The local bookstore signing – something every author wants and yet few know how to handle. We talked to a bookseller, let’s just call her Bookseller X, to find out how to make a local event work…and keep your local booksellers happy.
It’s finally happened, your book has been published, and you’ve managed to set up a signing at your local bookstore. Congratulations! You think publishing was the tricky part? You’re only just getting started. Here are some things to think about as you get ready for your Big Day:
1) We are investing in you. Invest in us!
When a bookstore agrees to host a reading/signing for you, it’s more than just slotting you into a schedule: it’s an investment. We are agreeing to invest both time and money into you and your book by ordering in copies, giving them prime shelf-space, using staff time to plan and execute your event, etc. So invest right back! Use your own list of contacts to help bring people in. If you’re willing and able, help out with promotional materials like posters or flyers, or maybe even refreshments at the event. Local author events are at their best when the authors have invested in them just as much as the bookstore has.
2) Don’t spread yourself too thin.
More is better, right? In terms of events, this can be dead wrong! You may be tempted to pepper your area with signings and readings, trying to get the most exposure you can. But keep in mind that unless you’re in a huge metropolitan area, you may just be handicapping your own events. Most cities only have so much of an audience for author events, and if you have too many too close together, attendance and sales will suffer for it. Some bookstores will require that, if you are to be hosted at their store, theirs is either the only or the first event. It’s not because we’re greedy, I promise! Rather, we want to have the best event we can (see #1!), and if you’ve already signed at two other bookstores plus a couple of Costcos, it’s not likely to go well.
3) Please don’t second-guess the bookstore.
We know you want to sell a ton of books. And maybe you’re doing #s 1 and 2, investing in your event, making sure that it’s a big launch, calling each and every person in your high school yearbook, inviting your entire extended family including third cousins twice removed. Make sure your bookstore knows exactly what you’re doing to help out, and then, step back. Over the years we’ve come to know our stores and our events, how many people to expect, how many books to order, how many staff to have on hand, what kinds of formats work best for which kinds of books. It’s our job, after all, to make sure events go well! If you think your bookstore is underestimating your event, then the best thing to provide them with are facts: How many people did you invite? How many did you hear back from? What organizations are you connected with that might provide big crowds? Are your friends big spenders? Are your family coming to buy every book they can get their hands on? Let us know, by all means! But don’t expect us to necessarily change our orders or logistics, and don’t be offended if it doesn’t happen. It’s our job to get it right; trust us!
4) Stay calm; do not panic!
The big day is approaching, there are a million little things that could go wrong, and you’re up every night dreaming about them. Take a deep breath, and remember: it’s our job to get it right! Your event manager has probably not only thought of each and every one of those million little problems, but dealt with 99.99% of them. You’ll probably be tempted to call or email (possibly several times a week, if not several times a day–yes, this has happened) each time you think of a new disastrous possibility. Don’t! If you can’t resign yourself to trust your bookstore, then try this instead: start a running list of things you’re worried about. Put down as many things as you can think of. Give yourself time and permission to get a really good list going. Then, let it sit for a day or two. Take another look. Is it really likely that a plane will crash into your signing? Probably not, cross that one off the list. If you feel like you have legitimate concerns, concerns you’ve thought about and considered, then send your event manager an email detailing them. Just one. Yes, an email, not a phone call! Not only is it less intrusive, but it allows your event manager to consider it at their leisure, when they have time to focus on it. Don’t demand answers or immediate action, but rather put it out there for their consideration: “You’ve probably already dealt with/thought about this already, but I was a little concerned that…” Chances are you don’t need to worry about any of it. But if you absolutely can’t let it go, try to make it as easy for the event manager to understand and respond as possible. If you call five times in three days, or if our email boxes overflow, you can bet we’re going to be more frustrated than receptive!
5) Enjoy your big day!
Let go of any expectations, worries, hopes and fears. If you’ve done 1 through 4, then you’re bound to have the best event you can expect, be on good footing with your local bookstore, and give your book a nice bump!