Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bring Cookies

Cricket McRae

In the wake of the release of Spin a Wicked Web I've been doing a lot of signings. You know the drill.

Many authors hate signings, citing the lonely and depressing aspects. And there's plenty of advice about how to get attention during signings. One woman I know walks around the store passing out bookmarks and practically demanding people buy her books. Another has a life-size dummy of one of her characters sitting in the chair beside her.

Some folks like to sign with other authors so they have someone to talk to. It's especially nice if you're doing some kind of panel discussion or presentation that will attract attendance. And let’s face it: It is a lot of fun to sit around and talk to your fellow authors, and you get to leverage off their fans.

But I like signings on my own, too. Sometimes one person is more approachable than two or three. When I’m alone, I’m talking to anyone who walks by – even if it’s not about my books. Eventually, it becomes about my books.

Here are a few other things I try to keep in mind:

Send out information about the signing to local media, friends, family, various personal web pages and social networking sites, professional organizations, community calendars, booktour.com and upcoming.yahoo.com, and post the event on Craigslist the day of (I don’t know how effective the Craigslist postings are – anyone else try it?). This seems like a big DUH, but a lot of people don’t do it. And it is time comsuming

Make sure there’s plenty of signage by the front door or in the front window (I try to always send posters at least a week in advance) and a big sign on the signing table that shows the book cover and says that I’m the author. Me, me, me. Even with the sign, people look straight at it and then ask if I know where to find the latest Twilight book.

Talk – about your books as much as possible, but also about other books, what the customer likes to read, about the weather, about writing, about whatever. Often, and sometimes inexplicably, this leads to a sale. Plus, you get to meet lots of fascinating people, which I find is a way to fill my creative well. I also find experts for future research. And yes, sometimes I feel like a greeter at Walmart.

Give people something to take away, whether they buy a book or not. There are tons of unique giveaways, from lip balms to flower seeds to bullet casings. Most are a bit of an expense, though. I know authors who have brochures made, but that feels like overkill to me. So I focus on bookmarks and business cards. My business cards are actually 2½”x3½”trading cards, slick and fun to handle, with my book covers on one side and my contact info on the other.

I also take copies of my all-purpose media packet which includes a short blurb about each book, ordering information, a page of reviews and endorsements, and my bio with picture. I don’t give them to everyone, but if someone from a school or a library or book club comes by I have them ready.

Stand up. Standing puts you on eye level with people walking by, which makes an author both more accessible and harder to discount.

Bring cookies. Seriously. Every time I bring a plate of homemade oatmeal molasses cookies to a signing, by the end of the day I’m hoarse from talking to people. Lots of people have a cookie and don’t buy a book, but you never know. Men who would never have bought a home crafting mystery stop by for a cookie, then later bring their wives over to talk to me. One woman came up to the table and said, “My husband sent me over for one of your cookies because he wants another one and doesn’t want you to think he’s a pig.” One thing led to another – and she bought a book.

Don’t think about selling anything. Seriously. It takes all the pressure off, and it’s a lot easier to talk to people. They can sense it, too. The less I try to sell, the more books go out the door.

And finally, those stares that go right through you, the sudden veering away from the signing table when someone sees you there with a pile of books, the “No!” in the middle of your hello – don’t take any of it personally. People have bad days. People are in a hurry. People get tired of being sold to. People are short on money. Most are nice as pie and generous with their time. Concentrate on that huge majority and let the few exceptions slide right off your psyche.

What have you learned from signings? Any hints, tips or advice? Anything you’d tell the rest of us NOT to do? Do you even think signings are a worthwhile use of an author’s time?


Alan Orloff said...


Those are some great suggestions. And there's nothing DUH about any of them, at least not for this guy.

I don't know what you are doing next April, but what would it take for you to clear your calendar and come along with me? I'd welcome the company (and expertise).

Plus, I love cookies!

Keith Raffel said...

I just tackle customers and don't let them up till they agree to buy. Very effective.

Alan Orloff said...


I like your method, too.

What are you doing next April?

Terri Thayer said...

I had a guy buy my book once because I was nice to his mother who was in a wheel chair.

I'm baking cookies next time for sure.

Cricket McRae said...

Alan, maybe next April we should all don our helmets for a group signing Raffel style. I'll bring dessert.

Keith, speaking of giveaways -- remember those canvas Dot.Dead bags you gave away? I got one at your reading at Third Place Books in Seattle and often take it to the grocery store here in my little town. The other day a guy walking by, pointed to it and said, "Good book." He didn't really want to stop and talk, but I did manage to tell him you have another book coming out in October. (October, right? Tell me I got that right.)

Terri -- of course you were nice, and without any thought of it paying off, so to speak. And by the way -- I was talking to a quilter who stopped by my signing table last weekend who, unbelievably, hadn't heard of your books (!) She has now and was going to pass on the info to her quilting group.

G.M. Malliet said...

I never knew about upcoming.yahoo.com so I learned something here. Thank you!

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I always bring Thin Mints to my book signings in stores. They are featured in my Odelia Grey novels and the scent of mint and chocolate has wooed many a bypasser into buying a book or two. I guess it's my equivalent of "showing a little skin."

Thin Mints are particularly effective during the months just before Girl Scout Cookie Time when people are dying for a Thin Mint.

Jess Lourey said...

That's great advice, Cricket, particularly the part about not focusing on the sell. The only time I've enjoyed booksignings was when I was talking to people, not when I was "selling."

I still vote "no" on single booksignings being worthwhile, in the general scheme of things. Presentations, readings, panel signings, yes, but being stationed at the table by the door has not been a good fit for my personality. Maybe that's the key--personality. If I had more of one, I might enjoy the table by the door more. :)

Jess Lourey said...

p.s. Alan, does my last post guarantee that you don't care what I'm doing next April?

Alan Orloff said...

Au contraire, Jess.

Maybe if we combine our personalities, we'd have have one functioning "outgoing" one.

Jess Lourey said...

Haha! I like that, Alan. Our two negatives would make a positive.

Cricket McRae said...

Mmmmm ... thin mints. Perfect, Sue Ann! Except I'm afraid if I tried to take any out of the house, I'd be the one tackled and held down until I gave them back.

Gin, I've only started using upcoming.yahoo.com. Here's hoping it reaches a few more people.

Jess -- are you kidding? Talk about personality plus. Alan, too. I so wish the whole public speaking thing came naturally to me. I have to psyche myself up every time I give a reading or presentation -- and I'm still quaking in my heels.

jbstanley said...

I made 200 cupcakes for my last signing. Every peckish man, woman, and child within 50 miles took a cupcake and ran. I might have sold 2 books because folks migrated over to the table in search of food. Was it worth it? I don't think so. i admit it - I hate signings. I have cut down to one per book release. IMHO, they are not worth the 3 hours I sit there. Locally, the people I have badgered will come by the book and I don't do out-of-town signings anymore unless I'm with another author. To me, this is the best way to attract new readers - sign with another mystery author. You'll end up with crossover readers who become very loyal.

I'm glad the cookies worked for you!

G.M. Malliet said...

I think I've said this before: To me, solo signings are worth it *only* if you're John Grisham or Dan Brown.

Agree: Group signings are fun. Maybe not so many books get sold per author but nobody cares.