Thursday, July 2, 2015

What I've Learned from My First Few Author Events

Jennifer got the last copy at my first book signing ever.
I've been a published author for a little less than two months now, so I've had a chance to do my first few author events. I've done book signings at my local Deseret Book and Barnes & Noble, had a launch party at a popular independent closer to my hometown, and participated in a panel discussion at a nearby high school. Several people have asked me how those went, so I thought I'd put together a short list of things I've learned.

1. Foot traffic is your friend. The launch party was a more structured event, with a formal reading and question-and-answer period, so I didn't have as much of an opportunity to reach out to individual patrons. Also, the store was kind of out of the way, so they didn't get as many people who were just passing through. Structured events have their strengths--I could see a more established author doing really well in that environment--but I've found that I prefer the less structured stuff. I like being able to greet people as they come in and talk books with random strangers.

2. Stand, don't sit. These are few things less approachable than a forlorn author sitting behind a stack of books. There's something awkward about it that people naturally shy away from, so don't be that forlorn author sitting behind a stack of books! Stand up, stand out, say hi. The least they'll do is smile back and continue on their way, but they just might stop to chat.

3. Bookmarks break the ice. I know, I know, I get it--hand-selling your own book is one of the most uncomfortable experiences on the planet (though slightly less uncomfortable than sitting behind a hulking stack of them). A great way to break the ice is to have something small and inexpensive to hand out to the store's patrons. Bookmarks are the perfect something, since most of the people who frequent bookstores are, you know, book lovers. Now, some people will decline, but most people will take one, and some of those people will stop to ask what your book is about.

4. Be a guide, not a drill sergeant. So let's recap: When someone walks by in a bookstore, you smile, say hi, and offer them a bookmark. If they don't take it, you're done. But if they do take it, your pause and keep smiling your friendliest smile. If they walk away, you're done. But if they don't walk away, you tell them about your book. If they wish you luck and walk away, you're done. But if they don't walk away, they're probably about to buy your book.

In other words, it's like one of those old choose-your-own-adventure stories, but you're just the page-turner (or, more precisely, the instructions at the bottom of the page). You don't have to be pushy or obnoxious; you just have to give people a chance to keep reading the story with you. And some of them will. Then you'll finally get to take a seat so you can sign their book:)


Rebecca Gomez said...

Great advice, Krista! I've only done one book signing so far, but I can attest to the smiling and standing part. I look forward to doing more stuff like that.

I hope The Sound of Life and Everything is doing well. It is a wonderful book!

Megan Reyes said...

Thanks for sharing, Krista! Wow, I never thought about the awkwardness of just sitting down at your table of books. I guess that can seem intimidating. I love the bookmark idea. What a great way to get some conversations going. A choose-your-own-adventure story! Haha.

Is there anything you didn't expect about your book signings (good or bad)? Something that surprised you?

Leslie S. Rose said...

Congrats on your book!!! Great advice to skirt the unpleasant aspects of an event.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Thanks, Rebecca! We must be new authors, since we still look forward to doing author events;)

Great questions, Megan. I think I expected bookstores to be better guessers of how many books to order. We sold out the store's entire stock in half of the allotted time at my first signing, but I haven't even put a dent in the number of books the other two bookstores ordered. (I've learned that I'd much rather have a bookstore underestimate than overestimate, since I felt like a heel at those last two signings, leaving stacks and stacks of books behind as I walked out of the store.) And I've been surprised by how much I've enjoyed standing up and talking to people. I thought I'd want to greet a line of well-wishers, but there's nothing quite like hand-selling a book to a complete stranger.

Thank you, Leslie!

Rosalyn said...

I'm sad I missed your signing yesterday! But I do have a book for you to sign when I see you next.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

I was sorry to miss you, too, Rosalyn! But I look forward to exchanging books with you someday so we can sign each other's:)

Anonymous said...

yo this was helpful my kids love theses books