I was terrified that only crickets would show up for my book signing. Instead, I had a wonderful time talking to friends and selling books.
Having a small press book means a lot of the marketing and selling of your book falls to you. I love my publisher (Omnific Publishing) and they’ve done a lot to market and get my book “out there,” but I think the stories about having to hand-sell your books when you go with a small press are largely true. Then again, I’m not sure it’s much different for some books that are published through the mainstream press, based on people I’ve talked to that have gone that route. But I don’t have first-hand knowledge of that, so I’ll stick to what I know.
People love to meet authors. People love to buy signed books as gifts.
One of the best parts of the signing was selling multiple copies to the same person, as gifts for their teen nieces or daughters. Often they would buy a book or two, then come back 5-10 minutes later, having thought of another person they could gift my book to. I loved the enthusiasm, and also the idea that my book would find its way to the teen readers it was intended for (although many Moms and grandMoms were buying the book for themselves).
Part of this is finding your audience. Not everyone will love my book, because it is targeted to a certain kind of reader. It would be fabulous to write a book that appeals to everyone (and maybe I’ll do that someday), but most books will have a specific audience. And that’s okay.
It also takes time to reach that audience – time that could be spent writing the next book. Some people publish a book and spend a year (or more) hand-selling it through signings, book clubs, giveaways, interviews, etc. etc. I’ve done all those things, but I’ve had to make some careful choices about how much time to spend marketing vs. writing the next book(s). I’m in this for the long haul, so some time has to be spent on both. Even Scott Westerfeld – who has big publisher money and marketing behind him – spends a substantial amount of time touring his books and participating in the marketing effort. The writing has to take precedence (or there’s nothing to sell), but a reasonable amount of time has to be spent on marketing as well.
And it pays off in ways you don’t expect.
Most people came to the signings because they knew me and wanted to buy my book. Which is fabulous! But my first sale of the day was to an adorable elderly woman stopping by to get a cup of coffee.
I asked her, “Do you like love stories?”
She shyly said yes, she did.
“My book’s a love story, but it’s about young people in love.”
“Those are the best,” she said. “I’ll take one.”
Um, wow. That was easy!
The best tidbit came at the end of the morning signing. Two ladies were chatting over their coffee, and had obviously not come for the signing. I was packing up and decided I would leave a card with them, just in case they were curious. I handed them each a card and said, “I know you’re not here for the signing, but if you have a teen niece or daughter, they might be interested in the book.”
One of them looks at the title and says, “Life, Liberty, and Pursuit? I’ve seen this book before. Wasn’t it in Time Magazine?”
For about a nanosecond, I was tempted to say, “Oh, yes, that was me! Next week, my agent is going to have me on Oprah!” (note: I don’t have an agent)
Instead, I gathered my wits and smiled, saying, “No, I wish.”
“No, I’m sure I’ve seen it somewhere. It’s about a girl who falls in a pool and a Navy recruit, right?”
I was floored. She actually knew the plot. I have no idea where (hint: it wasn’t Time Magazine), but she had seen the cover before.
A similar thing happened over the weekend, when I was attending the regional SCBWI conference, and a fellow-writer I happened to sit next to in the break-out session recognized my name and knew I was the author of LLP. I had never met him, but he was a network rep for SCBWI and my book has been touring around on their portable display. He had checked it out and remembered my name.
So perhaps all those bits of effort to promote the book are slowly paying off. Perhaps it will find its audience after all. All I know is that having your book precede you among other writers and coffee shop patrons is a wicked cool feeling.
Norma and I are already talking about doing a Valentine’s Day Love-themed event.
But for now, back to the writing …