Monday, April 27, 2009

If I Tell You...

If I tell you a hen dips snuff, you better look under her tongue.
And I tell you book promotion does not have to be demeaning or boring or make you wish you could crawl through the floor when no one comes to your table for an autograph, or the manager walks by and looks at the huge stack of books still on the table in front of you.

There is another, better way to promote your book(s) and have fun doing it.

I just spent four days in my hometown launching DEAD WRECKONING, my third book in the Sidra Smart mystery series, set in the same small town. I had tons of fun and sold 150 books at those four events. Seventy-four of the books were sold in one day. For those who don't know, the mystery series is set in a small town with a population of 20,000. I was born, reared and went to school there, but left soon after. So it is hometown daughter returns.

An author friend heard about my success and emailed, asking what I had done that made this sales event so successful. She and I talked about how trying to sell your books can sometimes leave an author feeling demeaned, perhaps even make you fall on your knees and beg someone to purchase your books. As a result of her question, I jotted down some of the things I’ve learned about book promotion and book signings.

Never—ever schedule a book signing in a location where you might feel unworthy if no one buys your book. If, by perchance, you find yourself in such a situation, turn the event into fun. If you're not having fun selling your book, go back to the drawing board and create a new way to make it fun!! You have nothing to lose. If you feel demeaned, folks aren’t likely to approach you anyway.

Enamored, with a series set in their hometown, folks in Orange, Texas have fallen in love with reading a novel that features locations and sites they recognize and know where it is. Very important, at least it is to the folks in Orange. They seek me out to do events in their places of business and pay for advertising of the event. Also, as appropriate, I may well throw in the name of a local business in my novel, which helps create that sense of place that helps a reader connect to the setting.

I love the history of the area and include elements of that in each book for that reason, and I find folks here love that about my books, too.

We offer something for the customer, such as wine, cheese, I made alligator cut-out cookies and sandwiches for those in the antique store. (Make it AN EVENT.)

I have made friends with a couple of local newspaper reporters and they have been SO VERY helpful in letting folks know when I am in town. Three different papers ran articles and photos of me and the events this week. I don't know how many folks came up and said, "Oh yes, this is the book I read about in the paper."

My sister knows everyone in town!! I take her and keep her busy handling the cash box, taking money, etc. People are drawn to her like flies--often they come over to chat with her and then she tells them about my WONDERFUL book!

I have found that bookstore events aren't as successful, and often that's where you feel like it is demeaning. I'm moving away from those type of events unless it is an independent bookstore and they are big enough and supportive enough to offer help. For instance, I live in Georgetown, TX another small town. A local, well known woman reviews my books and gets them in the local paper and I have signings at the small indie store on the Square. Again, I usually take a couple bottles of wine and a plate of cheese!

This time, in my third book, my protag starts making pickles--so heck I made up a bunch of jars, and one of those journalist friends offered to make up a label for me which led some folks over to my table to see the pickles. Some bought books and pickles, some bought just pickles, and one man bought a jar of pickles because he loved the label!! (and because she has been so very helpful, I added a tribute to her in the front of the book this time. Thrilled her to death, and it sure felt good to me, to be able to thank her publicly.)

Selling books is all about having fun--and NOT making it a chore. Choose the locations with care. (I have indeed chosen badly on some and sold NO books!) Have fun, dress in costume, offer something back to the customer. For instance, for folks who bought the complete set of three in the series, I gave them a bottle of the pickles. You'd be surprised at how folks respond to this.

I provided paper bags for the books and pickles, bags where I had printed out either label with my book cover, or for the pickles, and put them on the bags. Adds an extra touch. Wrapped the pickles in colorful tissue paper.

In other words, make your book signings a festive occasion! You can do that in private business, whereas you can't in chain bookstores.

Let your imagination go wild thinking up things to do at such an event that will be fun for all. I am speaking at a Friends of the Library in April. I will dress in costume (pirate, for this latest book), and give a couple of door prizes. One is a ceramic coaster with the cover of my third book on it. (ordered from Cafe Press). The other is a tee-shirt.

Promoting your books is an ongoing process that you build with each book. It was difficult at first, when I only had one book, but now that my third has come out I am seeing much more excitement about the series. Folks all love my protagonist and are always giving me new plot ideas! Take those and run with them.

If you have any questions about any of this, feel free to email me. And since I went on and on so much I think I'll post this on the dreamteam site, in case it can be of help to others.

Thanks for asking--it made me stop and think too, "What did I do that worked?"

Hugs and great sales!

Sylvia Dickey Smith


  1. Sylvia,

    Great post! It's always interesting to find out how another author makes a book event successful.

    Every little tip helps.


  2. Pickles! I love pickles - what a great idea. Glad to hear it's working so well for you.

  3. Great post, Sylvia, and very helpful to those of us who are just starting out. Thanks for the ideas!


  4. And thanks to all of you for commenting! Surprising isn't it--how much comments help our feelings when we blog!!??
    By the way, love this new template. Maybe it isn't new, maybe I just had the old gray one in my cookies, but this fits OUR L & L!!

  5. Sylvia's pickles are fantastic!
    My husband finished off the jar in no time - I need some more.

  6. Not only was this informative, it was fun to read. Now if only I could make pickles! Just kidding.
    Teresa Leigh Judd

  7. I'm going to refer authors at a forum where I post to your blog. Book signings are always a main topic -

  8. I'm printing this fabulous post off, Sylvia! Great information all the way through---one thing though..... Have you personally gotten in a peek under a chicken's tongue? I always thought they needed some sort of hobby, 'ya know? :) Ellen

  9. Don't have to peek to know when they dip snuff, they have this brown oozey stuff running out the side of their mouth! LOL

    Thanks for the compliment! Glad it was helpful