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BOOK SIGNINGS AND BOOK TOURS

Now that we've covered some tips about how to get on a show and what to do once you're there, let's cover booksignings. Anytime you're going to be in a city for media opportunities, it's worth your time to plan a few booksignings as well. The top fifteen cities with the best book tour results and media coverage tend to be New York, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, Nashville, Kansas City, Dallas, Atlanta, St. Louis, Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, Seattle/Tacoma, Tampa and Las Vegas. The least favorite cities of professional PR people include Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Denver.

Let me be frank for a moment, the days of doing a behind-the-table, grin-and-sit-there booksigning are over. Most larger chain stores are looking for authors that will give a talk or demonstration. Be aware that booksignings are not designed to sell books! The bookseller doesn't expect you to sell a lot of books, they are using you as a special event to please their customers as part of their customer service program. That said, would you like to know the backdoor into getting your book in a Barnes and Nobel? The Community Relations Coordinator or CRC at you local B & N is a gold mine. They are the people who usually set up booksignings and events for the store.

Even if you think a booksigning is something you don't like to do, a good association with the CRC can make sure your book is bought by the local stores and after a "good booksigning" suggested to the national headquarters for additional consideration in other markets, according to a CRC for the company.

Here are some general tips for making your relationship with the CRC a good one:


  1. Respect their time. Be considerate by limiting the length of your phone calls.. Make sure you get to the point quickly. Always fax and send support materials immediately. If you send a book be sure to mark it REVIEW COPY so it doesn't end up on the shelf.

  2. Offer your help. When suggesting a booksigning to a CRC do the foot work for them. Offer the store an interactive event. Plan a talk of about 15 minutes to a half hour with a question and answer period. It can be on anything from plotting to time management for writers. Whatever it is, make sure you have details to suggest to the CRC. Decide how the chairs would be best arranged (circular or theater-style, etc.) and what refreshments you could bring. Write a one-page press release that you could send out to local media, calendar editors and any groups you are involved with. Suggest a few display ideas that you could set-up to drive interest.

  3. Be responsible for the publicity. Once you've secured a booksigning, get out there and tell people about it. Make sure the CRC has an 11x17 poster of your book cover (which you can get made at a copy shop) and offer a blurb for the in-store newsletter which details what you will be talking about and mentions refreshments will be served. (You can raise attendance by more than 30% with something as simple as cookies.)
    Ask the CRC for extra newsletters to send to your mailing list or give him or her your labels for the newsletter mailing. You may even want to ask if they will give you a copy of their mailing list so you can send out additional information (Then you'll also have it for future use.)

    Two weeks before the signing, call the CRC and remind them that you are coming. Make sure the store has received your books and find out how many were ordered. Be sure to request in advance the number of books you believe you can sell since most of the time they'll place a standard order for 10-15 books unless you ask otherwise. Publicity without availability is deadly. Also be sure to ask for the name of the person you're suppose to contact when you arrive at your signing since chances are most of the store personnel won't have a clue who you are or what you're doing there when you arrive.

  4. Be the kind of person you'd like to know. The strongest way you can develop word of mouth for your book is to write a great book and be a great person. Be friendly and helpful and look professional. Too many authors have a reputation for being relentless, time-consuming egomaniacs.
    Go in the week before your booksigning and set-up your display for the CRC. Arrive early for the event and shake hands with every bookseller in the store, the manager and the CRC. Set up the refreshments. Have prepared three different announcements that they can make over the sound system and ask them to make the announcements about every fifteen minutes for about 45 minutes before the booksigning.

    Make sure your area is at the front of the store (if you aren't giving a presentation) and that it has a big book signing sign. A bright colored (read neon) background about works well. Go to the copy store and have them foam-back and laminate the sign and an 11 x17 color copy of your book cover. You will also want them to put a folding foam stand on the back of it as well.

    Inevitably you'll have folks who have forgotten their reading glasses and use it as an excuse. You can avoid this by having the back copy on your cover blown up to a large size (again laminate and foam-back it). This way you can hand it to them to read. Make sure you also have a name tag on so that people can easily identify you. Offer to help in the clean-up and send a thank-you note afterwards.

  5. Even if no one shows, make the event successful. CRC's don't judge a booksigning by how many books are sold. Many realize that sales are made by hand-pitching to customers and the event is merely to spur interest. If no one shows, go around the store and introduce yourself to customers. Don't just sit there and look dejected.
    Remember that the CRC is just as much a customer as someone who buys your book. If you come across as sincere, enthusiastic and nice, you could be doing a lot more for your career than just racking up a half-dozen book sales. If you are seated at a table make up handouts with your cover on one-side and a testimonial from a reader on the other side. This way if people pass by and say they're too busy to stop, you can simply hand them a flyer.

    If you can, always try to put your book in the hand of a perspective customer. For the occasional person who expects you to give them a one-on-one workshop on the secrets of writing a selling book, be polite but don't allow them to waste your selling time. Continue to greet and hand out flyers to people who pass by and tell the individual, "I wish I had time to talk to you and really think over your questions." Hand them a business card with an either a mailing or e-mail address where they can send their questions.

Book Tours

I'll let you in on one more secret. Most authors who hire PR firms and do book tours, don't do them alone. They have escorts.

Now before you roll your eyes and think I'm talking about buff, shirtless men who'll go out to dinner with you in a strange town, let me explain. Author escorts are professionals who know the media of their city and can get you there on time. Often, they'll even book the media for you or at least provide you with a media list of people you can contact to secure interviews.

All of this isn't cheap, of course, and rates usually range from $135 for an eight-hour day to $180. Some charge mileage or fees for booking media on top of that. But talk about a investment that is well worth the dollar! What good would it do you to schedule an interview with CBS This Morning or Oprah if you got lost on your way there and missed it entirely?

When should you consider an author escort? Anytime you travel and can book interviews with the media or multiple booksignings, consider an escort. As I said, they know the media in town and can probably tell you in advance that it will take you X number of minutes to reach television station B from newspaper interview A. This can be invaluable for scheduling multiple interviews and book signings during a day (which you always should to make the most of your visit to a city). They will arrange for transportation and can pick you up from the airport or hotel. They then take you to each appointment and wait for you so that they can take you to the next. Not only will this alleviate the stress of driving in a strange town while maintaining a schedule, it will also give you time to think your next interview through or mentally psyche yourself up for the next booksigning. Without this downtime in between, authors can burn themselves out very quickly. They can also give you advice on restaurants or be a saving grace and get takeout for you.

While escorts aren't a necessity, they are definitely an asset. For the extra money you can save yourself a lot of time, headaches and frustration. And who knows, I may be wrong. There may be some who are buff and will even go shirtless if you ask them to.

The best way to find an author escort for nearly any city in the country is to contact the National Author Escort Network Pro Motion Network. Emily Liasy (pronounced Lie-zee) can find you just about anybody. You can reach her by calling 410-877-3524.

In Closing

For the most part, public relations is what you make of it, plus a good dash of luck. No one's efforts produce results 100% of the time. While these suggestions and details may seem overwhelming now, consider that you'll become more accustomed to the process as you use these techniques.

Even if you decide in the end that perhaps you'd rather pay a professional to take care of these items for you, you'll still benefit from the specifics about how to control an interview and respond to pushy journalists. I wish you the best of luck in pursing your fifteen minutes of fame. And who knows, you may even get more than that!

 

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