Wednesday, January 9, 2013

What I learned from all those signings

I did five signings in the month of December.  That was crazy.  It's also what happens when your book is a Christmas book.  You only get one month. Here's a shot of me at my first signing.  I'm totally giving the camera a 'just hurry and take the picture look.' I couldn't believe how crowded that store was. 

Two of my three kids came to see me.  My youngest proudly declared to anyone who would listen (not that they had a choice) that I was his mom and I wrote The Candy Cane Queen.  I have the cutest cheering section ever.  My teenager was at home doing homework. He did come to other signings, just not this one.

Here's a shot of my freshly painted candy cane striped nails. There were some spots I needed to fix, but it wasn't bad for a quick job.  I hand painted those stripes on both hands.  Not an easy task.

My book is a 16 page Christmas story.  It's a little pamphlet that comes with an envelope and is easy to mail.  They make the perfect long distance gift or inexpensive gift for neighbors. Some things I learned with these signings won't necessarily help with a traditional book.

I sold over 80 copies of my book at my first signing in Seagull Book. That was phenomenal. The next Seagull signing was 40, then down to 20, and the last was about 15.  I also did another signing at a university bookstore.  I'll go over that one later.

The first signing was in a crowded store on the first Saturday in December.  People were there to buy and not only to buy, but to buy in bulk. I had several people buy 8-15 copies at once.  They went to the store specifically to buy a stack of those little booklets to give as neighbor gifts, home teaching gifts, and gifts for visiting teaching sisters. The books sold for 2.49 each.  They make great gifts. The best time to sell these booklets is at the beginning of the Christmas season.  I sold half as many books at my second signing because most people already had purchased their bulk gifts.  I was amazed at the number of people I talked to who said they'd already bought my book.  (They also said they loved it, which is nice.) I didn't sell any multiple copies at my third and fourth signings.

If I ever do one of these pamphlets again, I will cram pack signings into the first two weeks of December and leave the two weeks before Christmas to my family. It would probably be good to do that for a traditional book too.  Most people were in a hurry and just needed a few things they forgot by the time those last two weeks rolled around.

I will very quickly touch on the university bookstore.  The people in the bookstore were very nice.  The students were nice too, but they were going to class, not shopping.  I wouldn't recommend doing a signing at a university bookstore unless you are there for a conference and there are several other authors signing with you.

I am not a super social person.  That is why I brought my bin of candy canes. It's easier to ask a person if they want a candy cane than to ask them to look at your book.  I'm not a saleswoman.  Most people would take a candy cane and then the adorable cover would catch their eye.  I sold the majority of my books by simply offering customers a candy cane.

Location made a really big difference. The best spot to sign is by the entrance.  From there, I was able to offer customers a candy cane when they walked through the door.  Some locations had me by the checkout line, which wasn't optimal since people were already done with their shopping by the time they saw me.

A lot of people noticed my fingernails.  As strange as it sounds, it worked for me.  My book is The Candy Cane Queen.  I had candy cane striped fingernails and was giving away candy canes.  Gimmicky? Yes, but it worked.

One thing I had to work on was my one sentence spiel.  People asked me what it was about and at first I just handed the book to them and had them read the back cover.  Lame.  I know.  I forced myself to work on a hook after that.

My kids' enthusiasm also contributed to sales for the short time they were there.  Their cute little faces and smiles attracted attention. Just having people there, draws attention.  If something is going on at your table, other people will look.  If they like what you have, they will buy.

My family and neighbors are awesome.  I could not believe how many of them showed up to see me and buy my book.  A few of them even bought in bulk.  Most bought one or two.  The important thing is that they took the time to come see me.  How cool is that?

I spent two to three hours in each store, but the employees work up to eight hour shifts.  I worked hard to make sure they liked me.  They're the people who actually sell my book.

I got hit with the flu for that last week before Christmas so I was sick during my last two signings.  I kept hand sanitizer next to me and washed my hands frequently.  I wanted to share the joy, not the germs. I also turned down a chance to do a sixth signing.  I looked like death warmed over.  It's not the best way to sell books.

The last thing I want to talk about is something I think is common among writers: anxiety.  I have mild anxiety and get physically sick when I go to unfamiliar places and have to talk to unfamiliar people. This is not optimal for book signings.  I heard about something called essential oils.  I thought they sounded kind of weird, but it also made sense that a scent could be calming.  I may blog a little more about them later when I know more, but the important thing is that they worked for my anxiety.  My point on this is not that everyone should run out and buy essential oils.  It's that you need to do something about your anxiety (if you have it) before you go to book signings.

I would love for any other author to post their favorite tips for signings in the comments.  I hope to have more books published and can use all the advice I can get.

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