Friday, July 23, 2010

How to Get the Most from Your Book Signings

Note: Some of my newer clients have asked for info on how to prepare for signings, so I'm reposting this earlier piece for those interested. -PM

Summer is here and it's a great time for authors to do book signings. For those of you getting ready to appear at bookstores for the first time, here are some helpful hints for making the most out of your signing experience:

1) If the bookstore is near you, stop by a week ahead of time and see what kind of promotion the staff is doing for your book. If they don't have anything up, offer to give them posters, bookmarks, magnets, etc., to use in the store.

2) Talk to your friends and family and try to get as many people as you can to attend your signing. Even if they've purchased the book before or attended other signings, ask them to come and help draw people in the store over to the area where you're reading. Send email announcements to everyone in your address book prior to signings and ask your workmates, students, clients, etc., to attend. Mention that you're doing a signing everywhere you go -- at work, in the grocery store, at the bank, etc. Make up simple announcement flyers and leave them everywhere you can (at the library, on bulletin boards, at coffee shops, etc.).

3) Presign a number of the books you're bringing to help long lines move faster. After your signing, see if you can get the store to keep the presigned copies. You can make or order stickers that say "Signed Copy" for the spine of the book -- these will help the books move quickly on the shelves.

4) A few days prior to the signing, advertise your event on local websites that have calendar listings. Many local newspapers and weekly tabloids have event notice forms you can fill out online for free. Some have longer lead times, so start checking the websites early. You can also put a notice in the events section on Craigslist and on other free networking sites.

5) The morning of your signing, call and ask for the manager (if you're one of my clients, the names are on your reading schedule). Make sure the manager knows what time your signing will be held and has everything ready for you, including table, chairs, microphone, electrical outlet (if necessary), etc. Also, find out if your books are there; if they're not, bring at least 20 copies with you.

6) Get to your signing early and make sure tables and chairs are set up and your books are out. I've been to a number of signings where my clients have gotten there and nothing is ready, so be prepared for that. Be sure to place one of your promotional posters on the table with your books, so patrons passing by will see the cover art and, hopefully, stop to hear you speak.

7) Always have extra copies with you, in case you have a big crowd. Bring plenty of pens and don't forget to bring your business cards, so those who buy your books can get in touch with you later or find info on your website.

8) Be personable and friendly to everyone who walks by. Wait until there is a good crowd gathered before starting and, if there's no microphone, make sure you project your voice so those in the back can hear you (practice this at home in front of the mirror). Talk about what inspired you to write the book, what the story is about, what motivates the characters, and what you love about the book. Read a few pages, preferably something that has some action or conflict. Don't read too long -- less is more with public speaking. Those in the audience will often have questions, so be sure to allow for some after you finish. And don't forget to chat with readers while you're signing -- the more impressed the reader is with you and the book, the better chance s/he will tell others about it and help create the buzz you're looking for.

9) After the signing, thank the store manager and other staff who helped you set up. See if they'll stock any leftover copies and don't be shy about asking them to order more copies from your publisher.

10) Bring your digital camera and have someone take pictures of you while you're signing. After the signing, post the photos on your website and blogsite and write about the experience, the readers you met there, the helpful staff, etc. Be positive about the experience (even if it didn't meet your expectations) and encourage everyone to come out for your next signing.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


I struggled a little with this blog post today, not because I haven’t written one in a while (which is true, I’ve been delinquent), but mainly because this is not a subject I’m happy about.

My topic today is those agents, editors, publicists, and publishers, who use their social media sites to publicly belittle the writers who have queried them or inquired about their services. I’m talking about the folks who post sneering comments on their Facebook or Twitter pages about manuscripts and query letters they’ve received from authors. These are the comments about bad grammar, overblown plot lines/characters/dialogue, angry responses to rejections, or even deals that go down in inappropriate places (I recently saw a tweet from an agent who crowed that she had made a book deal while she was in the bathroom at her local gym).

In rare cases, there may be a legitimate reason to gripe (I’m thinking about a recent blog post by another agent who received a number of expletive-laden emails from an individual she had rejected), but that griping, in my view, should never take place in a public forum. If a professional has to vent, there are more appropriate venues (i.e., private conversations with coworkers, spouses, or friends) for sharing frustration about submissions, clients, or colleagues. But publicly humiliating authors who submit work, no matter how bad that work might be, is just not acceptable.

A writing professional has to believe that the manuscripts and letters she receives have been sent with the best intentions. Yes, many of these submissions are error-ridden and a great number of the manuscripts are not likely candidates for publication. But there is never a time when it's okay for a literary professional to poke public fun at an author who is making an honest attempt to submit a written work.

Maybe it’s because I’m an author myself, but I cringe when I read giddy Facebook posts ridiculing author submissions. Not only is it unprofessional to do so, it is extremely unkind. In my view, a client submission is a private document and one to be considered with the utmost courtesy. My policy is to never publicly discuss any type of inquiry sent to me, no matter how bad the writing (and I do receive some gems, on occasion) or how mismanaged the cover letter or email message. To me, every writer, along with his work, deserves consideration and a professional, private response from me, whether I agree to represent him or not. And every author deserves some amount of common courtesy and respect for at least having taken the time to produce a written work.

I don’t understand why authors continue to submit to literary professionals who openly belittle them in public forums. To me, a person who bashes potential clients in public is either unprofessional or unkind (or both), and hardly a good candidate for a business relationship.

To writers who are submitting work: I urge you to check out the public forums used by the professionals you plan to query before you submit. You may reconsider after visiting there.

And to my literary colleagues who have indulged in this type of behavior, I beg you to remember: public humiliation, in any form, is unprofessional. If that statement sounds too chastising, I submit this thought instead: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.