Friday, May 29, 2015

I have a new story out!

I absolutely adore the cover art.

The newest issue of Fiction River is out and my story, Blood Moon Carnival, is in it! The wonderful Kerrie L. Hughes edited this spectacular issue and my story is near and dear to my heart so please go pick up a copy. It's available in print and ebook formats. You can find it on Amazon, Smashwords, and you can order it as part of a subscription to year 3's fantastic issues on Fiction River's website. If you live in Oregon you can also buy it at Reader's Guide bookstore in Salem and I'll sign it for you!

To celebrate the third year of Fiction River, WMG (the publisher) is giving away free ebook copies on Smashwords. If you want the secret code email me at before July 31st, 2015.

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.

Added 9/10/15:
DO: HAVE AN ONLINE PRESENCE. Sometimes we lose your contact info. We're human. It happens. It's at times like this it's really frustrating when the author doesn't have any online presence under their name/pseudonym. You don't have to have a fancy website. It can be a Twitter account that you rarely use or a G+ account that you only post blog updates on. Please have some sort of online presence with a means to contact you so we can still get a hold of you.

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 (view it here) 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


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