Monday, May 25, 2015

The Complete Newbie's Guide to Book Signings: Part 2

As promised, here is my do and don't list for author events. Some of these pertain more to the event itself, some pertain to prep for the event, and a few are faux pas that have turned into pet peeves. Though when it comes to the latter, I doubt I'm the only event coordinator in the country with that same peeve.

DO: Promote the event. The most successful events are those where the author has promoted it themselves. Telling your friends and relatives, announcing the event on your website, blog, and social media weeks in advance will boost attendance. You can't place all of the promotion on the store. They will promote it in store and some will even do additional promotion on social media and in print (but that will depend on the store's time constraints and budget). However your readers pay more attention to you than to a store they may not have heard of. They're also much more likely to remember if you post reminders in the weeks leading up to the event. It will also make it easier for fans from far away to make travel plans if they know a month or two in advance.

DON'T: Be a dick. Wil Wheaton's law should be the 11th commandment. Be nice to the event staff, be nice to the people attending the event, be nice to the people who are there just to browse. It's a guarantee that if an author is rude to customers, regardless of the reason, that author will not be allowed to come back.

DO: Schedule the event in advance. Please don't wait until the day before your book comes out to schedule the event. We need time to promote it and so do you. As soon as the release date is set, start contacting stores. The shortest notice I've done an event on is three weeks and I don't know anyone that has worked under a shorter time frame.

DON'T: Tell us your book is printed by a major publisher unless it really is. Not all publishers are created equal. Since becoming event coordinator I've heard multiple authors say they're with a "major publisher". However as soon as they told me which publisher I knew it was a subsidiary of a major publisher, which isn't the same thing. Every time it made me wonder if I wanted to deal with an author with delusions of grandeur. You need to keep in mind that we're booksellers. Knowing publishers is part of the job. Besides, true major publishers have publicists to schedule events for authors. The fact that you're contacting me personally is a dead giveaway.

DO: Send information to the coordinator. After you schedule the event it's helpful to send a short synopsis of the book you're promoting, a jpg of the cover, and even a headshot that we can use for the store's promotions. It saves us a lot of time. If you have a press release, and a review copy you can send those too.

DON'T: Harass or spam the coordinator. We like talking to you but we have a lot to do to prepare for your event and our other upcoming events. If you call every week to check on the status of event preparations or to ask if we've read your book or to get advice on what to wear or any other asinine question, we will begin to dread your event. Also, we don't need your press release sent to us by email, snail mail, singing telegram, and pigeon courier. Unless Yahoo garbled the email, and we'll tell you if it does, sending it once is plenty. Now there are a couple of instances where it is okay to contact the coordinator and you'll see those later in this post.

DO: Arrive early. A constant worry in Event Coordinators' minds is that the author won't show. You don't have to be there incredibly early. Ten minutes is plenty. If you're bringing books with you for the event then it is a good idea to show up fifteen or twenty minutes early so the store has time to add them to their inventory and fill out any necessary paperwork.

DON'T: Bring an entourage without warning. We don't mind if you show up with your family, friends, assistant, and neighbor's cousin's former roommate. If they buy books it's all good. Just don't expect us to have reserved seating for them or a seat of honor at the signing table.

DO: Keep the store's phone number handy. If you're stuck in traffic or your flight is delayed it's a good idea to let the store know so they don't panic when you don't arrive by the event's scheduled start time. We understand that traveling can suck and that the situation is out of your control.

DON'T: Try to invite yourself to a multi-author event. If the store has announced a big multi-author event, don't ask if you can be a featured guest too. Seriously. Would you knock on a stranger's door on Christmas Eve and ask if you can come for Christmas dinner? This is the same thing. By the time the announcement goes out the line up has been finalized. There is no room at the inn.

DO: Touch base with the coordinator a week before the event or right before you leave on tour.  One of my (writing) mentors told me that they showed up to a store for a signing they'd scheduled months before only to find out that the store had gone out of business. While that's not a common scenario, it does happen. With this in mind, it's always a good idea to touch base with the coordinator once before the event. You can use this opportunity to find out if there's anything you should let your fans know. Things such as the parking situation, do they have to buy the book there in order to get it signed, etc. This is also a good time to mention (if you haven't already) if you're bringing swag to give away, going to be doing a promotional sale (three for the price of two), or bringing a companion that will stay the length of the event.

DON'T: Ask how far the store is from your next tour stop. Seriously, I've been asked this so many times it's ridiculous. This is what Googlemaps and GPS is for. If you're scheduling your own tour you obviously know how to use technology well enough to find us. It's not that hard to do the rest.

DO: Tell us if anything happens that may jeopardize your event. We work with the public. We know what viruses lurk among the masses. We also know that kidney stones, deaths in the family, last minute revisions from your editor, and cancer happen. If something comes up unexpectedly that may or will require you to postpone or cancel the event, please tell us right away. If there's even the slightest chance that you may have to cancel we would appreciate the forewarning.

DON'T: Bring treats for your fans without asking permission. Some stores allow food and drink. Some don't....and for good reason. For example my store banned food and drink after a customer spilled a can of grape soda on a shelf. We had to throw away all of the books on that shelf. It was awful. If you want to bring treats, great. Ask the coordinator if it's okay. If it is, let them know about how much you're bringing (and if you're providing plates and napkins) so they can have an appropriate size table and trash can ready when you arrive.

DO: Tell us about any physical limitations you have. If you just had a hip replacement and need a chair of a certain height, or need to ice your arthritic hands halfway through the signing, or need a quiet space in case you have an anxiety attack, or have any other special need, please let us know ahead of time so we can be prepared to accommodate it. We're not going to look down on you for having limitations. Accommodating special needs is part of working retail.

DO: Thank the coordinator afterward. I know this seems like a no brainer but you'd be surprised how many authors forget to do it. Like I said in the part 1, it's a lot of work to set these up and it's often one or two people doing it all so a little gratitude goes a long way.



The Complete Newbie's Guide to Book Signings: Part 1

Normally people in the book business only see their corner of the industry. Authors know the creation and promotion side. Editors know the acquisition and editing side. Booksellers know the retail side. I'm one of the (relatively) few that know the author and bookseller sides. Now I know one more.

About two months ago I was given the responsibility of being the event coordinator at Reader's Guide, where I've worked for seventeen years. It's been really interesting learning this particular aspect of the business. Contacting authors and publicists, scheduling, promoting, getting the space ready, and putting the store to rights afterward is a lot of work. It's very rewarding work and I love being able to connect authors with their readers. However there are times when the authors make it far more work than it needs to be and even make the job a bit onerous.

I don't want to give the wrong impression. Most of the authors I've worked with are splendid, professional people. Those that make the job more difficult aren't rude or demanding. They're clueless, usually Indie authors, who have no one to advise them. They have no idea that their fears, paranoia, poor organizational skills, and micromanaging is jeopardizing the success of the event and greatly reducing the chances of a return visit. All these authors know is that if they want to sell more copies of their book(s) they need to have a few signings/readings but nothing beyond that.

As an author I do understand their situation. Unfortunately I also can't take time away from my duties to coach them individually. So I'm going to break it down in two blog posts; perhaps too simply for some, but not everyone lives in a location that gets a lot of book tour activity or has an active writing community. In this part I'll walk through the process of contacting the store and scheduling the event as well as some tips to make the process more painless for every one involved. In part 2 I'll give my do and don't list which will cover most of what comes after.

First off, if you're scheduling your own events you'll need to do some research. If you live near a bookstore then you have a good place to start. If you don't then you'll have to use your google-fu to find stores near you -- and you do want to find more than one store if possible. Where having an event at one store is good, having events at multiple stores is better. You're not going to offend store A by doing an event at store B. It's all good. The only suggestion I have is if the stores are in the same city that you spread out the events so you're not here Tuesday and there Wednesday.

When you're researching keep in mind that not all bookstores have a website so you may have to check yellowpages too. Also, it's not unusual for small indie stores to have a website with nothing more than their location and hours on it. Small stores can't afford to employ a webmaster so don't rely on there being email contact forms to connect you with the staff person responsible for scheduling or a well designed site to tell you if they even do events. You may have to call the store directly. I want to put extra emphasis on "person responsible for scheduling". Not all stores have a designated event coordinator. Some stores just have a person who handles scheduling on top of everyday business tasks. So if you're calling ask if you can speak to the person in charge of scheduling book events. If you're emailing, address it to whom it may concern.

It's a good idea to have an introduction prepared. Whether you're emailing or calling doesn't matter. Just because you're local or won _____ award doesn't mean that they've heard of you. There are thousands of authors on their shelves and it's impossible for one person to know them all. You're introduction doesn't have to be fancy or even memorized. (They'll never know that you're reading it.) All you need is a simple "Hi, I'm _______, a local (insert genre)  author. I was wondering if I could do a signing at your store for my new book, (insert title)." You can tell us more if you want to but this is all we need to know to determine if your book is something our clientele would be interested in.

Settling on a date is usually a simple matter of finding a day close to or on the book's release date that works. If you're touring the state and have a narrow window of opportunity then include that in your introduction. Also, if a local paper is printing a review of your one of your works and you know when it's coming out, mention that too. We're more than willing to host the event after the review comes out so all of us can benefit from the publicity. (In this case you'll want to pass the event information on to the reviewer as soon as you've scheduled it so they can include the information in their article.)

It's always good to find out if the store prefers to do readings followed by a signing or only signings. Not all stores have the space or equipment to accommodate readings. Also, if the store does a lot of readings, and the thought of speaking in public gives you a panic attack, don't be afraid to ask if you can only do a signing. We want authors to be comfortable. Comfortable authors have a good time, interact more with the public (making it more enjoyable for them), which sells more books, and makes everyone more likely to want to come back for their next release. An author that's too nervous to remember the English language is a lot like a naked grandma. No one wants to witness that. Ever.

If the store doesn't do readings, and you have a burning need to read your work aloud, don't try to convince the staff member/event coordinator to change their policy. As I said before, if they don't do readings it's because they can't accommodate it. Your smoothest pleadings won't make the store bigger or cause sound systems to materialize on a cloud of marshmallow fluff. (Which is too bad because we could really use the sugar rush.)

If you're scheduling your event over the phone, write down everything -- the store's name, when you called, who you talked to, and the date and time of the event. There are few things more embarrassing than having to call the store because you forgot the day or time of your own signing. If you're doing it via email then no worries. You can always look back at the email if you need to double check the details.

That's all there is to it! I know. It seems pretty straight forward but when this is an author's first time nerves can get in the way, and make you forget things. Don't be afraid to make a checklist. It may sound like an anal organizational thing but in these situations when you're nervous and a bit scared, they can be a really helpful security blanket.

Be sure to read part 2 (which is already up) for my do and don't list. A lot of the mistakes and labor increasing things I've encountered will be covered in that post. As always, if you have questions please feel free to ask. I only ask that in this particular case that you post them in the blog post comments. Chances are there are others who have that question as well and I'd rather answer them once than multiple times on three different platforms.



If you live in Oregon or will be passing through Oregon and want to schedule an event with me please email or call me at the store.

Kim May
Event Coordinator at
Reader's Guide Bookstore
735 Edgewater st NW
Salem, OR 97304

503-588-3166

readersguide@live.com

Hours: 10 - 6 Monday through Saturday, 12 - 5 on Sunday


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Guest Post by Cat Rambo


I was Writing it Along

In the summer of 2005, I went to Clarion West, as six week intensive workshop for speculative fiction writers that's held each summer here in Seattle. I emerged that August having written six stories, acquired a batch of wonderful friends and new colleagues, and not just afire with ambition to write a novel, but entirely ready to do so.

Or so I thought. I did keep writing stories, even as I began assembling a book I tentatively entitled The Water's Secret. Several times during the course of the workshop, people had said that some of the students would find themselves unable to write for a while after the workshop, probably because they'd still be processing everything that had been crammed into their heads. They meant to be reassuring; they meant to let us know it would be normal if it happened. But the idea of not writing freaked me out so I took it as a cautionary note and I made sure I kept putting out a story a week for the first two months immediately after the workshop.

Those stories ranged all over the place, but I set some in a setting I'd created for a game that never came to fruition. First "The Dead Girl's Wedding March," then "I'll Gnaw Your Bones, the Manticore Said." In response to all the pirate anthologies, two stories found themselves taking place in that world, "Sugar" and "In the Lesser Southern Isles." A novelette, "Narrative of a Beast's Life," appeared and was published in Realms of Fantasy magazine. The corpus of stories set in the world, which I came to think of as "Tabat," the name of the seaport where most of the stories take place, began to grow to a pretty solid number.

And all the while I kept working on that novel. Holy smokes. I worked and worked. I trashed that draft and started anew. At one point I had a manuscript with fourteen different pop characters. I workshopped bits at Taos Toolbox and my writing group. I had Walter Jon Williams point out that a passage was not just from a pigeon's point of view, but that the pigeon was entirely hypothetical to boot. I kept working and working at what would eventually become Beasts of Tabat.

And as some point, I realized those stories were part of that. The Realms of Fantasy story was actually the backstory for a secondary character in Beasts, the centaur Fino/Phillip. The narrator of "How Dogs Came to the New Continent" was living in the same boarding house as Bella Kanto, one of Beasts' two main characters. Other stuff began to slowly emerge -- this was a quartet, and on of the stories (I will not say which) held the key for the overall series arc.

In short, my unconscious mind was (as I tell my students it is prone to doing) much smarter than I was and had neatly constructed a whole bunch of stuff. My job was to figure out how it all fit together.

Do you need to have read any of the stories to read the book? Holy smokes, no. But if you enjoy the book, I can tell you that while you're waiting for the next one, which I'm planning to turn in to the editor on July 1, there's plenty of re-entries to the world lurking online and in my collections. I've tried to provide a pretty complete list of them on my website here. http://www.kittywumpus.net/blog/tabat/  and there's a brand new Tabat story up on Beneath Ceaseless Skies this month.

Is this in any way typical of a writer's journey? Dunno. But I do think story writers might benefit from pausing every once in a while and looking to see if there's a world that's interested them enough to write several stories set there. Because if so -- that novel may be already waiting for you there.

BIO: Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and Tor.com as well as three collections and her latest work, debut novel Beasts of Tabat. Her short story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her story collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current Vice President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. For more about her, as well as links to her fiction, see http://www.kittywumpus.net

Links:


Monday, December 29, 2014

Craving a Delicate Touch

I've been in a bit of a reading funk for most of the year. I know, with how busy I've been there shouldn't have been much time for reading but I managed to steal a few hours here and there. However out of all the books I picked up, I couldn't finish most of them. Out of the few I did finish, only two left me wanting more -- Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson and Slow Regard For Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss. (Seriously, they're bloody brilliant!) The others weren't bad books. In fact one of them was by Brent Weeks, whose writing I love, but for some unknown reason it just wasn't grabbing me and I couldn't figure out why. (Brent, there's nothing wrong with your writing and I will finish and thoroughly enjoy that book. Just at a later date.)

At Tracy's suggestion I started reading Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey and was hooked from the first page. Jacqueline is a wonderful writer but thick headed me couldn't figure out why this book satisfied that undefinable craving that the other books didn't. When I mentioned this to Tracy he pointed out that I hadn't read much by women this year, which was why he suggested Carey's book. He's right (which is one of the many reasons I keep him around). However, the revelation shocked me.

I've always been aware that there are differences in how men write and how women write but I never thought the difference in approach would be something I would crave. I read for character first and plot second. If I'm in a particularly vicious mood I'll read something with a high blood and gore content. I'm not a girly girl. I've never craved something feminine and lovely in my life. It's no wonder I needed someone to point it out to me.

As a woman I'm a bit ashamed that I never noticed the lack of women authors in my to read stack. Though as I mentioned before, I never buy a book because of the author's gender, political leaning, or sexual orientation. I have the same approach for music. Now I wonder if I need to pay more attention to the gender identity of the author. If nothing else it will help me keep a variety of voices in my stacks so I never get burned out again.



Speaking of Tracy, he has a wonderful blog that you should check out. He's got some great reviews and recommendations! Click here.

Also, don't forget that my first short story will published next month in the Kobo special edition of Fiction River: Pulse Pounders, edited by Kevin J. Anderson. You can pre-order it here.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Sometimes it's better to play poker

I've been re-watching The West Wing lately because there's never a bad reason to revisit a brilliantly written show. Also the last time I watched it I was too young to fully understand or appreciate the show's brilliance. For example, in one of the episodes Charlie (played the wonderful Dule Hill), the President's personal aide, sat in a bar surrounded by co-eds enjoying the start Spring Break. He felt very self-conscious of his lack of a college education, as if the crowd's degrees in progress were a requirement to associate with them. At the end of the episode, Charlie spent the rest of the evening playing poker with the President and senior staff.

I bring this up because Charlie, in his youth, caught up in his own wants and insecurities, failed to fully understand or appreciate his position. If anyone in that bar was paying attention to who he was drinking with, they would have been envious of him. They also would have marveled that he didn't need a masters in political science to hang out with members of the senior staff. 

I'm not saying that college degrees are a waste of time. A good education is never a waste of time. But if hobnobbing with influential people is your goal, and let's face it, one can never know too many influential people, it's going to take more than a few letters tagged on to your name to earn their trust. Some might say that Charlie was lucky. I say he was in the right place at the right time and made a good impression.

The adage "it's not what you know but who you know that matters" is still true, no matter what business you're in. It's a shame that networking isn't a required course in school. Such an essential skill shouldn't be left to fate and it seems wrong to let the extroverts dominate. Perhaps it's intentional. A culling process so to speak. Those who want it the most get the prize? Who knows. What's important is that recognizing the need for developing relationships and gathering contacts. Business-wise, the hours I've spent networking have served me far better than the hours I spent in the classroom.


Monday, October 27, 2014

The self-indulgent workaholic

In March I thought it would be easy to jump back into my old schedule -- blog on Mondays, work the day job, go to signings, and write all the things -- after Avenue Q closed. It was a good routine, one that I'd kept for a couple years. It would be crazy busy for a few months as I juggled rehearsal, day job, and writing deadlines but it was only a few months. I'd be back to my routine before I knew it. What I didn't expect was that crazy busy became the new normal. After the show closed I was thrust into multiple family obligations, a much busier work day, conventions, more deadlines, and since I'd grown accustomed to working at warp 9 until I collapsed from exhaustion I soldiered on. I was so busy being busy that I forgot that I didn't have to do that any more. I'm ashamed to say that it took me two months to remember.

This month I've been taking a lot more time for me. Not because I'm too exhausted to write, quite the contrary. My writer brain is buzzing with new ideas and my creative muscles are eager to be used. However I need to forget that warp 9 exists. It's not healthy. I've gained weight from too much convenience food and too little time outside. Plus being at events when I'm perpetually tired is a waste of time. I was consciously walking away from great networking opportunities because I didn't have the energy to seize the moment. 

I'm still writing. I submitted a Flame and Filch short to the Blackguards anthology and I'm working on the requested revisions for Moonshine, the short that Rebecca Moesta bought at the Anthology workshop. Instead of working on them every day, I'm only doing it a couple days a week. The rest of my free time is being spent watching TV, favorite Halloween movies, playing Candy Crush and Clumsy Ninja, reading, and hanging out with friends. I'm working on my embroidery again and even toying with the idea of getting back into drawing and painting -- which I haven't done since college. 

The recharge has been really good for me. Not only am I well rested for a change I feel more...strong, capable. This time away has not only cleared away the fog of fatigue but I think it's also cleared away the remnants of the fog of grief from losing Spud in January. It may sound silly but I really feel more myself, more than I have in the past decade. (And those who know what I've been through understand what an achievement that is.) 

Next month I'm going to start transitioning back into a regular writing routine. I haven't decided if I want to go back to a six day writing schedule or cap it at four days. Even though it would be better career-wise if I spent that time writing, I like having time to kick back. I especially don't want to lose my regained clarity and strength. I have a hunch I'll need that more than ever since I'm no longer an amateur writer. We'll see if I can manage to keep some downtime. I am a workaholic so I may find myself at warp 3 before I know it.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Updates!

Fiction River, the publication that my first three short stories will appear in, is having a subscription drive. You can find out the details here. The drive October 2nd so don't delay signing up. I've read most of the stories in year two's line up so believe me when I say that you want to subscribe for the full year.

While we're on the subject, my first short story, The Void around the Sword's Edge, will appear in the Kobo Special Edition of Fiction River: Pulse Pounders. If your Fiction River subscription doesn't include that edition you can pre-order it here.

The cover for the second volume I'm, Alchemy& Steam in is up on their website. It's so pretty!