Thursday, October 30, 2014

The shy guy's guide to a book signing

Let's get one thing straight immediately: Rick's recent post about book signings is the gospel. But I know that book signings aren't easy, especially if you're introverted by nature, so I'd like to continue the thread here.

It should be pointed out that regardless of your personality you can't afford to be passive. This past weekend, I had two events. Now, I'm not the world's most out-going author, and the first venue was a place where I'd never previously signed. But the table was near the door – always a must – and Friday-night foot traffic was steady.

Perhaps the best thing I did all night, aside from hand-selling 19 copies, was accidentally pitching to the store owner to get myself invited back.

I spotted a middle-aged man looking at a book display.
"Do you like mysteries?"
He turned around. "Actually, I do."
"Well, I'd love to tell you about my new book. It's about a single mother and border patrol agent in northern Maine."
We chatted for a few moments more, then he said, "I like you. Nice pitch."
He went on to tell me he owned the store and would tell his manager to bring me back in May when the sequel was released. Success at a booksigning can come in many forms.

I find eye contact to be everything. Some people entering the store have no intention of stopping to meet you. They are intentionally looking the other way, they are in a hurry, or they obviously have other pressing matters. You know what they're doing by avoiding you – maybe they have groceries in the car; maybe they're late for a coffee date -- regardless, they don't want to talk. I let these people go. On the other hand, you also know when someone enters the store and simply doesn't notice you. I find that, like Rick, my simple "Do you like mysteries?" is enough. Most people respond affirmatively (only two at my last two store events said "No" outright). The fact is that most bookstore patrons do enjoy mysteries or the subgenre offshoots.

I also think you need to know your target audience. And, believe me, coming from a guy whose first five novels are about a professional golfer – a clear-cut (and clearly small) niche – this is important. Now I have a wider range of buyers, but middle-aged women seem to be the most interested group. So, following my opening question, I have a follow-up 10-second description: "This is the first in a series featuring a single-mother who's a border patrol agent." A lot of people stop, trying to conceptualize exactly what the hell that is. Now they pick up a book and read the jacket description. Unlike Rick, I don't usually offer a teaser line. Mostly because I don't have a great one. And if your teaser isn't great, it's a dud. So if they are clearly considering, I suggest they read the opening paragraph. While they're reading, I go with a simple, "If you're interested in the book, I'd love to sign a copy for you or answer any questions you may have." And people do have questions – from the writing process, to plot details, to research and procedural details involving the Customs and Border Protection. Most people who have spent this long at the table and learned that you're not such a bad guy will buy a copy.

I'd love to hear more from our readers and/or my Type M colleagues about signings.

1 comment:

Eileen Goudge said...

Nice pitch, John! I wish you many more successful book signings. They can be fun when done right.