Today's essential question: Should you schedule a book signing?
Here's how my first ever went down (with hints and spoilers):
After playing phone tag with a few bookstores, I finally nailed down one manager. Two days later, I consigned four copies each of Loathsome, Dark and Deep and The House Eaters. We scheduled a signing one month out (this was on February 12th).
So, flash forward one month. I was nervous. What if I didn't sell a single book? I used to work at a bookstore (long before I was a writer), and we used to make fun of the visiting authors who didn't sell any books. I was an asshat back then...
Hint #1: Show up early. I arrived a little early (to help set up as all good authors suggest you do), and surprise, surprise, a little table with my books and signage was already displayed in the entryway. So far so good.
Hint #2. Don't sit down. They gave me a chair. I only sat in the chair to sign books. You must be up and moving around. Engage with customers. Smile. Just say "hi".
Hint #3: Bring something to give away. I had bookmarks and candy. Candy is good. Everybody likes candy. I shared with the employees. They are your friends. Trust me.
I sold my first book within three minutes. Hey, I thought, this might be okay. 10 minutes later, I sold two more books. Hey, I thought, I might run out of books. I'd sold two more within another 10 minutes. Wow. The score after a half-hour: 5 books down, 3 to go.
And then I stood around for another 90 minutes, talking to a lot of folks about my books, but with no takers. *sigh*
Hint #4: Keep talking to people, even when they just want to talk about themselves. Several individuals told me how they were writers, too, and would be published...but. There was always a but. But I can't edit. But nobody "gets" me. Keep talking. Be real.
My second and third sales came to two women who didn't look like they were my target audience. Why did they buy the books?
Hint #5: Love your books. If you hate to sell, stop writing for an audience. Even if I'm giving you a story for free, it is still a sale. The reader pays with his/her time. You have to love your work or no one else will. Enthusiasm is addictive. Be excited about your stuff. I knew it was time to go home when my energy level waned.
Final score: 5 books sold; 3 books back on the shelf; $34.54 in my pocket. Understand that those books were consigned and about a $1 each actually went into my pocket (I'd got the books at a discount through my publishers). Of course I'm donating the $34.54 to Tsunami/earthquake relief efforts, and I'll give you a gift if you donate, too.
What I learned:
1. Book signings are not about making money. Five bucks didn't even cover gas.
2. Book signings are about talking to people about your book. They are about meeting folks you might not meet any other way. Five copies of my books walked through the door. Four new readers took my books home. Maybe they'll pass them on or tell someone else.
Will I hold another? Maybe. It was pretty exhausting.