117 Cherry St. Seattle, Wa. 98104
Advise For New Authors
Advice for New Authors New To Signings
Over the decades, we’ve hosted many premiere author events. There are a few things that you, as a first-time author, can do help make your first author signing a success:
First off, understand that what for you is a moment of triumph and happiness of getting published doesn’t mean your work is over. Now you have to sell your book and yourself to the readers, who aren’t familiar with you yet! You will need to be able to tell people in a few sentences why they should take a chance on you. Be willing to put yourself forward, to explain why they will enjoy your book and what they’ll get out of it: laughs, fun, education, new views on topics, etc.
As a new author, friends and family are your natural pool of buyers. Siblings, aunts, college roommates may assume you’ll give them a copy. However much you’d like to, Don’t.
Why? After your signing event, your publisher will call us to ask how the signing went and how many copies were sold. If you’ve given away the free copies that your publisher sent, you may not sell many copies at the formal event. If you give away 20 copies and sell 4 at the signing, that unfortunately indicates to them a poor event. On the other hand, if you give only your parents and grandparents 1 copy each and sell 22 copies at the signing, the publisher will see it differently. We once had a first-time author complain about how he didn’t sell many at the signing but then allowed as how he’d given all of his author copies away. That explained why there were no sales – his natural pool of buyers was very shallow.
Plus when you give away copies, we lose those sales as well. While we – your hosts – may have a good time at your first author event, we need to sell copies to stay in business.
In the weeks leading up to your event, do all you can to promote it to those friends and family members. Use all of your resources – Facebook, Twitter, your Christmas list of e-mail addresses – anything that you use to keep in touch with friends and family. Don’t be shy and don’t think you can’t send out a first announcement and then a reminder as the event approaches.
Recommend that they call or e-mail us to reserve a copy. Little can crimp a signing as quickly as Aunt Mimi coming in at the start of the signing and asking for a dozen copies, thereby taking a third of our stock. A couple of these customers can quickly wipe out our stock, thus people who come in later have nothing to purchase. All Aunt Mimi needs to do is call ahead, we can have her dozen covered without running low on stock. Similarly, you may hear from people who love to come but they just can’t make it (Uncle Hugo is in a bass fishing tournament that weekend, or your niece Becky has a piano recital or they live in Outer Mongolia and coming to Seattle is out of the question). Explain to them that they can still get a signed copy. Just call or e-mail in advance (again, doing it just as the signing begins is a bit too late) and we can ship them a copy!
Sometimes life does get in the way of the best intentions. If you hear in the days and weeks after the signing from folks who are apologetic that they missed it and they’re sorry they couldn’t get a copy, tell no problem. All they have to do is call us and we’ll make arrangements, letting you know if we need you to come back to sign more stock.
At your premiere signing, pay attention to strangers who may be at the margins of your crowd. It is easy to spend the entire time with friends and family, if you arrange to meet them after the event you are able to focus on those in the shop who could become your readers with a little extra effort.
Back to your author copies. We’ve heard from many successful authors that they wish they still had a copy of their first book – they gave them all way and now the book has become collectable and they no longer have a copy. Keep them safe and secure, away from the possibility of water or moisture of any sort, away from dirt and spiders and sunlight. When you get them, sign and date them all on the title page and put ‘em in a safe place. In the years to come you’ll be glad you kept them.
If life does get in the way of your scheduled signing, for heaven’s sake give us as much warning as possible. We once had an author cancel the day of the signing because he just couldn’t make it. Should that happen we can reschedule, our customers are very understanding. Do as much as you can to spread the word of the change (again, Facebook, Twitter, e-mails). These things happen and we can work to make the change relatively painless if we know as soon as possible.
The most important thing to keep in mind is this: you’ve spent months or years writing your first book and it is gratifying to have friends and family gathering around you to help celebrate – that’s wonderful and we like to see it. But what is a successful signing for us is measure in book sales. So the day must be good for both sides. We want you to remember the event as a high point in your life and for everyone who attends to have a great time – but we also must sell books for it to be a success for us. If we do, we’ll all be smiling!