So: You’ve written a book, and now you need to sell it. How would you like to throw a dazzling book reading and signing event and read excerpts from your book to an audience hanging on your every word?
Book readings, and their close compatriots, book signings, are one of the keystones of a self-publishing author’s post-publication strategic plan. The benefits of a reading and signing event are endless, and the opportunity to meet potential readers (and buyers) in a comfortable face-to-face environment is often one of the most important parts of a successful marketing campaign. When the unstoppable force of a new book meets the immovable object of a local independent bookstore, that campaign has a rock-solid foundation!
But how exactly can you go about setting one up?
First, identify potential bookstores! Start local. While larger chain retailers occasionally organize book signings, your local independent bookstores offer far more chances and flexibility. They also have a vested interest in supporting local (and self-published) authors, as the “regionality” of their offerings can provide a significant boost to sales. You can check local newspapers to see if any bookstores are listing upcoming events on the paper’s “calendar of events,” just as you would a public bulletin board in years gone by. Libraries are also a great place to host readings and signings, but they don’t offer some of the same benefits as a bookstore … namely, they don’t usually stock books for sale.
Second, prepare your pitch! Craft a short, clear script which outlines what your book is about and why readers would be interested in meeting you or buying the book. Make sure you include some easily modifiable references to the specific store or location you’re pitching to, so that they feel right away that you’ve done your due diligence and your research, and that you really are interested in having a reading at their store … not just any store. Emphasize the timeliness and the “regionality” or local appeal of your book, as well as any other points about how your book, specifically, will resonate with the store’s customers and perhaps even boost their sales reach.
Third, make contact! Call in or stop by to ask after the store owner or communications manager (if a larger chain) and come prepared with a brief pitch and some ready-made promotional materials, your book’s ISBN, retail price, bulk discount (if applicable), and a review copy if you have one to spare. Make sure to start the process well in advance; even smaller stores often set their events calendars months in advance! The more organized you appear on your first impression, the more likely the store will be to embrace the chance to promote your book by offering a free reading!
Fourth, follow up! It is vital to follow up your pitches with stores which have not confirmed dates. Mark your own calendar a week or two after your store visit, and call! Store owners and communications managers really want to be convinced that you’re willing to do your bit to help with promotion, so keep a list ready to hand of all the ways (whether by setting up an event invitation on social media, papering the town with flyers and handouts, or footing the bill for a newspaper advertisement or radio spot) in which you plan on helping. Provide them with your website address and any additional material they might need to feel confident that you’re the best possible choice for that special date next month! In the book business, persistence really pays off, as does the personal touch … which is what readings are all about.
Follow these four steps and you’ll be well on your way to organizing a successful book reading and signing event!