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.