Friday, November 18, 2011

To Sign or Not to Sign . . .

In recent posts, Jillian wrote about the book festival she attended. Beth wrote about the ever changing world of publishing. And, Mike asked the all important question of “Why?” do we continue to write. I just completed a six week book tour for my debut Realms novel, “The 13th Demon” and spent many hours in book stores signing books. Was it worth it?
My very first book signing was in 2001. My co-author, Mark Sutton, and I showed up at our local Barnes & Noble and we proceeded to sign over 50 books in a two hour period. There was a line in front of our table and we both regarded the event as a rousing success. Subsequent book signings were not as successful but we sold over 25 to 30 books at each sitting.
Fast forward to 2006 and my first self published book. At my first book signing for that book at our local Barnes & Noble, we sold all of the books the store had ordered and I had to go crack open a box of 50 books I had in the car. I was stoked! Then, I showed up at my next book signing in Orlando, Florida at a major book chain store. No one greeted me on my arrival. A table was set up. I put up my sign and got out my goodies and sat down. And waited. And waited. And waited. Not a single worker at the store ever spoke to me. Not a single customer stopped at my table. It was the single most depressing book signing of my life!
Fast forward to 2011 and the release by Realms of my first real “debut” novel. Do I hold book signings? Are book signings a thing of the past with the availability of e-books? Is it worth having a book signing to make certain my book ends up on the shelf of a book store? These were difficult questions to answer. Only five years had passed since those early book signings, but marketing a book has changed significantly. With the advance of blogging and social media, is it a waste of time to have a book tour and travel long distances to hold book signings?
My first book signing for “The 13th Demon” was my “book launch” and the response blew me away. I planned this event at my church’s combination book store/coffee shop. I advertised in local Christian family magazines and on the local Christian radio station. Over 100 people showed up and I sold 91 books! I was overwhelmed by the response. But, the next three book signings ranged from 4 books sold to a dozen. Why then should an author continue to hold book signings? Here are my reasons:
1 -- I want to support local book stores. With the growth of e-publishing, local book stores are hurting and hurting badly. Customers may show up to browse books, but they end up purchasing them on their book “pads”. But, if you hold a book signing, the event hopefully will draw potential readers into the store not only for my book, but for additional purchases. I reason if the local book store sees I am supporting them, then they may be more likely to stock my book and maybe even put it on one of the “golden” tables up front!
2 -- I want to connect with potential readers and put my face and my personality behind my book. Word of mouth can increase sales. At least, I hope it does. Even if I don’t sell a book, I make myself known to anyone who approaches my table and I pass out bookmarks and tee shirts.
3 -- I want to meet people and talk to them about the issues pertinent to my books. I am not only an author, I am a physician and a trained apologist. At a LifeWay store book signing in Austin, I had the opportunity to talk to a grandmother who was distressed that her grandson was abandoning his Christian faith and she didn’t know how to answer his rather pointed and cynical questions. We had a pleasant conversation and I gave her some pointers on relating to her grandson and his growing unbelief as well as giving her some websites that would help not only her, but her grandson. She ended up buying a book for her grandson and I was able to write him a short, encouraging note in the book. I’ll never know how that situation turned out but I have to believe it was a “divine” appointment.
4 -- I want to give away promotional material. I always begin a book campaign buy having my good friend Jeremy Johnson ( design a killer tee shirt. I produce a limited number and I advertise that I am giving away free tee shirts with each book that is purchased. Now, I lose money on the tee shirts and that is a given. But, if someone wears the tee shirt to a concert or to a worship service or to a youth event, my book title and website are clearly evident. Hopefully such promotion will bring readers to my website.
So, what do you think? In view of the past three posts, where do you think an author should best spend promotional time? Do you still hold book signings? Do you think they are effective or just a waste of time? 


Beth Shriver said...

Book signings are usually tough unless you're Steven King or J.K. Rowling so you're 50 book mark is a success in my mind:) We all want to do whatever we need to to promote our books but you're exactly right that we might not be using our time well. I'd love to hear from a promotional team as to what they suggest. There's so much out there it's hard to know when to start and keep up with everything that's new!

Jillian Kent said...

Bruce, I agree with Beth, you're a success. Enjoy those great signings. I've decided to go to as many local signings with others as I can. I've just got an opportunity to sign at the Barnes and Noble in Westchester, Ohio with a bunch of friends from my local RWA. There's another opportunity in February near Valentine's day, etc.It's hard though because of the competition. I'm hoping that this one will go well since it's the month of Christmas. So I'll keep doing local book signings just to keep my name out there.

Bruce Hennigan said...

Thanks for the encouragement. It's tough sometimes traveling to book signings and the sales may be dismal, but in today's publishing environment, I think we have to do as much as we can. Beth, I'd like to hear from some "experts" on more efficient ways to connect with readers, also.