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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

First Devil's Cape book signing recap

Well, I had my very first book signing on Saturday night at a local Borders (that's me, above, signing buddy Michael's copy of Devil's Cape. Yeah, I look like I'm planning to invite him over for some fava beans and a nice chianti, but that's just a result of me not being particularly photogenic.

I've attended a few book signings in the past, but they've always been for big-name authors. They sit at a table or stand with a microphone, read some passages of their latest books, answer questions, etc. Coming to a signing is typically an investment of a certain block of time. That's not really the way that kind of thing works for relatively unknown writers like me. Mostly you get a few friends dropping by and a few curious people who have heard about it from the bookstore. The rest are casual shoppers whom you must lure over to your table.

Many scattered thoughts after the jump.

  • Borders had initially shown me a back area where I could set up, complete with a bunch of chairs for people to sit in, etc. When I arrived, they offered me the option of setting up at the front of the store instead. I politely declined at first--sometimes changes in plans throw me a bit and I was nervous as a cat, so I decided to stick with the original plan. But after about half an hour, despite having gotten a couple of strangers and some friends to buy the book, I realized that I would indeed do better up front, and moved forward.
  • You'll notice some chocolates in front of me. That "want some chocolate?" lure is an idea that fellow Discoveries author J.M. McDermott shared with me. (Thanks, Joe!) I didn't end up using it much--instead, I cast out with "do you like superheroes?" pretty often. But it was a good idea and I might use it again.
  • It was very kind of several coworkers and friends (including Andy of Lunar Adventures) to make time to drop by. A Borders staffer snapped some pictures of me with some friends with my digital camera, but pushed the wrong button or something--no pictures. Bummer.
  • One lady came over after hearing some (presumably witty) banter between Michael and me. She said she thought her son might like the book, but that he would disdain an autograph, finding that to be "too normal." Michael jokingly suggested that I rip it or spit on it instead, and that actually got her attention. She asked me to stomp on the book as hard as I could and leave an impression on the cover. Well, the customer is always right... I stomped away. The book is pretty tough (must be all those superpowers inside), so I really didn't make much of a dent, but she was pleased.
  • My original plan was to have a sign printed before the event--something that I can carry around with me to a number of events. But I dragged my feet, trying to decide between various options (most of them pricier than I would have expected) and ended up just printing out a copy of the cover and pasting it on some scrap posterboard. I'm glad I did. It's not the kind of thing I'm going to want to use often, but I'm glad I didn't immediately plunk down a Benjamin or two on a sign with just the book's cover on it, as I'd planned. I decided that I need a little something more that captures the idea of the book--something evoking action, adventure, superheroics, etc. I might go with a short blurb from a reviewer or something like the banner ad I have here with "Devil's Cape, Louisiana. Founded by pirates. Ruled by villains. Desperate for heroes." Anyone have any suggestions?
  • On a similar note, one friend and coworker suggested I might want to change my "Do you like superheroes?" approach. She said it would turn her off, since she doesn't like superheroes (and I did get several people who quickly said, "No," and walked in the other direction). On the one hand, saying something like "Do you like adventure stories" might be safer. On the other, at its heart, the book is a superhero book. I don't know. I'm torn.
  • The world comes full circle sometimes. My first-ever job (a summer job after my senior year in high school) was for a market research company, stopping people in malls and getting them to give their opinions about various ads or products. Approaching complete strangers like that was outside of my comfort zone then and it still is today, but I'd better get used to it. I will say that I seemed to get a little more comfortable with it as the evening went on.
  • Note to self: Even when you think everything is locked down and ready with a bookstore, get it confirmed an extra time or three and be prepared for it to go wrong. The people at Borders were very nice, but they dropped the ball on the publicity they'd promised--no mention in their newsletter, no listing on their web site, no flyer about the book, despite initial assurances that these things would happen. The guy I dealt with told me that part of this was because the event wasn't confirmed 30 days in advance. That would have held more water, but we actually confirmed it 33 days in advance. And it doesn't take 30 days to update a web page anyway, folks. Oh, well.
  • About halfway through my time there, someone made it out of the back door of the store with a bagload of DVDs. A nerve-jangling alarm went off for close to 15 minutes straight. After that, a lot of the staff was occupied with police reports, gawking, etc. Up until that point, they'd been making regular announcements about me, suggesting people drop by my table--about every 15 minutes. After the theft, that pretty much ground to a halt. The thief probably works for the Robber Baron (Devil's Cape reference there).
Anyway, overall it was an enjoyable experience and a good learning experience. I sold a decent number of books, I was told, and signed a bunch more for the store. Good times.


Jeff Hebert said...

I remember my wife telling me how much her authors hated book signings, for many of the reasons you touch on (she was a literary publicist). It sounds an awful lot like being at a trade show staffing a booth.

I do like the tag line you came up with, I think that would be catchy enough to draw the curious in, and since it's not explicitly super-heroic, it wouldn't drive the off the super-phobes.

I think (could be wrong here, I'll have to double-check) the really really good thing about signing the books is that the book store can't remainder signed ones. So even if the book doesn't sell, the publisher still gets their money from the store, instead of just having to take it back and refund their money.

Glad you're getting out there, that's cool!

Spork Boy said...

"Yeah, I look like I'm planning to invite him over for some fava beans and a nice chianti..."

For the record, the fava beans were quite tasty. The chianti was warm and a bit earthy. I thought it tasted like blood, but I had a headache that night and Rob did seat me in an odd spot at the table...right next to a saute pan. Weird.

Charles said...

Congrats with your book signing!

For the sign, I suggest going for keywords: crime, clown, capes, and pirate city!

Maybe next time you could come in costume... =)

J m mcdermott said...

I hope your signing went well.

I've noticed different stores have different competence levels from their community relations manager.

My experience at that particular store was enough to chase me off forever, honestly.

I hope you sell a billion copies!