Writers, I know you think book signings are pretty much a waste of time. But maybe you need to re-think how you do them.
Here’s the typical scenario: you sit behind a table in a bookstore with a stack of books, hoping someone will approach you, and wondering whether to make eye contact. Many times you do make eye contact, or try to, but it’s a rare bookstore customer who will come right up to your table and ask you what you’ve got. At the end of the day you’ve made maybe five sales.
Let’s redraw that scenario using advice from best-selling author Reid Lance Rosenthal, who spoke at a convention I attended recently.
Get rid of the chair. Stand in front of the table. You will not be sitting but roaming around buttonholing people. No longer is the table a barrier between you and the people you want to reach out to.
Address every person who walks in the door of the store, unless you are occupied talking to someone else. You want to sell each person on your book, building a circle of people who will recommend it to their friends. From that circle comes a wider circle as the word goes out, and eventually your book can achieve wide recognition. All from your bookstore signings.
What will you say? You will ask a rather general question that will draw them over to your table to take a look. Make a list of five or ten possible questions ahead of time. When one doesn’t seem to be working, try another. Examples from Rosenthal: Are you a historical fiction fan? Are you a romance fan? Are you a fan of cultural diversity? (The most effective question for a particular store audience isn’t something you can guess correctly. So experiment.)
Once the person says “yes,” you give an elevator pitch and lead the person over to your table. You give the sales pitch, similar to what’s on the back cover copy. Hand the person a copy of the book, look her or him in the eye, and say “You need to read this book.” Don’t be bashful.
Speaking of bashful, how is an introverted writer supposed to buttonhole people?
1. Realize that if you don’t do it, no one will. You’re the one who loves the book and is invested in it. This book audience should contain plenty of people who will like your particular book. Your job is to inform them.
2. If you have to, follow agent Terry Burns’ advice for a shy person in the public square: put on a hat or other prop, and in your mind adopt a persona, a non-shy person you can pretend to be. Remember, you are the brand. Dress the part.
Once you get this down, you will find that you can schedule book signings every day and sell plenty of books at each one.
- Keep moving. Don’t sit down.
- Ask a question of everyone walking in the door (or out the door).
- Hand prospects a book, look them in the eye, and say, “You need to read this book.”
Rosenthal uses this as the cornerstone of his sales program. Just since 2011 he has built a huge business writing and selling his books. Last year he sold 6,000 books in 48 signings. In fact, if you go to his website, you see that he schedules a book signing for just about every day. Usually he goes to the same store two or three days in a row. http://threadswestseries.com/book-signings/
We all need to take note of his methods because they work!