be flexible about dates and times for appearances. The bookseller will know the best times for traffic in the store, so go with his/her recommendation for your signing.
Target cities where you know people
The idea is to bring a crowd to the store, so unless you’re a celebrity or a known author with a following, try to book in places where you have friends or family who can help build an audience for your event.
Help drive traffic to your event
Offer to provide promotional material (standing posters, bookmarks, giveaways, etc.) to those booksellers who are willing to set up a display in their stores. Also, be sure to offer to contact local media, including print, radio, and television, a few weeks prior to your event.
Be courteous and memorable
Show up on time and do your best to provide a well-thought out and rehearsed presentation. Be courteous to those who take the time to attend your event; even if only one or two show up, give them your best presentation –- you never know what connections those individuals might have that can help spread the word about you and your book. And always bring extra copies of your book in case you have a higher turnout than expected.http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif
Use the event as a marketing tool
Advertise your event on all your social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter,Goodreads,etc., and be sure to write about it afterwards. Take photos and post them on your web and blogsite.
Be sure to take the time to thank the bookstore managers and staff for hosting your event. Collect business cards and/or take note of the names of all the staff members who help out at your signing, and be sure to mention them in your thank you note.
Paula Margulies is a book publicity and promotions expert in San Diego, California. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit her website at www.paulamargulies.com.