Monday, 25 July 2011

What's in it for me? By Lynne Garner

This is not a question I normally ask myself. Well, unless a family member or a close friend asks for a favour and I ask tongue in cheek. However it was a question I asked myself recently when I did my first in-store book signing.
A few days before I was asked "how much are they paying you?" The look of surprise was amusing when I replied, "Oh, I don't get paid anything!" I was then asked, "so what percentage of sales are you getting?" Again the look of surprise when I replied, "none!" made me smile. "So what's in it for you."
I was going to give the following reasons:
  • Getting my name known
  • Meeting my target audience
  • Increasing sales
However I realised perhaps there was very little in it for me. I already had a way of achieving these goals. I can get my name known locally, meet my target audience and increase sales by doing presentations to local groups. I started to break down the benefits of doing these presentations rather than doing a book signing. They broke down as follows:
The plus of doing a presentation to a group of children (e.g. Rainbows, Brownies, Cubs):
  • The children are excited to meet an author who is there to see 'them.'
  • They are not being pulled from one shop to another by a rushed parent who does not have time and did not plan to stop to talk to an author.
  • I meet the target audience for my picture books.
  • I am able to spend quality time with them talking about my books and my work in a relaxed atmosphere.

The plus of giving a presentation to a group of adults (OPA Groups, WI's etc.):
  • I meet those who purchase my picture books and often have to read them.
  • They are also the target audience for my adult non-fiction books.
  • This is 'their' time and they are there to enjoy themselves.
  • They do not have to fit me in with the 101 other things they have to do whilst out shopping.

The plus of giving a presentation to any group:
  • I go to them as a group and do not have to keep fingers crossed they come to me; they are a captive audience.
  • Any books I sell I keep any profit.
  • I charge a fee to cover my time and expenses; again the money goes directly into my pocket.
  • I don't have to compete with the noise and jostle that takes place in a shop.
  • If they enjoy my presentation they become my sales force and pass on my contact details to other groups.
Having looked at the above I've now decided that perhaps doing a book signing in a shop is not right for me. I can get far more from giving a presentation and my audience hopefully gains more from me.
So let me put it out there. What's in a book signing for you?
Lynne Garner


Malaika said...

Well, when you put it like that, Lynne - not a lot!

Lynne Garner said...

I was just wondering if I'm missing something with regards to in-store book signings.

Sue Purkiss said...

This is interesting, Lynne - think I'll get in touch with the local Mothers' Union! Easy to do, and what you say about the advantages makes a lot of sense!

Nicola Morgan said...

Lynne, I do know what you mean but there is at least one proper benefit: it's one way to ensure that the shop stocks your book. And that is very important, I think.

Dan Holloway said...

It depends on the store, Lynne. I've had friends who've done some Waterstone's signings and the store hasn't even put a poster up - everything's been down to the publishers who, with the best will in the world, don't have the local knowledge. On the other hand, I'm doing a thing at Blackwell's in Oxford on Thursday, and as a prelude to it they've had a huge table of my books in a prominent place for several weeks and have sold 50+ copies *before* those sold on the night, for which they're sending letters to their mailing lists, through twitter, and on Facebook. Two completely different ends of the spectrum - which is why the question really needs putting to stores on an individuall basis.

That said, I would almost always rather do events that I organise, or where I just turn up and bring my own books.

Leila said...

Yes, Nicola makes a good point, and so does Dan - it depends on the shop. I have done in-store events where a class was marched in to hear me present my book, then marched straight out again the moment the last question was asked, without even having a chance to look at the book let alone buy it if they'd wanted to. That felt wrong to me. But other events will be different. It depends if the booksellers are enthusiastic - if they just see your presence as a hassle, it's really not worth it.
I think the idea of presenting to groups is great, if you have your own stock with you. Or even if not, just to get your name out there. In that case it would probably be worth giving out bookmarks or something with the title of the book on it.

adele said...

Unless you are a huge name with guaranteed attendance and guaranteed queues and sales, booksignings in shops are almost always just as Nicola says: to get your book into the shop. Then, the book will stay there after you've gone and even if only three people turn up at your signing, the stock will stick around for a bit. MAKE SURE YOU SIGN EVERY SINGLE COPY THE SHOP HAS BROUGHT IT. A signed book is a sold book. Indeed, I was told by my editor at Orion that I should go into every single bookshop I pass and offer to sign anything in stock. I've done it often and it's amazing. Instead of giving me a flea in my ear, shop people always seem thrilled to bits. Do try it wherever you are!

Linda Strachan said...

I agree a well organised bookshop signing can be good for various reasons, getting your book in the shop, cultivating both the booksellers and an audience by being there and just being NICE to people. Amazing how many will remember that they met you and feeling positive about the experience will perhaps tell their friends.
I would be inclined to check with the shop beforehand to see if they are doing any of the advertising mentioned above and that they do get in a reasonable stock of your books.
I have always found booksellers delighted if you offer to sign books and sometimes they don't ask,so I make a point of it.

It can be demoralising to sit behind a desk and see people who happen by avoiding you - so don't. Go to the front of it, unless you are actually signing. Speak to people coming by, they may be too shy to speak to you. Just be friendly and don't do a hard sell, that would be more likely to frighten folk away.

If you are not happy doing it, don't do it- simple as that.

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Being in a book shop without a proper event organised is a lonely business. Sign some books, wear something that tells who you are and then leave some bookmarks at the till and get out quickly if nothing is happening. But be sure to smile and tell the bookshop owner what a lovely time you had and how wonderfully stocked you found the bookshop (oh yes... and secretly re-arrange your books so that they're on the shelves that count!)

Stroppy Author said...

Maybe there is something in it for the kids. I remember my big daughter going to an author signing in Heffers. It was by JK someone.

Lynne Garner said...

Thanks for all the feedback. I think I was just unlucky as I was left to do all the advertising and the shop did not even bother with a poster. Adele: will take your kind advice and every time I see one of my books I'll offer to sign it. I almost did last year when I saw a number of my books in a museum in New York but wimped out.

Meg Harper said...

Perfectly put, Lynne. My experience almost exactly. Bookshops love you to do signings because basically to get any sales at all you have to get out there and handsell - but there's very little in it for you - unless you are the master of this means of promotion, Mark Robson, who could sell sand to the Arabs! Having said that, his books are a lot more interesting than sand!!