Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Advice for Indie Authors: Local book signings - sell yourself!

One of the hardest things to come to terms with as an indie author is that it is up to you to sell yourself. If you had the luxury of a publishing deal, you would have a team doing that for you! But you don't, so it is time to get busy!

There isn't any real rocket science when it comes to getting a book signing at a local bookstore. A good press release will help, but it's really just about making contact and asking if you can do one. I was actually surprised at how easy it was to arrange a book signing. At the start of September I went into my local Waterstones in Sutton and simply asked the manager if I could do one - that was it! I had seen other authors doing book signings before so I thought why not - the worst they can say is no.

But as I said, they were quite open to the idea. I simply explained to the manager that I was a local author and wondered if they held any events or book signings for local authors. At the end of the day they are a business and they have to think of ways of getting people through the doors and then buying copies of the books of the shelfs. Having an author in their store signing books is a bonus.

Initially they arranged for me host an event called An Evening With Steven Scaffardi. The idea would be to have people pay (yep, I said pay!) £2 per ticket to come and spend an hour and a half with me as I talked about my stand-up comedy and The Drought for an event at the end of November.

Two tickets got sold! I couldn't believe it either - that is two more tickets than I expected, and it wasn't even my mum who bought them. It was a total stranger!

But two strangers staring at me for 90 minutes for the paltry sum of £4 wasn't seen as a good business model, so it was decided we would switch the to a daytime event where I would simply stand in the shop and sign copies of my novel for anyone who wanted to buy a copy. (Pen Press are helpful at this stage, as they will make sure the bookstore where you have arranged book signings are fully stocked with copies of your novel.)

In the meantime, I simply went on to Waterstones website and looked at where the nearest stores were to me, and then fired off an email to those stores asking for further book signing opportunities, and I am pleased to say I got one at the store in Croydon on December 2.

As for yesterdays book signing, I think it went well. I managed to sell 10 copies (including one copy to the lady who had bought the two tickets to come and spend an evening with me!). The most challenging thing is making yourself speak to people in the store, and to keep doing it for 3-4 hours. Most people won't be interested, but they will be polite enough as long as you don't hound them too much and you just have to remember that these people are in a bookstore for a reason, and it is not to buy a kettle! Sooner or later you will find someone who is interested in the genre of your novel, and the opportunity to buy a signed copy of a book is a good selling point. And then we are back to word of mouth - if they like it then they'll tell there friends about it.

It is certainly something I highly recommend any indie authors doing, especially around the Xmas period. You don't have anything to lose and everything to gain. Not only will you sell copies of your book to people who did not know who you were previously, but I now have copies of my novel stocked in both the Sutton (and soon the Croydon) branch of Waterstones. For me, that is a huge achievment and a big step in the right direction.

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