Part of being an author these days is promoting your book. Writers are often the sorts of people who spend long hours alone and like it that way. It can feel like a shock to come out of one’s quiet writing room and meet with people. But it gets easier with time.
Sitting at a book signing table, lonely with your books while passersby try not to catch your eye, ends up being harder to do than putting on a presentation. School visits, while initially scary, usually turn out to be energizing and inspiring. All those kids! All those sweet, smart kids!
Here I am at a recent author’s fair in a library in South Bend. In the background (center top) is my friend Kathy Higgs-Coulthard, with her book of the fantastic title–Hanging with My Peeps. (Hint: There are chickens involved.) She had a great idea of having an activity for kids as they passed by. My librarian friend, Tracy, has come to say hello and lend me some literary support. All it takes to make an author smile is to smile at them while they’re waiting with their books. Try it sometime and see if I’m right.
In the last two weeks, I’ve done two booksignings for Goodnight, Dragons. They were very different in theme, place, enjoyment and number of books sold. I am trying to figure out how to make a booksigning successful.
The first booksigning took place at the book launch party. This was held in the largest room of my church. BetterWorld Books sold the books for me. My husband’s band provided lively music. My sister-in-law coordinated refreshments. After it was set up, all I needed to do was sit behind the table, sign books and enjoy conversations with friends. I met a few new people which was also enjoyable. Book count tally: 51 Goodnight, Dragons sold. 8 of my older picture books sold. I would call that successful.
The second booksigning took place at Barnes & Noble. I prepared by cutting out numerous tiny fleece blankets for the children at storytime to drape over the toy dragons they were encouraged to bring. I wrote a dragon song and my friend put out the news to her sixth graders about singing it to start off the storytime. About 7 kids agreed to do it. I practiced reading the book aloud. Barnes & Noble prepared by advertising in their newsletter and by making and displaying posters about the event many weeks ahead of time. They also had a large display of my books at the entrance to the children’s section. Three newspapers ran articles of different interviews with me and telling about the event. I”m not sure what more could have been done.
This is not to say the event was a disaster. I think it was about normal for a writer who is not a celebrity or a well-known author. Only one of the seven singers showed up, so we had a tiny, pitchy performance. None of the children brought along a dragon, so my lonely dragon was the only one draped in a blanket. There were about 7 children who sat and listened to the story, all but one of them melting away with their parents when the time came to get a book. Book count tally: 8 sold, three of them to my good neighbor. I have done worse.
But I am wondering about the usefulness of the endeavor. Was the pay-off of books sold worth the effort Barnes & Noble put into it? How much will this affect sales/impressions of Goodnight, Dragons? Was it worth my effort, not to mention my anxious stomach? Was it worth the always humbling notion that most bookstore browsers want to sidle away from me when I’m behind the signing table?
I would welcome any thoughts on the matter.