Welcome back to the blog. This week, I’d like to reach out to follow authors working to put their books out into the world. As I’m currently preparing for my first major convention appearance, I thought about all the preparations that go into getting ready for any kind of appearance for an author. So today, I’d like to present a check-list for any author making their first major appearance, from a local signing to a full con appearance.
- Books- let’s start with the most obvious part of a con- the actual product. You need to make sure you’ve got a good amount of books. The worst feeling of an appearance is to run short early and miss potential opportunity. However, you also don’t want to over-order, and be left with a huge number of books. The best thing to do is to plan for your appearance and decide how much to bring based on just where you’re going and how many people will likely be there.
- Money-Box- besides books, the most important thing you need at an appearance is money. You need to have loose cash to give change to people that pay in cash. You may also want to invest in a credit card reader, which are often small enough to work with a smart phone and will make it easier for people to pay. Regardless, you must always have a cash-box, a small, lockable container that holds your change and your profit. This is one of the two most important things to bring to any appearance.
- Props- another important part of any event. You always want to appear professional and to attract attention. Some simple props can easily accomplish this; a poster of your book or even of yourself can help steer people in your direction and get the first initial interest. As with the book number, this should be adjusted for your appearance. You don’t want to overcrowd a library or undersell a crowded convention.
- The Right Attitude- no one wants to go to a signing for a grumpy author. Be prepared for the event you’re going to- if it requires you to speak, be polite, informative, and most of all, approachable about your work and as a person. If you’re going to be in a group, be inviting, but without seeming like a carnival pitchman for your book. Above all, be prepared to be in one location for a long time, friendly to the people that approach, and above all, grateful for people that purchase your book.
- Preparations- this seems obvious, but it’s worth mentioning. Whatever event you are going to, know the details. Know when you need to get there, make sure your give yourself time to set up, know the setup, and make sure all your materials are ready.
- Help- something many authors don’t think of. Appearances are built around the author, but they can require more then one person. Don’t be unafraid to ask for help in setting up appearances, especially at cons. The larger the event, the more pressure is on to get customers, so don’t be afraid to have someone else there to help you out.
- Research- we end with the most important step of appearances, finding one. While your publisher may aid you in finding events, you will likely need to do some work on your own. Some events are easier to schedule- local signings, events at libraries, are usually happy to host you. Events like cons however, will take more work and require your efforts to find them. So get on your computer and find them, it’s the only way to be able to get your book out there.
Hopefully, this checklist will make it easier for new authors to navigate the difficult waters of their first major event. And don’t forget about my appearance at the Big Apple Con in a few weeks, on Mar. 7th, at NYC’s Penn Pavilion from 10-6 pm.
Greetings to all. Today, I have great news, as my second novel, Equites, has been sent to the printers, and is finally live and available for purchase! Currently, it can be purchased on the iUniverse website (link below) in hardcover, paperback, and e-book, and will soon be available on mainstream book sites such as Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com.
This marks the beginning of a busy year, as I will be doing even more promotion for the Lightrider series. This will include giveaways, a national Book Exhibit, and my first venture into conventions, at the Big Apple Con on Mar 7th in NYC, and the Garden State Comic Fest in Morristown NJ over the summer. More details will be released as time goes on, so please, keep checking back for info and my usual writing entires. Here’s to a successful New Year.
In today’s marketing piece, I’m going to speak on a promotional method that has become a large part of the writer’s resources- the convention. While think of cons as massive places to debut films, TV, and comic books, there are still many smaller cons that authors can use to show off their work and gain fans and notoriety. While the Internet and social media are incredibly important for building a fanbase, cons allow for personal connections that will help to strengthen your name and help to get your book across.
The Con- What it is, How to find It, and What to do
Conventions are large gatherings, usually built around popular media that take place across the country. The most well-known is the San Diego Comic-Con, which draws fans from around the world and has become the mecca for panels on upcoming films, TV, and comic books (I personally went a few years ago, and can truly say it lives up to the hype). However, you’re unlikely to start there. Many smaller conventions take place across the country, and it is easy for writers to check into cons that are happening in their area, which are usually advertised. The Internet is your best bet, but local papers and comic shops will also help, and the closer you are to a big city, the better your chances.
When you have found a con, the next step is to get a seat there. This usually involves calling the con and getting a booth to display your work, but this can be expensive for a first time writer. A better suggestion is to find a con with an Artist’s Alley, which showcases a group of local artists/authors and is far less costly. Once you are set, you will need to promote your area, usually with posters, a display of some kind, something that will bring attention to you and your work. Make sure your display is of good quality, so that it can be reused and save you money in the long run. And of course, you will need to order copies of your book to sell. However, remember that this is your first con, and you do not want to over order. Try to make a reasonable estimate given the size of the con and how many fans you feel you can attract.
This leads to the most important part of a con- being social. You will be standing at a booth all day, with people stopping by the whole time. These are your potential fans and buyers, so you must be ready for them. Answer their questions, be friendly and sociable, and do as much as you can to appeal to them without going into salesman mode, because that will drive fans away. Hopefully, you can find that balance and use it to promote your book efficiently. I can personally relate to this being effective; at Comic-Con, I was fortunate enough to meet Brent Maddock, one of the writers of Tremors. While I did pay for an autograph, he was gracious enough to speak to me for almost fifteen minutes about Tremors rumors and the state of horror movies today. When I got home, I almost immediately went out and bought the four Tremors movies and the short lived TV series.
While the Internet and social media are of far greater reach, cons offer that personal, one on one experience that bring you a greater connection with fans and help you to build your reputation as an approachable writer that fans will pay to see. And it can lead to some surprises, as I ended my day at Comic-Con playing guitar in an Irish pub with Lindsay Ellis, aka the Nostalgia Chick from ThatGuyWithTheGlasses.com (I’ll post the photos after I finally get them on file). So look for cons that will work for you; be smart, be realistic, be frugal as needed, and above all, be social and friendly, and you will build a new army of fans (though some may be dressed as Megatron. Just roll with it).
• Special thanks to Derrick Fish, writer/artist of the Wellkeeper, artist for Lightrider, and con veteran, for his invaluable expertise in writing this piece.
As I mentioned in my previous post on marketing, being able to speak on your work is essential. And while a book signing is certainly an opportunity to talk about the book, there is another aspect of speaking that is important to touch upon- being able to talk about writing itself. Just as you would expect an actor or musician to talk about the art of their craft in detail, you should be able to talk about writing in the same way. So today, I would like to discuss a few points I would suggest writers to go over in their speech.
What to talk about.
#1 Your process
When you write, you will have to find a process that is unique to you and you alone. As such, your audience would be interested to hear exactly what it is you do. If your style is to write listening to music, or to work at a certain time, or just to write for a few hours, explain why this works for you. What makes it effective, what makes it the best way for you to get your work flowing? Remember, other authors are looking for their own methods, and this is a great way to help them.
Getting started is hard, and sometimes people may feel their ideas simply aren’t good enough. As someone with a finished piece of work, you should give these people the path and ability to get to their finished story. When I speak, I always tell how my book started from watching an anti-drug special that first made me interested in a group of heroes. And each time. I explain how that basic concept stayed with me for many years, being changed and developed, until it became a book. And I always finish by saying how the best stories can come from anywhere, and that with enough confidence, a writer can take anything and shape it into something.
#3 What You Love About Writing
This should be obvious, but every writer should be able to talk about why they love to write. It’s simply too basic not to talk about.
#4 Your Failures
For all the work you’ve accomplished, you will have certainly stumbled along the way. This is also important to share. Writing is a difficult career, and there’s never a promise of success. The act itself is long and difficult and you may find yourself making bad decisions constantly. But that is a part of the process, and as a finished writer, you need to make aspiring writers aware of that. Talk about ideas that didn’t work, rejections you faced, harsh criticism. It will help your audience understand the how hard writing is for everyone, and how people can rise above it, as you hopefully have.
#5 Your future
Writing is hard, and it take a lot of work, planning, and luck to make a career out of it. Some people will ask how you plan to survive with it. If you aren’t planning to write full time, explain to your audience how they can use writing in building a life. You may not be able to give them a path to fame and success, but you can tell them how to be writers and have a profitable, happy life. And with an uncertain career like writing, that may be the most valuable thing to talk about.
By this point in your marketing process, you should hopefully have a great, eye-catching cover and someone in place to help guide you through getting your name out there. Now, you need to focus on setting up events where you can see people and get your name out there. One of the most basic events a writer can set up, is the one we will be discussing today- the book signing.
If anyone has ever waited in line to get an autograph, you have experienced the basic concept of a book signing. It is a great way to meet readers, talk about your book, sell some copies, and get a nice ego boost as well. However, these events take time to set up, and even more time for new authors since unlike the people you have waited in line for, you are probably not famous yet. The first part of getting a signing is to first find places that you can host a signing in. As I mentioned before, you do not want to spread yourself in areas that are far away, so you should first examine your local area for spots you can use. These can be anywhere from libraries to bookstores to even schools. And again, if you use places that you have some history in, you have a better chance of being able to set one up.
Now even with a local setting, you will still need to sell the signing itself (which may also involve spending money for an event). After all, these places are going to be giving you their time and space, and don’t want to give them for nothing. Therefore, be able to promote the signing to the owner. Have a strategy for how you will help to raise awareness for the event, and what exactly makes your book a standout. And while you don’t want to do this in great detail, it is not bad to invite a few people to the event. It will guarantee the event will have an audience, which will help to assure your promoter their will be a draw. So try to use methods like newspapers, online media, and as much word of mouth as you can.
Once you have an event set up, then you need to start making preparations. Obviously, you need to make sure you have copies of the book to sell at the event, as well as some signs and decorations for the inside. You should make sure you have a general number of how many people will be at the event, and plan accordingly; being short on books will greatly hurt your image to fans and to promoters. And obviously, you need to have some way to keep money from the book sales safe. Your first step can be to get another person to handle the cash, so you can focus on the event. It might also help to get some additional devices, like a portable credit-card reader, to accent your intake.
The most important thing you need however, is a speech. As much as you will be sitting and signing, you aren’t going to grab loyal fans by just sitting there. After all, when you go to a signing, you want to speak to the person, even if only for a few seconds, and try to ask them something. And you should be able to talk about your work and grab their attention. So before the signing, write out a speech where you discuss the book. You can talk about your influences, the process of writing and publishing, read passages from the book, anything to explain how you came to this point. And if there is time, have a q & a section for the event. Readers like nothing more than asking about a novel, and this gives you a chance to connect with them, as well as learn the vital skill of thinking on your feet.
A signing can be a great deal of work, and even scary to a first timer. But they are essiential to all writers’ promotion, and should not be half-assed in anyway. Using local places is a great way to get started, and it will help you to later set up events in places where you are less known. But most importantly, they can be a great deal of fun for the authors. I can personally attest to the joy of being asked great questions about a book I had poured so much work into, and hearing people give such positive feedback. So when the time comes, look around you for places, use your connections, plan things out as much as possible, and be ready to conquer your stage fright.
Today the Vlog comes to Curling Up With a Good Book, and along with the chance to enter for a signed copy, there’s an interview with me about Lightrider, it’s inspirations, and some of the material I like to read.
Today marks the start of Lightrider’s first vlog tour, where the book will be highlighted on various book sites and blogs across the ‘net. The tour will include contests for signed copies, guest posts by me, and other special posts and offers. Each site will be posted here as they come up, so keep up to date and see how you might win a signed copy.