Wow, Martha and Kameron posted some excellent advice! I’m reading the posts this week with great interest, since I’ve done a grand total of 2 readings (both in a group setting, not individually), and my very first signing in a bookstore is coming up this Saturday.
(It’s part of a bookfair benefit for Pikes Peak Writers, which is a great writing organization that does tons to help out writers in Colorado. So hey, any Boulder/Denver-area people, please come by! I’ll be signing 6-8pm Nov 12 at the Barnes & Noble at 2999 Pearl St in Boulder, along with fellow local authors Julie Anne Peters, Lindsay Eland, and Todd Mitchell. More info on the event is available here (PDF flyer) and here at the Pike’s Peak Writers’ website.)
You’ll note this is my first bookstore signing even though The Whitefire Crossing has been out for 3 months now. I confess this is because I feel pretty skeptical about bookstore signings as a promotional tool, at least for an introvert like myself. Especially given my debut author status (read: no fan base!).
I once went to a panel at the Rocky Mtn Fiction Writers’ Colorado Gold conference in which the speaker did a wonderfully detailed and clear presentation on how to successfully sell books at signings. His main points as I remember them were: 1) never sit down, 2) don’t do a group signing if you want to sell books rather than chat with the other authors, 3) if signing locally, make it clear you’re a local author, 4) approach people directly but give them a graceful, easy out if they are not interested in your book, 5) have your “elevator pitch” practiced to perfection, 6) make friends with the bookstore people & sign all their stock, 7) even if you’re an introvert, you can learn to do this well. I could totally believe he was right about #7. But it seems to me that if you’re not a natural extrovert, it’ll take a LOT of practice to do it well…time I could far better spend a) writing the next book, or b) doing things that come more naturally and reach a larger audience, like online promotional stuff.
So for this signing on Saturday, my personal goal is just to have fun. Check out the other authors’ books, chat with those friends & neighbors I can convince to come (as a parent, I’ve learned to never miss out on an opportunity to have some adult conversation!), maybe get to meet some new folks. And while the RMFW guy may have been down on group signings, I’m all for them (and group readings, for that matter). It takes so much of the stress and nerves away if you know you won’t be alone in the room.
Speaking of readings…prior to publication, the thought of reading my work aloud made me cringe in terror. Honestly, it still kinda does. But at least after my two short readings at conventions, I can see that it’s not quite so horrific as I’d imagined. That said, I’ve got a long (loooooooong) way to go before I feel comfortable with it. (I still think I should take up my good (and extroverted) friend’s offer of being my stunt reader!)
And next time I plan on taking Kameron’s advice from her post yesterday, and doing a lot more preparation. Before I did my first reading I was worried about going too fast, since I’m naturally a fast talker, and I’d attended readings at cons in which the author spoke far, far too quickly. I did practice enough to slow myself down (maybe even too much!). But the part I really need practice on is putting emotion into my reading; this does not come naturally at all to me as an engineer. Mary Robinette Kowal has a great series of articles on how to read aloud . Good stuff for future study!
As for whether or not readings help sell a book…I can say as a reader, I’ve bought a couple books from authors unfamiliar to me after hearing them read at cons. I remember going to Catherynne Valente’s reading of Habitation of the Blessed at World Fantasy last year, pretty much on a whim. I’d never read any of her work before. But wow, I was absolutely blown away by what I heard in the reading. The minute I got home to Boulder, I stampeded into the nearest bookstore, bought a copy, devoured it, and have been recommending the book to friends ever since. The sequel The Folded World is out right now, and I am using it as a reward if I meet my word count goal this month. So hey, when you do a reading, you never know how many people you’ll reach. (The same could be said of signings, of course…but I find myself more motivated to do convention readings than bookstore signings, for whatever reason.)