HOOKING READERS AT BOOK SIGNINGS
5 HOOKS AND A NARRATIVE By Rolynn Anderson
(What I talked about in the Nov.18 chat room and more!)
I’ll be presenting this information, with visuals, at the InD’Tale Writers’ Conference in Sept. 2015, in Palm Springs, CA
DO YOUR HOMEWORK:
a. Examine your book(s) for connections to your audience: Setting, Character, Theme.
b. Get reviews; develop a street team!
c. Decide on/buy/make swag for incentives. Make them conversation-starters with potential readers
d. Join local groups including writers groups (From Kiwanis to Sisters in Crime)
e. Begin canvassing your local area for events and venues (from bookstores and wineries to art fairs). Make friends with these people
f. Pick times in the venues and time of the year/season when the traffic is highest.
g. Ask friends to help you: taking money for you, organizing the signing line, and asking buyers for e-mail addresses
h. Prepare sound bites…have a list of these on a postcard (example: some interesting research you did for the book)
i. Decide on how you want to sign each book (write down correct spelling of names on separate page before you sign the book)
j. Have pens, ‘signed by author’ stickers, bookmarks or postcards to insert in each signed book, stands for books.
k. Write a signature speech, an entertaining, interesting and persuasive thirty-minute talk about you and your work. Practice it, time it (allow time in the middle for questions), test it, revise it and practice it some more. Offer to speak to groups and sell your books at those events.
l. Write a motivational speech, one which entertains and inspires. Groups will ask you to speak…you will sell your books at the event.
HOOK #1-BOOK SIGN WITH BUDDIES.
Gather other authors with you or other artists. Pick a bookstore that also has lots of gifts for the patron to buy; or a winery where the customer can sip on wine while she considers wine gifts as well as your book. I organized a six-artisan event, free in a fitness center, in early November. A jewelry-maker, painter, sculptor, Christmas decoration maker, a baker, and me. We offered wine; people shopped for Christmas gifts. On Dec. 6, I’m signing at a local winery-pushing the ‘local’ angle…local writer, local wine charm maker (a friend of mine) and local wine maker
HOOK #2 – PROVIDE INCENTIVES TO THE CUSTOMER AND THE STORE OWNER
Allow the store or winery owner to make a dollar or two off each book you sell, and/or offer a contribution to a charity. You’re bringing customers into the store…that’s a HUGE incentive for the store owner. Remind her/him! Offer a swag that peaks the customer’s interest about the author and the book-and impresses the store owner. (Dead Body Cookies –offered by my friend who writes humorous murder mysteries; waterproof mini-notebooks-I offered these)
HOOK #3 – ADVERTISE, ADVERTISE, ADVERTISE! (In all the right places)
-word of mouth
HOOK #4 – PLACE YOUR SIGNING TABLE WHERE THE ACTION IS, then don’t sit down behind a table (unless you're signing books). Instead, stand up at the side of your display, swag in hand. Introduce yourself! Explain that your books are in print or on Kindle, Nook, I-Tunes. Be sure you honor readers who prefer to download their books.
HOOK #5 – ENGAGE with each person whose book you’re signing; focus on that person only. Ask for an e-mail address so you can tell her/him about your next book. Encourage the reader to review your book.
HERE’S MY STORY:
My Petersburg, AK, book signing was a big success. Now, I realize that luck is a HUGE factor in a book signing. My June 5th event in Petersburg, Alaska, happened to be a lovely sunny day. Would I have sold 53 books if it had been snowy or rainy? Maybe not. Still, we control what we can, and below I describe how I organized my signing.
We all know how to use hooks in our writing, so this concept should be easy to grasp. Even while you’re writing the novel, think about the ways the story will grab people. I set LIE CATCHERS in the town of Petersburg, Alaska, where 3,000 people, mostly focused on fishing, reside. Norwegian men came to fish in Alaska in the early 1900’s. Some married Haida or Tlingit women. Chinese used to work in the fishing canneries. Are you seeing the hooks? Alaska. Petersburg. Fishing. Norwegian. Haida. Tlingit. Chinese. Fishing. Fish canneries. Yes, these are tags and labels you can use in your blogging, tweeting and facebooking, but they also inform you how to get people to come to your book signing.
By now you all know that I’m a boater and a fisherwoman. In a town like Petersburg, these features make me more accepted. The fact that our boat, INTREPID, is a trawler, that looks ‘salty,’ like a fishing boat, helps. All the better to hook Petersburg readers by mentioning these factors, showing a picture of the boat, fish I’ve caught, etc.
More hooks? The book is a mystery/suspense, spiked with romance. The biggest hook? In LIE CATCHERS, I try to solve a 1932 cold case murder of a real-life prominent Petersburg citizen, Sing Lee. Readers were intrigued by this concept more than any other tease. I knew I had to focus on this hook.
Something free? Another big hook. I gave out waterproof mini-notebooks, much like the one found in the back pocket of a murdered man…in LIE CATCHERS. Waterproof in rainy Petersburg? Oh yes…a great come-on!
HELPERS. I learned early on that my book hooks snagged helpers. A well-loved marina harbormaster became my ally because she is a Petersburg history buff. One of her summer assistants is a history teacher at the high school. He bought my first novel for his wife, and encouraged me with names and phone numbers of townspeople who could help me learn about the town’s past. I made friends with a local gift shop owner whose grandparents were Norwegian and Tlingit. In a chat with her husband, I was given the term “Tlingwegian,” a word that had never been used in print. I hooked the store assistant, Polly, too. All these people became invested in my novel even before I wrote it. In turn, I was motivated, not only to write the book, but to be as careful as I could with my research…the non-fiction part of my novel.
MORE HELPERS. I decided early on to connect a boat rendezvous in Alaska with my books signing. About two hundred men and women with Kadey-Krogens, a brand of trawler my husband and I own, got my e-mail that I was pairing a mini-rendezvous in Petersburg, Alaska with a book signing. When my book was released in April of 2014, these folks were already interested in my book, Petersburg, the rendezvous….all the hooks were enticing them.
HAILINGS. Enough helpers must read your book to spread the word it’s a novel worth reading. I started this process early on, when my novel went free. I let boaters know about the free days along with my new friends in Petersburg. When the reviews came in (I’m up to 38 reviews thanks to the Kindle free days), I was helped further. The harbormaster in Petersburg read my book and told others it was a worthy story. This prompted an inquiry from a writer for an on-line newspaper. She interviewed me on the phone, wrote a neat article, and became a friend. Now it was time to call the bookstore in town and set up a date and a time for the event. Side note: It’s crucial to pick the right place for a book signing. This particular bookstore has cool gifts along with lots of fiction and non-fiction. Even more important, it’s called SING LEE ALLEY BOOKSTORE…and if some of you remember, it is the murder of Sing Lee I try to solve in my novel. I find out that a 80 passenger National Geographic excursion boat docks in Petersburg at a certain time…the bookstore owner and I know they stroll down Sing Lee Alley and some will stop in at the bookstore, so I set the book signing to favor their attendance. What’s more, I hail (by e-mail), that particular boat and tell them about the event and a free-to-all-who attend mini-notebook (waterproof!). To come were decisions about how the books got to the book store and the profits the bookstore and I make on each book. I made posters and sent them to the bookstore owner and my new on-line newspaper friend…along with the gift to each of a print version of LIE CATCHERS.
It’s a month before the June 5th event, and I’m working the publicity...using the buzz on Twitter and Facebook as well as on my loops. I decide to take a virtual crew on board to share in the experience, which proves to be fun for me and the crew.
I get to town and tack up more posters. I meet with my friends from Petersburg and the boaters, many of whom have read my books. I’ve put a poster on my boat’s window, so I’m selling books on the dock. Boaters are spreading the word along with the harbormaster. I do a radio interview that blasts all morning of the book signing. I’m interviewed by the newspaper, whose morning edition carries the details about me and the book signing. People in town are beginning to chat with me about the book and I’m selling copies to people in restaurants and coffee shops even before the event. Now I’ve got helpers everywhere!
Profit margins. I brought my books to the bookstore, so with shipping, I’d already paid $9 for each book. We agreed to sell the books for $15. The bookstore owner would earn $2 off each book; I’d earn $4. Since my giveaway mini-books cost me about 70 cents apiece, my profit was in the $3 range. I didn’t bring enough books…I’ve learned to overestimate. I should have had 50 LIE CATCHERS and at least 20 each of my other titles. I’m having more books sent to me via General Delivery in Sitka, AK, but it’s too late for me to sell more in Petersburg.
HAULING IN THE BOOK BUYERS
SUBTITLE: BRING OUT THE EXTROVERT IN YOU!
I had to be firm with the bookstore seller about where I should sit. She wanted me to sit outside since it was such a nice day. I knew I needed to sit closer to where she’d be at the counter/register. That way she and I could interact as we chatted up the customers. Many men and women came specifically to buy my book, but one third of the people who bought my book were unaware of the signing. I had a chance, while they waited in line to buy other things, to give them a mini-notebook…and most ended up buying my book!
Another important tip. Avoid sitting and waiting. Stand up and hold out your ‘free’ gift to people, which must feature your novels, and explain what you write. 50% of the time, these folks will buy a book.
Have a sheet of paper ready for e-mail addresses in case people want to hear when your new book comes out.
When people ask you to sign a special name, write the name down on a piece of paper and check the spelling with the customer before you put pen to the pristine page.
And always say: If you enjoy my book, I’d love for you to say so on Amazon. Reviews help authors!
I hope there’s something in this narrative that helps you on your next book signing. I know I’m revved up to organize a signing in my California hometown, now that I’ve done my first bookstore event. I wish you success with yours. Please tell us what you've done to make your book signings successful.