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.

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