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Author Topic: Setting up Booksignings  (Read 6107 times)

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Setting up Booksignings
« on: October 03, 2006, 12:46:26 AM »

Setting up Booksignings- Part 1, Before the Book Comes Out

From: Kathleen Taylor (ktaylor@xxxxx.net)
Date: Sunday, March 15, 1998 03:18 PM

Celia and others have asked about doing your own publicity and promotion. Since I am responsible for setting up all of my own signings and appearances, and as the veteran of 70 or so, I thought I'd share a tip or two about arranging booksignings.

Here's what you do several months before the book is even published:

1. Let every bookstore, newspaper, TV station and radio station in your area know about it. To find the names and addresses of these places, just use your phone book (or do a web search). Capitalize on being a "Local Author", play up your ties to the community. Each person will have to decide exactly what comprises "local". In my case, it is all of Eastern South Dakota,and adjacent portions of surrounding states. However,if you know of any out-of-area places that would be interested in your particular book (or CD-Rom, in Celia's case), notify them too. If you are going on vacation or attending a conference after publication, contact the media and bookstores in that area too. It is a good idea to call each individual place and ask to whom to direct your notices specifically- you'll get more mileage for your time and money if you address each letter to an individual. By the way, keep track of all phone calls (saving the phone bills will do), and postage costs, as well as office supplies since these are legitimate deductions come tax time.

2. Write your press release. You should have some idea what the cover of your particular book is going to be several months before publication, so scan your cover and use a small version of that on all of your correspondence (computers make that kind of art insertion really easy, and if you don't have your own scanner, copy places often will do it for you for a small fee). Your press release should state who you are, what you've written, what the book is about, when it's going to be published, how people can order it and all the stats (price, ISBN number, pages, publisher, etc). If appropriate to your publication, a little humor never hurts. You can either print each release separately, or you can have a bundle printed out (good home printers do a wonderful job of printing, and if you have a color printer, you can do a full color cover repro, which is a good eye catcher). If you have no artistic sense, ask someone who does to help you to create an attractive release. One side of one page should suffice, but printing on both sides of one page is also permissible. Goofy fonts are fun, but it's better to limit that sort of innovation in favor of readability.

3. Write a business like, but charming letter to each individual on your Press Release list. In this letter, introduce yourself again, and briefly describe your book, and mention that more information is available in the enclosed press release. Make sure to offer further information and personal contact if the recipient is interested (include your phone number, e-mail address, fax number if you have one, and also web page URL). Make sure to mention that you will be available for interviews and appearances. Depending on the outlet, offer a review copy- some publishers will supply review copies for you. If you have to pay for the review copies yourself, then be as selective as you can in your offers, but realize that your expense might result in many sales. Making sure your book cover is illustrated on the letter (and the envelope if you know how to do such things on your computer) is a good way to increase recognition.

4. It should go without saying, but make absolutely certain that your letter is grammatically correct. Double check the spelling of the recipient's name. Triple check all of your info (an erroneous ISBN number will cause a lot of trouble down the road). Don't skimp on the paper or the ink- good crisp paper and dark ink will make a better impression. Legibility counts.

5. Mail your releases. Don't worry if you don't get an immediate response. Don't even worry if you get no response at all. This mailing is just to lodge both your name and your book's title in someone's (anyone's) memory.

Caro and the other published writers here undoubtedly have other hints to offer. Please chime in.

Next Installment: Setting up the Actual Booksigning
« Last Edit: October 03, 2006, 12:51:55 AM by MysteryAdmin »
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Setting Up Booksignings- Part 2, Scheduling the Appearances
« Reply #1 on: October 03, 2006, 12:48:07 AM »

Conf: Publicity & Promotion
From: Kathleen Taylor (ktaylor@xxxxx.net)
Date: Monday, March 16, 1998 11:52 AM

It's a good idea to contact bookstores to schedule booksignings at least 2 months before your book is published. If your publisher provides promotional materials, you should have them by then (my publisher provides promo covers of the actual book, with the cover illustration on one side, and the book stats, info about me, info about my other books in the series, and some blurbs on the other). Not all publishers do this however, and you may want to pay to have postcards or some other promotional materials printed at your own expense.

1. If at all possible, visit the individual stores and introduce yourself before your book comes out. It never hurts for them to have a face to associate with your name and title. And it's always a good idea for you to have a personal contact at each store.

2. I organize my list of bookstores on index cards- one store to each card. I list the name of the store, address, phone number (and fax and e-mail if I know it) as well as the manager, Community Relations Coordinator (in the case of Barnes & Noble or other chain stores) or contact in the store. Have a calendar handy when you begin your calls.

3. Decide when you want to start your appearances. (This is more important than it sounds- booksignings will take up all of your time and energy for awhile).

4. If you have a personal preference or a store which has been especially supportive of your efforts, you might like to offer them the debut signing of your book. It adds a little publicity oomph.

5. Select an index card and call a bookstore. Ask to speak to the manager, or your contact. Introduce yourself, explain that you have a book coming out on such and such a date. And then ask if the store is interested in hosting a booksigning or appearance. I know, I know- this is difficult, but it's part of the job and you'll get used to doing it. If the store is not interested at that time, thank them politely, and put the store on the contact list for your next release. If you have any advance reviews of your book- quote the most glowing parts. If you have a track record (nominations for prizes, bestseller lists, blurbs from the literary and famous), bring that up too. This is not the time to be shy- blow your own horn. Far more often than not,the bookstore will be delighted to schedule you for an appearance.

6. If you are just starting to arrange your schedule and your dates and times are all open, let the bookstore suggest the timing of your signing. The store personnel will know best if weekend appearances draw better crowds than ones scheduled on weekdays. They know whether morning signings work out better for their customers than afternoons or evenings. They will also know if just plain signings are more popular than readings and discussions. If at all possible, go with their suggestions.

7. Settle on a date and a time for your appearance. Write the date and time on the index card. Write the date and time on the calendar. Reconfirm the date and time verbally(it is easy to write Thursday when you meant Friday, and it is even easier to write 1-3 when what you really want is 2-4).

8. Ask the store if they recommend any specific media outlets to contact. Often store personnel will have contacts at radio and TV stations. List each outlet on a separate index card. Offer to contact the media outlets in the area with specific information about the signing.

9. Thank the store and hang up. Repeat process with every store on your list. As your calendar fills up, you will be able to offer stores fewer and fewer options as to appearance dates, but sometimes that works out all right too (stores like to have people who are appearing in a lot of places because a "book tour", even a local one, is good publicity).

10. Watch the map and your calendar closely as you schedule your appearances. Try to group signings in any given geographic area to save on mileage and expenses. Be very careful not to overbook yourself- make sure you haven't scheduled signings 200 miles apart on consecutive days. In my case, most places prefer weekend signings, which means that each time a book comes out, I am on the road every weekend for 2 months.

11. Sometimes several bookstores are owned by the same person or company. Often if you schedule one booksigning in a single store, the company will request additional signings in their other outlets. Repeat the above process with them too.

12. Be sure to schedule some down-time for yourself. As much fun as it is to look at a full calendar of appearance dates, and as enjoyable as most booksignings are- they're still tiring and incredibly time consuming. Be also aware that it is very difficult to write and promote at the same time-spending all of your waking minutes thinking and talking about a book that you finished writing a year ago makes it very hard to concentrate on the book you are trying to write (and forget about housework at all).

13. Write a follow-up letter to each bookstore thanking them for scheduling your appearance. Confirm once again the date and time of the signing. If you are providing promotional materials to support your signing, enclose these with the follow-up letter. I always enclose several of the promo covers for the store to use on bulletin boards, etc. If you have a computer capable of inserting color images, make up 2 or 3- 8 ˝ " x 11" posters with the cover of your book which announce the date and time of your appearance. I also print up at least 50 business cards, each with the date and time of the appearance, a very small image of the cover, and a listing of my other books, which I enclose as hand outs for each store. If you have postcards or bookmarks or magnets or pens or any other promo hand-out materials, enclose them also.

14. Contact each of the media outlets applicable to each appearance. You can do this by phone, letter, fax or e-mail. Detail each appearance (date, time, specify whether it's a signing or a reading/discussion). If you have reviews or blurbs for your book- repeat them shamelessly. Offer review copies to those who may be interested. Offer yourself for interviews. Offer any further information they may need in order to write an article or do a profile.

15. If you have not heard from your media contacts after a week, make follow-up phone calls (rather than e-mails, faxes or letters) and offer your services again.

16. Don't worry if few of the contacts schedule interviews the first time around, especially if you are a first time author with little national publicity. Often as the time of your appearance nears, word of mouth and other local publicity will generate interest in your appearance and the media will contact you.

17. With further publications, the process becomes easier. Bookstores will know you, the media outlets will recognize your name, stores, libraries, book clubs, schools and organizations will ask you to appear. Writing is a hard business, but meeting fans is fun. Booksignings, especially well organized ones, can be great fun, as well as profitable for you.

18. And as a rule, your publisher will not reimburse your expenses- it's important to have a notion of the costs you will accrue with out-of-town (or out-of-state) appearances. And it is a good idea, once your schedule is set, to send copies of the schedule to your editor, agent and the publicity person at your publisher. You may not be reimbursed, but it is good for the higher-ups to know what you are doing on behalf of your own book. My publisher posts my signing schedule not only on their web site, but on Bookwire. If you have a web site of your own, post your signing schedule there. Send copies of the schedule to your local papers (sometimes they will print the entire itinerary). Send copies to relatives and friends and anyone else you can think of.
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Re: Setting Up Booksignings- Part 3, The Interviews
« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2006, 12:51:13 AM »

Conf: Publicity & Promotion
From: Kathleen Taylor (ktaylor@xxxxx.net)
Date: Tuesday, March 17, 1998 09:37 AM

Setting up Your Booksignings- Part 3- the Interviews

If at all possible, it is good to have a couple of interviews and articles available a few days before your signing just to pique interest. Most newspapers have a weekend "Arts and Entertainment" section which runs book reviews and author interviews the Sunday before a scheduled event. This means that the actual interview can take place up to 2 weeks before the signing. Radio stations will often do call-in interviews (where they ask you questions and you answer over the phone) several days before a signing. TV stations also like to film in advance so they can cut and paste your best responses into a short segment. But there will be times when you have to go on-air, live, the same day as your appearance. In all cases the procedure is the same (except of course for the built-in insurance of taped interviews, since they can be edited). Here's the drill:

1. You're going to be nervous. Period. No matter how many interviews you've done, no matter how well they went, no matter how confident you are in your material and yourself- you're going to be nervous. You will probably hate the sound of your own voice recorded. Get used to it- you're going to be doing interviews for the rest of your writing life.

2. A writer friend told me that the secret to giving a good interview is to speak as though you are not using rented lips. If you can't relax, then you'll have to learn how to fake it. Talking naturally is hard to do when you're concentrating on it- but there is nothing more painful than watching an extremely nervous individual being interviewed. Breathe deeply, talk slowly and clearly. Do your best to weed out the "ahs" and "ums" and "you knows" from your responses (also difficult, I know)(you know?). Try to speak in complete sentences.

3. If you are being filmed: sit still. Don't fidget, don't play with your hair, don't rub your hands together, don't pick at your clothes. Sit up straight, look straight at the camera (or at whomever is asking the questions- they'll tell you where to look), hold your head up high. Smile. Let your eyes crinkle, look as though you are having a good time (also difficult, I know). You don't have to wear a formal or a tux, and writers are generally known for being eccentric, but dressing neatly is probably a plus (I buy one Famous Author Outfit for each book, and wear it faithfully to each appearance).

4. Most interviewers are professionals. They know how to ask questions, they know how to lead shy interviewees into a natural sounding conversation. It's their job to make both of you look and sound good. Let them lead the questioning (though if you have a point you really want to stress about your writing, tell the interviewer in advance, so he or she can ask specific questions). Don't worry if the interviewer hasn't read your book- it's pretty rare for them to take the time (remember they do this for a living)- however, if you provided enough bio and book info, they can fake it well enough for you to fill in the gaps.

5. If at all possible, be funny. Nothing generates interest better than humor. Unfortunately, there's no way that "being funny" can be taught. You'll just have to wing it.

6. Don't swear. This is my particular fear- I'm not a dock worker, but my spoken conversation is occasionally salty, and during interviews (especially the really fun ones, where everyone is laughing and bouncing lines off each other) I am always afraid that I will slip an unmentionable word into the airwaves (not all radio stations use the 7 second delay- and live TV is just that). It hasn't happened yet, but I am on guard.

7. Don't bad-mouth your publisher. If you have a dispute with your editor, keep it to yourself. Not only is it bad manners, but you never know who is listening. Most publishers employ clipping services, so if you are quoted in a newspaper (even a local, low-distribution weekly) as saying something disparaging about your publisher, they will eventually find out. Ditto bookstores, reviewers, and other media outlets, and anything that can be perceived as an insult to the local listeners (traffic, roads, weather, lack of good bookstores, restaurants, night life….anything.) For the most part, it is wise to follow Thumper's Mama's advice: If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. It is okay to mention the difficulties of being published (my interviews generally touch on my unusual titles, and the fact that I was not able to keep the original titles on any of my books), but do your best to keep the tone light. Whining is really bad form.

8. Try to stay on-topic. Avoid religion, politics, and your own personal prejudices unless they are strictly on-topic. Nothing is more boring than a rant. And by the same token, nothing is more quotable than a nasty comment. Generally, you don't want to provide the sound-bite for the evening news (unless of course, confrontation is your stock in trade). It's probably not good to bad-mouth other writers either- for the same reasons as outlined above.

9. Somewhere along the line you are going to run into the Interview From Hell. It happens to all of us- you get a rookie interviewer who can't ask questions (or asks stupid ones)(yes, there is such a thing as a stupid question), who doesn't know what he or she is talking about, who misquotes you and gets everything wrong. Or you find yourself opposite a genuinely hostile interviewer, or worse yet, a completely indifferent one. If you are on-air, all you can do is get through the interview and try to forget it. If a newspaper gets the facts wrong, you can write to the editor to correct the mistakes. But mostly, you'll just have to let it go.

10. Somewhere along the line, you will say something stupid. And when you do, you can be assured that comment will be quoted correctly. If you have said something that can hurt someone else's feelings, apologize immediately (in public if you have to). Otherwise, let it go.

11. Newspapers often want to run a picture with their article or review . It is good to have a stash of b/w publicity photos (be sure to get a proper release for the photo, and credit the photographer in every instance). If you don't have a photo, the newspaper will probably want to take one. They invariably want you to smile and hold up your book in a way that you would never do in real life. I recommend getting a publicity photo.

12. Be thoroughly familiar with your own work. I know this sounds silly, but it's not as easy as you might think. By the time you do interviews for a published book, a whole year (and sometimes a lot longer than that) has passed since you finished writing it. You may have written another entire book in the mean time, and could even be working on another. In my case, I am touring for national release #3, checking the copy edited manuscript for #4, and trying to write #5. Believe it or not, after several novels, it is hard to remember exactly what happens in each. Work out a 6 sentence plot summary. Become comfortable with instant sketches of your own characters. Sometimes you only have 5 minutes to hook a listener's or reader's attention. The more enthusiastic and concise about your own work you are, the more interesting it becomes.

13. Have fun. Really, it is possible to enjoy interviews. If you come across as charming (and funny) people will want to meet you and buy your book.

14. No matter how the interview went, write a follow-up thank you note. Promise to keep the newspaper/radio/TV station up to date on your career. A good interview can spawn many more. While any publicity is good publicity, good publicity is the best of all.
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Setting Up Your Booksignings- Part 4- Preparing for a Reading
« Reply #3 on: October 03, 2006, 12:53:35 AM »

Setting Up Booksignings- Part 4, Preparing for a Reading
Conf: Publicity & Promotion
From: Kathleen Taylor (ktaylor@xxxxx.net)
Date: Thursday, March 19, 1998 11:21 AM

Setting Up Your Booksignings- Part 4- Preparing for a Reading

It may come as a nasty surprise that being published automatically qualifies you for public speaking. Though bookstores can opt for either a signing or a reading, depending on the preference of their clientele, book clubs, civic organizations, libraries, schools, writers' groups, and conventions will not invite you to sit at a card table for 2 hours just to write your name. You'll get to sign eventually, but they will expect you to entertain them first.

And unless you flat-out refuse to speak publicly (something I do not recommend), more than likely you've worked a few readings into your promotion schedule. Since some organizations will actually pay you to appear, it is a Good Thing (as Martha Stewart would say) to have a game plan in place before hand.

1. The most important consideration when selecting your material is the purpose of the group which invited you. A presentation tailored to an adult writing group will not be appropriate for a school. An elementary classroom will not be able to process the same material as high school students. Ditto civic organizations and book clubs. You can work out an all purpose "speech" covering the basics of your books and your road to publication (all audiences are interested in that, trust me), but it (and you) are going to have to be flexible enough to adapt to many different situations.

2. I've said this before: humor helps. If you've come this far, you must have some "survivor" stories to relate (bearing in mind the earlier cautions about bad-mouthing publishers and individuals). If your adventures have made friends and family laugh, they'll amuse an audience too. Horror stories about multiple rejections (we all have 'em), Booksignings (Interviews, Appearances) From Hell always bear retelling (both for the veterans who have "been there- done that", and the newbies who may think they are the only ones to have been treated thusly).

3. A reading is not just a reading. While you will certainly be expected to read from your own works, you will also have to discuss them, tell anecdotes and field questions from the audience. Depending on whom you are addressing, you can figure out in advance some of what will be expected of you, and prepare accordingly. A writers' group is going to be mostly interested in how you got published (and how they can do the same). Book clubs will want to talk specifically about your books. Schools will want you to stress reading and education. Get used to talking about these things off the cuff.

4. Each reading is different- but there are a few questions that are universally asked. You may as well work out answers to these in advance: Where do you get your ideas? How did you get started writing? Are your characters based on real people? Are you writing about your own life? What does your family (town, state, neighbor) think of your success? How long does it take to write a book? How many re-writes do you have to do before a book is publishable? Did you know anyone in the business? How do you do your research? How many hours a day do you write? How many books do you plan to write? Are you getting rich? (This last one might not be asked aloud every time, but take my word for it, Enquiring Minds Want to Know).

5. It might make you feel better to sit down and write out your entire talk in advance. Go ahead and do it. Read it out loud several times to adjust the rhythm and speed of delivery. Practice in front of family members. Look it over again and make any changes you feel necessary. Practice again. Then burn it. A speech that is read word-for-word is a boring speech. You can, however, record salient points on index cards for your own reference.

6. A reading is a wonderful opportunity to make a real connection with a large group of people all at once, so choose your reading excerpts carefully. You will probably want to make your presentation at least PG13 (if not G), but if you do decide to read spicy parts, or selections with "those" words, make absolutely sure you can do it without giggling or grimacing. Though many writers read an entire chapter, I prefer to read short pieces from throughout the book, interspersed with discussion and questions from the audience. Again, humor never hurts- choose the funny parts if you can. Fair or not, people who have read your books in advance will judge you by your writing. Fair or not, people who have not read your books in advance will judge your books by your presentation.

7. Since we're all mystery writers here, it is very important to understand that what you read out loud may constitute spoilers for the audience. Do your best not to give away any major secrets or clues in your presentation. Also be aware that the audience may not have read your book yet (or may not have read all of them)- so try not to give away any spoilers from previous publications either (this can be tricky at times, especially after you've written several mysteries). Your "confrontation and revelation" scene may be the best thing you've ever written, but it is not appropriate for a public reading.

8. Abridge your reading selections. Your time on-stage is limited, and you need to grab the audience with your words- there isn't time for leisurely digression and exposition. Cut as much as you have to to make your selection flow properly. If you are reading dialog, sometimes you will have to add an occasional "he said" or "she said" for clarification (unless you are very good at doing voices- which I am not). I never read directly from a published book- besides the fact that I usually can't bring myself to look inside my own books, my own words feel unfamiliar to me in that format. I always print out manuscript sheets of my reading excerpts (after all, that's how I first saw the story). Manuscript pages also allow for easy editing. I keep separate files of "reading excerpts" for each book. Since the loose pages can also get shuffled and lost easily, be sure to check the page count and order in advance to avoid embarrassment on stage.

9. Practice, practice, practice. Your reading excerpts ARE word-for-word selections that you will probably use at each and every appearance. The more familiar you are with them, the better your reading will be. The less you have to concentrate on the pages and the more audience eye-contact you have, the better your reading will be. The more comfortable you are with saying your own words out loud, the better your reading will be. Forget yourself- be the words.

10. Everyone loves freebies. If you have bookmarks, fridge magnets, pencils, or any other promotional do-dads, tote them along. If you routinely recommend joining groups or checking specific resources, make sure you have those addresses handy (I always have the address for the Association of Artist Representatives with me, as well as the URL that contains instructions for joining Dorothy L, the mystery discussion group). Plug your present and previous books, and if you know anything about your next book, plug it shamelessly too. And if people ask you whom you enjoy reading, plug those writers equally shamelessly.

11. Make sure that your books will be available at the reading. If you handle the marketing of your own books, you can just bring them along with you to sell. I am not allowed by contract to do any of the selling of my own books, so it essential that the organizers of the appearance arrange to have copies on hand. I always mention this proscription when the appearance is scheduled. If the host group is unsure how to go about arranging book availability, I always suggest that they contact a bookstore in the area. Bookstores are usually happy to order copies in and handle the sales- this way the members have access to the books, the bookstore makes a profit, and you garner additional sales.
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Re: Setting Up Booksignings- Part 5- The Signing Itself
« Reply #4 on: October 03, 2006, 12:55:56 AM »

Setting Up Booksignings- Part 5- The Signing Itself
Conf: Publicity & Promotion
From: Kathleen Taylor (ktaylor@basec.net)
Date: Thursday, March 19, 1998 02:01 PM

Setting Up Your Booksignings- Part 5
The Big Day

Well, here it is- the day you've been looking forward to/dreading since you started this process 2 months ago- Signing Day! Whether you're doing a Reading/Discussion or a straight Signing, the procedure is pretty much the same.

1. You're going to be nervous. Stage fright goes with the territory. Relax as much as you can. There's no getting around it, if you are an ordinary non-famous person, you are going to feel odd the first few times someone asks for an autograph. You'll get used to it.

2. Make sure you have a good pen, one that writes solidly and nicely and has plenty of ink. Each book has slightly different paper, so a pen that works well for one book will not necessarily work on another. Practice your signature until you have a fairly uniform way of signing. I have terrible handwriting, and people do not seem to be charmed by my illegible signatures. Some customers have even asked me to write my name again, so I do strive for neatness these days. If you have a stock clever inscription for your book, work it out in advance. Keep time constraints and aching wrists in mind- unless you have a very low-attendance signing, you won't have time to write your favorite limerick in each and every book.

3. Make sure you carry other essentials with you- a spare pen, a watch, breath mints, tissues, lipstick (for those who wear such stuff), safety pins (for just in case), business cards (if you want to hand them out), freebie handouts (if you have them), a comb, and anything else you might need for emergency fix-ups.

4. Give yourself plenty of time to arrive. Build in at least an hour leeway to allow for traffic problems or other unforeseen delays. Make sure you have the bookstore address and phone number with you (this sounds silly, but after you do a dozen or so signings, you'll sometimes forget where you're supposed to be and when). If you have a cell phone, it is also a good idea to take it with you so you can notify the store if you are going to be late (but you better have a reeeaaaaallllly good reason for being late).

5. No matter how early you are when you get to town, check in at the bookstore (or library, or wherever). The store personnel will be relieved to know you're there (sometimes authors are no-shows), and it will give you a chance to check out the lay of the land.

6. Spend the rest of the your free time shopping (or browsing in the bookstore), or any way that kills time but doesn't mess up your appearance (no wind sprints, for example). Also- go to the bathroom (I'm not kidding- you're usually expected to sit for 2 hours, and there's rarely a chance to excuse yourself). Check your teeth (for the obvious reasons). If you had onions and garlic for lunch, pop a few breath mints. Go easy on the perfume- a little can go a long way, and some people are allergic to scents.

7. Don't be surprised if the store has not made elaborate preparations for your appearance. Some stores will advertise, some won't, some can't. Some stores will decorate and print signs and put your name on the mall marquee (I've had stores put flowers on the table, order in balloons and serve cookies and juice). And some will set up a rickety card table in a corner and expect you to wing it. Some will have absolutely no idea what to do with you. You're going to run into all versions sometime in your writing career.

8. Exactly when you are supposed to appear, sit at your designated table (the store should provide a table and chair, of nothing else). If you have a sign with info about your books, place it on the table near you. Smile. Be prepared to explain who you are and what you write. Smile. Be prepared to direct people to the John Grisham books. Smile. Make sure there are piles of your book(s) on the table. Smile. Have your pen ready. Smile. Have a magazine or book handy to thumb through during the quiet moments. Smile. Be ready for people who will feel obligated to tell you they don't like your books and why. You don't have to smile, but you do have to maintain your composure.

8. This is the most important rule of booksignings: Don't take it personally if no one comes. If this is your first appearance in an area, or your first appearance at this particular store, or if this is your first book and you haven't had a lot of media exposure- people just won't know about you. Bad weather definitely affects booksigning attendance. Good weather also affects booksigning attendance. Local events affect booksigning attendance. A first appearance is a bonding experience between you and the bookstore. This is your opportunity to make friends with booksellers- the number of books sold during your 2 hour appearance is immaterial over the long run- it's the number of books hand sold before and after your appearance that really counts. In my case, there is a core group of stores that stuck with me from the very beginning, when we were lucky to sell 2 copies per signing. They are the stores that pushed my books when I didn't have a mainstream publisher, and they are the ones I contact first when I am scheduling booksignings. Our common memories of the "old days" make the100 book signings even more enjoyable. Unless the store personnel is rude to you (and that will happen sometime too), I am of the opinion that no booksigning, no matter how poorly attended, is a wasted effort.

9. As a rule, attendance will increase with each successive book. This is where radio, TV, and newspaper coverage really comes in handy. Word of mouth is also your friend. As with the above, there are no wasted interviews, and there is no number of satisfied readers too small to discount.

10. If you have a line-up of people, your contact with each person will be minimal. Always smile, always sign whatever the customer wants (some people want books dedicated to Mothers on their Birthdays, some will want you to write something goofy, some just want a signature. It's their book, they bought it, write what pleases them). Sometimes people will want to chat even when there is a line behind them- you might have to ask them to wait until you work your way through the line before continuing the conversation.

11. Some people will stop by with absolutely no intention of buying a book. As long as there is no line-up, I have no objection to talking to them for as long as they want (there are always future sales to consider). It is far less boring to talk to someone than it is to sit and twiddle your thumbs all by yourself. Believe it or not, some people will be too shy to approach you because you are a Published Writer.

12. You will have to decide exactly how much personal information you want to disclose to attendees. Believe me, you will be asked for your home phone number, your address, your editor's phone number and your agent's name. You will be asked to read manuscripts, you will be asked for introductions to your publisher. Some people will think you can get their manuscripts published for them. It is my policy to give out absolutely no personal information. I have not been asked by either my editor or my agent to serve as a recruiter. I have neither the time, nor the skill, to critique manuscripts. You may decide otherwise- it's up to you.

13. In many ways, a booksigning is like a speech- except in a speech you only have to say everything once. During a signing, you are apt to be asked the same questions dozens of times.

14. Be prepared for the weird comments from people who always wanted to write but just couldn't find time, people whose sister-in-law's cousin would be perfect for your next book, the serious reader who takes issue with your character's actions, the person who has a great life story for you to write as long as you split the money 50-50. You may be propositioned, you may be reviled, you may be completely taken aback by commentary about you and your books. Just try to smile and let it go.

15. At any signing or reading, there will be the Late People- the ones who sneak in after you've already begun to read, the ones who show up 2 minutes before you're scheduled to be done. At every booksigning, there will be several people who show up 15 minutes after you leave. It happens- you can't sign 'em all.

16. Signings end when they are scheduled to end (unless you have a long line waiting still). It is up to you to signal in a reading when the discussion part is over and the signing begins. No matter how enthusiastic and responsive an audience has been there can still be an awkward pause as the end of the presentation nears. To avoid dwindling at the end and to finish things up neatly, I always announce the end of my presentations by taking any last questions, and then reading a final (and specially chosen) short piece. If your audience is familiar with your books, it is really nice if you end with a teaser from your next book. After you adjourn to the signing table,the procedure is the same as above.

17. Offer to sign store stock when you are done. Most bookstores will be happy to have a few autographed copies on the shelves.

18. It's not absolutely necessary, but I always make it a point to buy a book at each booksigning- as a thank you for hosting me. I get a new book, the store makes an additional sale, and some writer somewhere gets another dollar.

19. Some appearances will be dull and some will be disastrous. But some will be magical. Writing is a lonely profession. You never know if you have completed your job satisfactorily until it's a year too late to do anything about it. Meeting fans and readers can recharge your batteries- it can remind you of why you became a writer to begin with. It doesn't matter if 6 people or 60 came, appreciation is appreciation. A fan is a fan, and all of them are important. Enjoy appearances- they're one of the perks.
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Bob Mueller
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