AFTER THE BOOK DEAL – Guest Post by Jonathan Auxier
The Internet is full of great advice about how to sell a book, but what about after the sale? When my first book came out, I found it was surprisingly hard to find answers to some basic questions. Like most authors, I learned most of the answers through trial and error. And so in anticipation of the launch of my new novel, The Night Gardener, I’ve decided to write down everything I learned so I don’t make the same mistakes twice!
AFTER THE BOOK DEAL is a month-long blog series detailing the twenty things I wish someone had told me before entering the exciting world of children’s publishing. Each weekday from now until MAY 20, I will be posting an article on a different blog. Follow along and please spread the word!
Day Nine: Surviving No-Shows
Yesterday we talked about how to make the most of crowded festivals and conferences. Today, we’ll discuss the opposite problems: the dreaded no-show!
No-shows are the Lord Voldemort of book events. Authors are afraid to speak of them. Bookstores pretend they don’t exist. But they do exist. In fact, they are everywhere. Want proof? Go to three random signings at three different stores . . . I guarantee that at least one of them will be a no-show.
An Author’s Perspective
I was lucky when I launched Peter Nimble. My first three signing events were amazing, bringing 100+ people. But I knew from horror stories of author friends that this run would end, and boy did it. Two months into promoting, I hit a freak wall where I had a series of events where pretty much nobody showed up. It’s horrible and demoralizing. Even worse, you might find yourself secretly resenting the bookstore for not guaranteeing a turnout. But’s that’s completely backwards! You should never assume that a bookseller will attract people to events—they’re busy running a book store. Here’s the truth: It’s your job to bring people to them. Which means that you need to reach out to your own community. Don’t just tweet the event the morning of the event, reach out to friends and relatives in the area inviting them to come. Even a small handful people from your network showing up can save an event from disaster.
A Bookseller’s Perspective
The only people who hate no-shows more than authors are booksellers. Low turnouts are both embarrassing and frustrating. Bookstores can promote the heck out of your event—they can book school visits and make huge window displays ... and still no one will show up. Why? Because the universe is cruel, that’s why. After a few rough events, I started asking booksellers for advice. How did they wish authors handled these events? Their answers were brilliant, and comprise my advice below ...
How to Beat No-Show Events
1) Swing for the Fences
A professional does her job even when it’s no fun. No matter how few people show up to a signing, give them a full show with all your energy. So tell jokes, draw them pictures, talk to them about their favorite books and movies. Why not? It’s not like you have somewhere better to be!
2) Take Control of the Situation
The best advice I got about no-shows was from a bookseller in southern California. She said that as soon as it’s clear an event is a bust, the author should ask permission to move their signing table (and books) to the very front of the store—that way they can talk to every single person who walks through the door. I started doing this and it made a huge difference. Suddenly, I was selling 30-40 books at events where nobody showed up. (This will make booksellers into big fans!) There is an art to talking to strangers without being too pushy. But if you are genuinely passionate about your book, that should shine through. I have found that the best way to approach strangers is with the following question: “Do you have any readers in your life between 8-12?” If the person says “no,” they I leave them alone. But if the person says “yes” then we’re already on our way.
Of course, no one likes selling things to strangers. Do what it takes to get in the right frame of mind. (For me, that involves singing “Carrying the Banner” from NEWSIES at the top of my lungs.)
3) Become a Jr. Bookseller!
Your job involves much more than just standing behind a table signing books for adoring fans ... especially when there are no fans. But even a small turnout is a chance to sell a lot of books. Don’t be satisfied with selling a copy of your own book to a customer, instead talk to the person to learn her favorite books—and then recommend similar works from the store shelves. In general, I make it a goal to sell 1-2other books to every person who buys my book. Consider how this looks from the bookseller perspective: even if you only sold a few of your own books, the event now led to significantly more sales for the store. Obviously, handselling takes a degree of awareness about a lot of different genres, but if you’re not already a serious reader, you probably have no business writing books in the first place.
4) Get to Know Your Bookseller
The last thing to consider is how a no-show actually provides a good opportunity. Without customers commanding your attention,you suddenly have a lot of time to spend hanging out with a bookseller! Talk to them about their store, and what they’re reading—make a genuine connection with a fellow booklover. Talk to them about your favorite books, and what inspired you to write. Remember: these are the people who will be tasked with trying to sell off your unsold stock ... or else return them to the publisher. This is a small industry, and you will likely be seeing one another again. Turn your next encounter into a happy reunion!
That’s it for AFTER THE BOOK DEAL! Next week we’ll be talking about the business of being a professional writer. Swing by, and please-oh-please spread the word!
JONATHAN AUXIER writes strange stories for strange children. His new novel, The Night Gardener, hits bookstores on May 20—why not come to his book launch party? You can visit him online at www.TheScop.com where he blogs about children's books old and new.
Although he doesn't mention library events, now I know that if I ever host an author visit that is a bust, I can just blame the author! Thank you for that comforting thought, Jonathan. But speaking seriously, I take extraordinary measures to ensure that there is never a no-show event at my library, and I hope that all authors realize that while they may not sell many books during library visits, libraries themselves are a large market share. Ask me how copies of each Wimpy Kid book my library owns and how many times each has had to be replaced for wear and tear! L.T.
If you missed my review of The Night Gardener, read it here.
Want to hear more from Jonathan Auxier? Follow the rest of the blog tour or catch up on previous entries.
WEEK ONE: Before Your Book Comes Out
April 21 – “Finding Your Tribe” @ Shannon Messenger
April 22 – “Do I Really Need a Headshot?” @ Novel Novice
April 23 – “I Hate Networking” @ Charlotte’s Library
April 24 – “A Night at the Movies” @ The Lost Entwife
April 25 – “Giveaways!” @ Smack Dab in the Middle
WEEK TWO: Your Book Launch
April 28 - “Can I have Your Autograph?” @ Haunted Orchid
April 29 – “Cinderella at the Ball” @ The O.W.L.
May 1 - “Being Heard in the Crowd” @ The Misbehavin’ Librarian
May 2 – “The Loneliest Writer in the World” @ Shelf Employed
WEEK THREE: The Business of Being an Author
May 5 – “Back to the Grindstone” @ Word Spelunking
May 6 – “The Root of All Evil” @ The Compulsive Reader
May 7 – “Care and Feeding of Your Muse” @ Buried in Books
May 8 – “The Green-Eyed Monster” @ The Book Monsters
May 9 – “Death by 1000 Cuts” @ Waking Brain Cells
WEEK FOUR: Keeping Your Book Alive
May 12 – “A Cheering Squad of One” @ So I’m Fifty
May 13 – “This Part is Awkward” @ TBA
May 14 – “School Days” @ There’s a Book
May 15 – “Crowd Control” @ Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
May 16 – “Keeping the Magic Alive” @ Tif Talks Books
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