by Valerie Connelly
Bear with me for a minute while I provide some background for what I’m going to say about book signings. I learned a lot about people as a singer/songwriter. There is a rare communication that goes on between the performer and the audience that is magical, when it works. But, the patron who has paid for the tickets, and perhaps paid too much for the drinks, wants the entertainment to be meaningful and memorable. Always.
Once in my teens, I was singing in a local club, and the audience held two pa
ying customers and my parents. I was booked to sing two sets, so I sang them. When it was all over, the two people who had listened all evening, came up to me and let me know how much they had enjoyed my show. Lesson learned --- no matter the size of the audience, the show must go on.
Once in my twenties, I gave a concert. At 7:30pm, I peeked out to see who had arrived. Not a single soul had yet come to the auditorium. But, between 7:45pm and 8:15pm the hall filled to over-flowing, and that night, I sang to a packed house of two thousand people. And, we pre-sold 400 albums that were going to be made from the recording of the concert. Lesson learned — don’t worry, if they want to be there, they will come.
Once in my forties, I was booked for a three-night gig on Lincoln Avenue (Chicago). So, I told everyone I knew, put ads and announcements in all the local papers, got my publicist to write it up for the press. The first night I sang to a packed house. The second night about fifteen people came to the first set, twenty-five more to the second set, and by the third set, the house was full. The third night, only one person arrived for my show. So, remembering the first lesson from my teens, I sang my whole show for that one person. Call it practicing, call it foolishness, call it what you may, but with even one person, the show must go on.
So, here I sit, remembering the lessons I learned from my days as a singer/songwriter, and for you I want to apply these to the world of books.
Readers are an audience not very different from people who go to night spots for entertainment. They come to the bookstore looking for release — or escape — or information of some kind. When they arrive to find an author, or a group of authors poised with pen in hand to sign their books, their response is one of two — the reader either walks by pretending he can’t even see the table and the author, or he will glance furtively at the author, perhaps smile, and wonder if he’s supposed to say hello.
Something magical happens in that split second of recognition. The author has a very tiny window of opportunity in which to engage the potential purchaser and draw him toward the table. It takes the courage of a lion and the gentleness of a lamb to do this right. The author’s smile, demeanor, willingness to stand up in front of the table, instead of sitting behind it, with an out-stretched hand and a genuinely warm greeting,
“Hi, I’m ________________ (Fill in your name here) a local author, and I’m having a book signing today. Do you read ______________ (put your own genre here)?
Often the response mirrors the author’s advance. Sometimes it does not, but people are people, and some will be easily enticed to listen to your pitch, while others will listen, and then tell you no thank you and move on.
· Keep the pitch short and sweet, but ask a question at the end to get the person to reply.
· Then explain a little more about the book.
· Draw them in.
· Use humor and listen to what they say to you or ask of you.
· Perhaps they will sell the book to themselves. I’ve had that happen a lot!
What if only few people come to the store during your signing? What then? How do you make the most of the reduced audience?
· Remember the truth of the performer’s credo: THE SHOW MUST GO ON.
· So, smile, greet and win as many of the few customers as you can.
· Do not despair if you sell only a few books this time. Next time there is a good chance you’ll sell more.
What if the bookstore ordered your books and they didn’t arrive? Believe me, this can happen, and it’s tough going. BUT— remember, THE SHOW MUST GO ON.
· Be prepared.
· Print a few sheets of BOOKPLATES. Actually, these are just mailing labels with the cover of your book, and perhaps your publisher’s name and logo, and room for you to sign your name for the person.
· Talk with them as if your book is in your hand.
· Smile and share your reviews, which you have printed up to hand out.
· Let them know the books were delaying in shipping, but they can still receive a signed copy if they make their order on the day of the signing.
· Sign that book plate as if you are signing the book.
This is important:
· You must act as though your book is right there in your hand.
· You must make it real in the mind of the customer.
· This can work, and it will if you create the magic for the moment.
So, now, go out there, get your book signings, your book launches, your book tours all lined up.
Every stop along the way is a new opportunity. Some will be more successful than others. Some days it will be sunny, and some days it will rain. But, all in all, you drive the people to your table with your willingness to engage them, to entertain them, if you will, for those few moments they came into the store to find something good to read.Valerie Connelly is an author, publisher, radio talk show host and speaker. For more, go to http://www.nightengalepress.com/ to purchase her book CALLING ALL AUTHORS – How to Publish with Your Eyes Wide Open, (ISBN 1-933449-48-3 $19.95), and to learn more, go to http://www.callingallauthors.org/