Where is the best place to host a book signing? In this article, we encourage you to think outside of the bookstore. Ian shares some of his tips and tricks for finding the perfect place to engage with your readers in real time.
The long and winding road of becoming a successful author is often not what people imagine it to be. In the same manner, nor is the artful and treacherous path of starting a business or founding a startup. With the many artists, authors, and musicians that I've known and worked with over the years, even the greatest amongst them often forget something critical: their identity as an artist is a business, and should be cultivated as one.
If you want people love what you have to offer, leave them wanting more, and get them to share it with their friends, then becoming an author or an artist is truly like founding a startup in every way. Here's how you can accomplish that:
You must have complete conviction
Above all else, many investors agree that it's conviction that sets apart entrepreneurs in their startup pitch. How determined are you to see your vision through to success? How far are you willing to go? Your conviction to your idea, or to your product, will draw the line between selling books, and not. As an author, you need to infect readers with the contagion of your conviction to your books, and writing process. Your enthusiasm about your books should be like an infectious disease that people can't escape. No one can be excited if you're not. No one can be sure until you are.
Diving in, and taking Risks
How far are you willing to go? You can't go far without taking risks. People in business recite this like some kind of mantra, but it's at the core of every great success. Take risks with your books. Don't be afraid to get them out there. Don't be afraid to invest in promoting them. You can't possibly hope to succeed if you're not taking risks.
Building the Brand
Every author has their own personal brand. Many outstanding writers forget this when starting their journey. Think of successful brands; what made their brand successfully stick out in people's minds? Twitter has an iconic name, logo, and symbolism that ties into the function of their simple, yet addictive, product. It's important that you create an emotional connection with your audience that engages them to recognize not only your name, but the appearance of your work from a distance. You're not just selling books, you're selling a brand, when you've built the basis of your identity as an author. You're selling your name and self.
Building the Tools and the Team
Being a great writer alone in today's age is not enough to be a successful author. You must build a platform and a means by which people can connect with what you're putting out there. This means the proper tools, and the proper team. There are all sorts of little nuts and bolts and tiny pieces that many great writers overlook when seeking to publish. In reference to turning the manuscript into a published book: Who's going to Edit this thing? Who's going to make the the art for the cover? Who's going to actually design the cover? Who's going to format the interior typeset of the book? Who's going to manage my social feeds? How's this thing going to get out there? These questions must be answered, but simply are not always answered appropriately. Each of these details is equally important and should not be overlooked, and should be professionally addressed. As an author, you should be building a team around you, that can handle these things, and also acquiring the tools, both metaphorical and physical tools, by which you can share your work.
You must build a Tribe
Every great startup, and every great artist, built a tribe of friends, followers, and supporters. Your tribe is much more than your fan base; it's your community. Build a tribe around you, with which to rely upon, for making critical decisions, or propagating your works. A tribe can't be bought, it must be built. You must work diligently to connect with your fans and supporters in a way that encourages them and engages them to be on board with what you're doing, or what you're writing. Anne Rice has built an outstanding Facebook presence, with whom she is constantly connecting with on a personal level. Arguably, it is her relationship with her tribe that contributes to the maintenance of her power and relevance in writing culture. Building your tribe is not the same as building your team. Your team should be hired professionals, or at the least, your inner-circle. Whereas your tribe is the outer circle. Your tribe are your regulars at the coffee shop, whilst your team members are helping you serve them.
Create Products that Enhance People's Lives
Quite simply; are you creating something that enhances people's lives? Do people want to consume your product, in the way that they might consume a sandwich? The answer to these questions should be "Hell Yes!" - what you have to say and share must be worthy of consumption. Sometimes, as an author, you are the product. As Ira Glass said in a recent Podcast on This American Life, "it's not the product, it's the person." While this doesn't mean that people should consume you, it does mean that they should be excited and invigorated in some capacity by the brand that you have created - enough maybe to wear it on their sleeve, literally.
Yep. Money has to be spent. Even if it's just a little. Money alone is not the cause of money, but it certainly helps. If you're sitting there thinking "I can do this without spending any money," or "I'll do this one day, when I have the money" your peers, equals, and indeed, those ahead of you, are already doing it. If your product is great, or if you're great, yes, you can get your tribe and your team to invest in you. If your tribe and your team are investing money in your product or brand, like in a Kickstarter, then they become like your partners. When that happens, a beautiful thing has occurred, and suddenly a weight is lifted. But how can you get to that point? How can you define yourself strongly enough so that people want to give you their money? You have to answer this question. You must make people want to give you their money, or at least, you must make people want to buy your product or person - in the way that they would want to buy a sandwich. Your readers aren't thinking of it that way, however. But as an author, you should be.
There are many facets to marketing a book and building your platform as an author (i.e. gaining an audience over a variety of media). There are also a lot of articles, blogs, and experts telling you how to market correctly and which facets to put your energy into. It seems that one of the most overlooked (or abandoned) practices for authors are live events. That is, an author engaging an audience through a reading, signing, and/or speaking engagement. A launch party is a great way to kick things off but continuing to hold live reading and signing events will perpetuate the following positive results for new and veteran authors alike.
Add Value to Your Book
Just as an album signed by its band becomes more valuable, so does a book signed by its author. Readers that receive a signed copy of a book are more likely to recommend books throughout their sphere of influence, leave an online review for the book, or post the book to social media sites. There are even ways to encourage your readers to do this when meeting them face to face. Too many authors tell me that they don’t want to schlep their book, as if it is somehow beneath them. It was not beneath successful authors like John Grisham and Louise Hay, among others, who both started out this way. Remember that selling is marketing. Every signed copy that lands into someone’s hand is another person that can tell others about your book.
Engage and Energize Your Audience Directly
Beyond getting a signed copy in their hands, performing live and being able to speak with and shake hands with your audience makes them more engaged in your book and in you as an author. This is the reason why politicians travel on a campaign to give stump speeches instead of simply airing commercials, doing interviews, and reaching out on social media. It lets you get to know your audience and them to get to know you, to make a personal connection. People buy products from people they like and they suggests books by authors they like. Not only will you have made a personal connection, but you have a chance to ask your audience face to face to leave a review on Amazon, follow your blog and social media sites, or post your book on their Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or other social media site. Even a small reading or book club can turn out to be a very intimate event and lead to some of your most ardent reader-promoters.
Rise Above the Internet Noise
The bad news is that there are more authors than ever trying to promote their books. The good news is that a vast majority of these authors are trying to promote solely by means of the internet. This kind of competition makes it even more difficult to get noticed online, but holding live events puts you into a unique class of author. Not only are live events a great way to seed your social media following by reaching fans through a noiseless medium, but it can add content about you are your book to the online world. Live events give not only you, as the author, but your audience something to post about online beyond a review of the book, excerpt from the book, or summary of the book. It is refreshing to read about an author having a great time with fans instead of another thinly guised plea for you to buy and promote their book. It is a great way to supplement your online efforts with additional advocates and unique news content.
Give the Media Something to Report About
Your book is out, you’ve sent out a press release about its availability to every newspaper and online news source in the world, but months later there is nothing new to excite the media masses. What to do? Though a book signing or author reading won’t make the front page of the New York Times, or much of a splash in any large city, it can garner attention in smaller communities with smaller newspapers. Not only can you get exposure in these smaller towns and cities, with a crowd that can become even more excited about this event that is more rare, more special to them, but most publications (even small town newspapers) post online now. This will help your online clout and give your book additional Google listings when it is searched.
Make More Money
While bookstores are the go-to place authors think of when they want to launch their book or have a signing, it isn’t necessarily the most effective and certainly isn’t the most profitable. We will cover this more in an upcoming article, “The Best Place to Hold a Book Signing”. One of the greatest benefits to having live signing events (outside of bookstores) is that it gives you the chance to become your own bookseller. This means that you make the lion’s share of the profit of the book because you don’t have a distributor or bookseller taking a huge discount—this portion goes back into your pocket. This is especially great for self-published authors who are trying to not only gain an audience but recoup the costs of publishing their book. If you do not want to appear like you are schlepping your book or seem like a salesman more than an author, have a friend or family member sell copies of your book at one table while you greet readers and sign books at a second table.
Be True to your Purpose
Without purpose, a brand does not have life. This goes for personal brands, as well as corporate brands. A purpose is not simply a mission statement, crafted by copywriters. A purpose is the core of why you are here, of why you are producing, and why you are in business. Being true to your purpose as a personal brand, or business brand, means that you do not stray from the core ideals that define your brand's reasons for existing. If you exist to provide a particular level of service or care to a particular niché, why would you lower that level after having set the standard? If your purpose is simple, and you simply provide a few basic things to the world, why would you try to do something outside of your nature? This does not mean non-innovation, this does not mean you cannot change your purpose, or change your goals. But if you know your brand's purpose, stay true to that, through all stages of development. That is how truly great brands change the world.
A great brand is recognizable. You, a viewer, may have never read an author's books, or never tasted a company's coffee, or never driven a particular brand of vehicle. But you know their logos, you know their look and feel. You can recognize Starbucks, Apple, Toyota, Amazon, from many feet away - without ever having purchased on Amazon, used an Apple, driven a Toyota, or drank a single Latte.
Therefore, your brand must achieve recognizability in order to establish itself in the public consciousness. Your logo and appearance should be dynamic enough to withstand the test of time.
If purpose is at the core of every brand, culture is the heart of every great brand. Without culture, there is no community, there is no brand. Some brands have very narrowly, or limitedly, defined cultures. A brand with a culture that is broad can appeal to many demographics. The Beatles are a brand that have withstood the test of time, because their culture is so unique, diverse, and eclectic. Similarly, Starbucks has achieved a very particular culture, that gravitates people to its stores. Nonetheless, people outside of the scope of that culture will frequent their locations and drink their coffee.
The "Culture" of a brand cannot be forced, or contrived. When you produce the look and feel of your brand, with recognizability, with a shared purpose, the culture evolves naturally. Building your culture means constantly sharing, and constantly getting people excited about your brand. Historically, purpose is one of the strongest ways to spread a culture. But all of the points mentioned here are the basis of building a brand's culture, and therefore its ability to scale in the public consciousness.
Consistency with Spontaneity
Very simply, for your brand to be recognizable, share its purpose, and create a culture that will sustain its existence, it must have a unique alchemy of consistency and spontaneity. Your brand must achieve consistency, in that people know precisely what to expect when they get something from you. If someone comes to you, for your books, or music, they know not only the level of quality to expect, but also the taste. Similarly, if you own a thai restaurant, they're not going to expect cheese burgers, unless it has your own unique touch. With spontaneity, the greatest brands have achieved the ability to introduce new and exciting elements into what they offer their public, in completely unexpected ways. The greatest brands are not afraid to create new things, to break rules. So, if you own a Thai restaurant, people would never come to you for a Cheese Burger, but they might come to you for your own Thai Twist on the Panang Peanut Curry Salmon Burger with Avocado and Lime. I imagine, as a fan of Thai food, I would be quite excited to find that on the menu at my local Esan Thai.
Accessibility & Connectivity
We recognize your brand, whether you're an author, a startup, a band, or a non-profit. We know your purpose, it's very clear. We are in tune with your culture. We know what to expect, and that there might be exciting surprises every once in a while. Is your brand accessible, and connected? Do I have to drive 50 miles to hear you play, to taste your food, to go to your book signing? The internet solves many of these common problems for some brands. An author, musician, or even a restaurant, may easily export their brand with social media and eCommerce. Ironically, some of the most remote brands, where we might get food, can be the most appealing. But this isn't the only definition of accessibility and connectivity. Is your brand Accessible, in the sense that, do people get your brand? As a prospect follower of your brands culture and purpose, with no past experience of your brand, can I easily access what your brand has to offer? Furthermore, your brand has no culture, or existence whatsoever, if its not connected. You must be integrated in whatever ways possible so that people can connect with you - otherwise how can they eat your food, hear your music, read your books, or donate to your cause? Make sure that you have an outstanding website, and social media presence, whereby people can connect with your brand.
1. Less is More
In book design, clarity is essential. Typically, you have only milliseconds to appeal to your potential reader. Therefore, keep it simple. The best book covers have one incredible piece of art, and basic typography. Don't burden your cover with unnecessary effects or extras.
2. Find a Brilliant Photo or Illustration
Find a unique image that represents your book, identity, and brand. Remember: in a matter of moments, to a potential reader, the image, as well as the title, will tell the reader everything they want to know. Sometimes, to compel your reader, all you have is an image; so make sure it counts! Finding a brilliant photo or illustration often means finding a brilliant photographer or illustrator. Stock photos do not count! Remember, you want a unique image.
3. Typography & Font selection
A title speaks 1,000 words, even if your title is only one word. However, it is not only the words that will speak to its readers on a subconscious level, but the typeface. Correct use and alignment of typography is often greatly overlooked by the Indie Author. You want to be sure to stick with fonts that are clear, easy to read, and also strong. Your font should never be an overused, or overdone font, such as Times New Roman, Papyrus, or Comic Sans, and you almost never want to have more than three fonts on the cover of your book. Furthermore, never mix moods to the point of confusion.
Bring to life a cover that matches the mood of your manuscript. If your book is satire, you want the life of your cover to reflect the satyrical nature of your book. If you've written a thriller novel, craft a cover that takes the potential reader into the suspense of your tail. Treat your book cover like a living thing, allow it to speak for itself. A great book deserves a great book cover - allow for the mood and atmosphere to resonate with the reader upon the first glance.
5. Tell Your Story
The cover of your book should deliver a microcosm of your story. The very first edition of The Hobbit, by J.R.R Tolkien, portrayed a simple illustration of one of the books chief characters Smaug, and a simple portrayal of the Lonely Mountain at the top. This first illustration, by the author, is an example of the kind of minimalism we're discussing here, which gives readers a magical piece of the story, begging them to look deeper. Later, the over art was re-illustrated more elaborately, but still executed the same principles.
Whether you've crafted a work of fiction, a Children's book, or an educational treatise into health and happiness, tell the readers a story by delivering a cover that gives an insight into the nature of your core message.
Remember that a great cover design is something to be carefully considered. If you're an independent author, or you're using a self-publishing service, sometimes the temptation to design the cover yourself is strong. If you want your book to be in the hands of readers, it's worth your time to invest in great design. Carefully chose designers, or a company, that can fit your budget and design needs.
Also remember that designing for web is not the same as designing for print. Make sure that your design utilizes high resolution images and files, and is also standardized for web, so that you can get the best of both worlds.
by Jeremy Gotwals, Founder at Holon Publishing
So, what does it take to successfully publish a book? This is perhaps the most relevant question we could possible ask on our web site/blog/etc.
his was definitely the most relevant question yesterday, when I ran into my old friend Gagan Singh, who I had last seen exactly a year prior on the same day, after nearly two-years of having graduated from Indiana University Kelley School of Business with his MBA. Gagan now lives in San Francisco with his newly wed wife, where he works at PayPal.
"Suppose I wanted to translate various Sikh writings into english and publish them as a book, what would I need to do?" Gagan inquired.
llow me to preface by telling you a little about Gagan (Pronounced sort-of like 'Guh-gun" ... think 'HUG - in' but 'GUHG-in').
ot only is Gagan a tech-savvy, highly knowledge, Product Manager at PayPal, who graduated from IU with his MBA... he's also is a spiritual brother of mine who practices the art of meditation and the spiritual disciplines of Yoga. He was known, during his time at Indiana University, as the "Urban Turban Guy," because he could always be seen sporting his bright-yellow turban (particularly at the Starbucks that all of us frequented on Indiana Avenue).
agan is also a trail-blazing Social Media expert. One who I definitely look up to in his areas of tech and web expertise. Gagan and I originally met at that Coffee Shop on Indiana Avenue, during his time in Bloomington. Outside of that beautiful coffee-shop, we spontaneously connected over music. We both chanted Sanskrit Mantras together while he played the harmonium and I played guitar. memory I hold close. I was only 20 then, and striving to find the next-step in my professional as well as personal/spiritual career.
So when Gagan asked me yesterday, what he should do about publishing his book of Sikh literature, my most immediate response was "Well, I think that you should crowd-fund the costs of publication, you-know? Like, throw a Kickstarter or something."
e ruminated on the topic for a moment while his wonderful wife listened intently outside of the Sample Gates, in Bloomington.
The main reason I mentioned crowd-funding to Gagan as the most direct means of publishing his work has to do with his already thorough command of his audience through Social Media.
He asked "But beyond that, what does that actually take?"
k, so let's talk about that answer.
"Well printing is actually not that expensive," I said to Gagan. The unit cost of most basic, perfect-bound, paperback books is less than $4. hipping can make things hairy sometimes. Hugely epic 400+ page books can be expensive to print. Full-color books can also be expensive.
"If you have a concept for a brand and/or niche, an image, a look and feel of your title, then getting it out there is not that difficult." I continued to explain. "If 100 people 'pre-ordered' your book for $15 then you would have a enough funding for each of them o have a copy of your book, plus a little bit more left over, to invest in the book's production." I also forgot to mention to him that, then, the book would be published, and available for Print on Demand and could be purchased through Amazon or directly through whomever was handling the publishing - including himself.
Gagan also asked "What would make someone want to order, buy, or invest my book if they don't know how good I am as a translator, or how skilled of a writer I am?"
told him that thus far, I was assuming that his network already had faith in his knowledge and abilities as a Punjabi/English translator, as well as a Sikh practitioner.
oreover, he's already spent years cultivating friendships, acquaintances and an internet following that was already interested in what he has to say. Which is necessary for every author today. The bottom line, if you yourself are not taking your message, your words, your story, or your creative works, to your audience, then you can't expect to sell books.
A lot of what I'm expressing here can also be found in Guy Kawasaki's book "Ape: How to Publish a Book", where he divulges the guts of what it means to truly take control of publishing your work today.
None of this necessarily accounts for editing, book-formatting, or graphic design. However, those are all human resources. Which is where an imprint or a physical publisher can come into play and be very useful. Otherwise, one can attempt those things themselves, or rope their friends into those tasks, but from experience - I would not recommend that. Unless you know what you're doing or your friends are professionals. Lest your book run the risk of winding up on one of those sites of lousy book covers.
Bringing all of these pieces together can take time and work. Furthermore, you want to make sure that you're releasing a finished product. Beyond good editing, branding is absolutely essential. o one will purchase a book that has a horrible cover. Besides this aspect of branding, retailers who could sell your book will ALWAYS want to know "Who published this book?" They will often turn you down if you tell them that it's self-published. Which is why this aspect of the publishing process should be handled artfully. Which is why we're not just a "self-publisher" at Holon. We're also partially playing the role of a traditional publisher, striving to create a brand that resonates with the same artistry and style that traditional publishers did in the 20th century. With new flavors and a new edge never seen before.
Let's say you want to "get-your-book-pubished," by someone else, by a third party, by a traditional publisher - who is paying for your book to be published.
First of all, the age of the literary agent is becoming obsolete. One no longer needs to be "shopped around" in this way to get ahead. Social media means that you can bring your book to the world directly. Moreover, traditional publishing fundamentally isn't what it used to be. It has its purpose, it has its place. You can acquire a deal, if that's your goal. However, control will not be yours. You might make 15% of royalties, if you're lucky. Ultimately, you, the author, will often know your audience better than your publisher - especially through Social Media. Which begs the question: why would you want a traditional publisher?
The biggest reason you probably shouldn't vie for a traditional publisher is simply that: you will be doing the same amount of work, either way. Only, one option leads to lesser control. If your burning desire is to get that call from your magical, far-away literary agent, in some New York or Seattle tower, who says... "Billy (or Sally), daw'ling! We have an offer from Random House! Fifteen-Thou' for your advance! They want us to fly to Manhattan right away!" I mean... it can happen. I also hear so many people who say "But, I want the rejection, so that one day, when I'm published, it will all be rewarding!" Which is also a fruitless attitude. Primarily because it doesn't involve any work in the "here and now." It implies that there's some far and distant realm of success that is detached from the work you're doing at this time, to actually get "there." Wherever "there" is.
The attitude should be "How can I share my work and ideas with the world?"
This is a beautiful attitude that will guide you towards success. This is the attitude that assists you in cultivating the best work possible, instead of searching for instant gratification. This is the attitude that will eliminate the distractions of fame and fortune, because publishing books is not about that.
If you get out there, if you keep up the pace, keep connecting with people, whatever your means - you will find great editors, great designers and people who will want to read your work. That is, if you are willing to put your ideas out there for them to try.
In reflection, I also want to tie it all together by mentioning my brief encounter with Gagan a-year-ago-yesterday. He walked into the coffee-shop by his lonesome. I hadn't seen him since 2010. I was just standing to get a refill of my coffee. We caught up on everything and I told him about Holon. What Gagan had to say was fundamentally one of the most important things that he could have possibly said at that time, which was something to the effect of:
"You can make a company about anything, but what you fundamentally want to share with people or market to the world are ideas. Ideas are what drive people. Ideas are what build great businesses."
This is also one of the most important facets of striving to be an author.
he sharing of ideas. Or experiences, as the case may be.
r perhaps just a really great story.
What does it take to successfully publish a book today?
atience, diligence, information. But also a willingness to leave your comfort zone and find the people that A) you want to work with and B) whom you want to read your work.