Anatomy of a Book Event

Saturday, I joined my prolific and bestselling YA author friend, Melody Carlson at Costco while she signed her books. If you’ve been to an author’s event lately, chances are you know that it’s a on-off type thing: mobbed one minute, lonely the next. I decided to observe her event and try to learn from it.
Writing Tip for Today: The pre-published dream of book events where lines snake around the block, readers fight over your books as if they were at a department store bargain table and everybody knows your name. The reality is, we hope, better than the poor author I once saw sitting alone at a card table outsideWalden Books. Here’s what I learned from my long-time pal Melody:

  • Reflect Your Theme. She was dressed a little bit country, which reflected the out-of-doors western theme of two of the books she was selling.
  • Catch Shoppers’ Eyes. She brought posters with books’ cover shots announcing her signing, and hung them on the sides of the table. Always bring your own tape!
  • Give Something Away. She gave away bookmarks. I think it’s getting rather crazy out there, with authors hawking jewelry, free trips and the like. But it is good to put something in the person’s hand, no matter if they buy or not.
  • Start a Conversation. When shoppers slowed down to look, she asked them if they liked to read, but did not pressure sell, except to suggest to men that they could get a book for a female loved one.
  • What’s In It For Them? She reminded shoppers that books make great gifts (they do!).

My observations:

  • Don’t Oversell. She’s a bestselling author, so she was understandably low-key, compared with my big gleaming smile and eye contact with every passerby.
  • Think Beyond the Bookstore. Costco is a weird venue to sign in, but they sell a lot of books.
  • Keep your sense of Humor. Mel told me the worst venue she’s ever signed in was a Wal-mart, where they set her table in front of the men’s underwear section. Awkward! But you’d better just laugh things like this off–because in the world of authors, if it can happen, it probably will.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

1 comment on “Anatomy of a Book Event

  1. I’ve done a few signings and they can be awkward! Having something to give away (bookmarks as you suggested) is a really, really, really good idea. (Did I say it was a good idea?) It gives you a way to initiate conversation. Out of five signings I have always managed to sell at least a couple of books, but I think you need to go into them with your eyes open. It probably won’t be like the ‘dream’ you described of line ups etc! Sometimes people go out of their way to avoid eye contact …

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