Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Book Signing Etiquette - A Fine Line

Just one last plug from me for this event Thursday night. Please show up and bring every reader you know to support Don if you possibly can. He's coming all the way from Texas, so the Utah crowd doesn't get to see him often. Getting a signed copy of "Bumpy Landings" will bring a breath of fresh tropical air to your frigid January. Oh, and the "light pupus" do sound intriguing.

So I’ve been contacted by Emily at Cedar Fort, who wants to set up a series of signings for me at Seagull Book stores up and down the Wasatch Front. Seagull has 20 locations from Riverdale to Spanish Fork, most of them smaller (less than 2,000 square feet) stores in “strip mall” type shopping centers. There won’t be a whole lot of traffic unless I bring it in. It’s going to take all of my marketing and promotion skills to prepare for this tour and ensure that it’s worthwhile.
Since my novel’s theme involves formalwear, I plan to make my appearances in a tuxedo, the same uncomfortable yet elegant outfit I wore at the launch party. I’ll have my posters, bookmarks, and a decorated table as a base of operations. The overall effect is that I will probably scare the heck out of unsuspecting customers entering the tiny store.
I’ve combed the internet for articles on how to make signings successful. If there’s one thing they all agree on, it’s that the author should not just sit there and play with his cell phone, waiting for customers to come up and demand his or her precious signature on a book. On the other hand, coming across as too gregarious can send people running for the door. My wife admitted to me that if a guy in a tuxedo walked up to her at Seagull Book and greeted her with “What kind of books do YOU like?”, she would be decidedly “creeped out”. The last thing I’m shooting for in my presentation is the “creep factor”.
So where’s the fine line between vanishing introversion and overbearing extroversion? I’ll need to experiment. If someone avoids eye contact and keeps moving, let ‘em go. Those fish aren’t biting. If they make eye contact and smile with even a hint of curiosity, I’ll be ready with a question. Being a natural introvert, a certain amount of awkwardness is inevitable at first. I need to be polite, visible, and confident, without coming across as a street vendor.
The key to my confidence, or course, is my book. I have no doubt that it’s worth the purchase price. There are hundreds of people who could be entertained and uplifted by what I’ve written if they just KNEW about it. There are no billboards advertising it, no TV or radio spots, and no magazine ads. Just one guy in a tux with a passion for a good story and a great suggestion for a Valentine’s Day gift. This is more than selling; this is making connections with people one-on-one. It’s something I haven’t been particularly good at, a skill I know I need to improve on. This tour is a huge opportunity.
What about you experienced authors out there, the battle-scarred veterans of many signings? What have you learned that made your signing appearances more successful, and what are the big no-nos? How have you found a way to straddle the “fine line”? Please illuminate us with your comments. Also, if any of you authors are approved to sign at Seagull and want to partner with me for any appearances (arranged through CFI of course), it would sure make me feel a lot less nervous.
Speaking of book signings, let’s not forget about the Northern Utah events on Saturday featuring that Quintessential Quartet of Quixotic Quill-bearers, namely Rebecca Talley, Don Carey, Tristi Pinkston, and Daron Fraley (go HERE for more info!).


Stephanie Black said...

Good luck! I have no advice for you, because I'm not a good salesperson, and you're right--it's a fine line to walk between reaching out to people and being pushy. I like your plan to make contact if the person seems approachable, but not to try to corner people if they're obviously avoiding eye contact.

And signing with another author is about 150 percent more fun than signing alone.

Cheri Chesley said...

I think the best advice I can give is to be approachable. If you're tense and nervous, that vibe goes out to others and then they're a little tense around you.

Relax, be yourself, be friendly and smile. Not overly much, but if you're at ease, then it's more likely the people you encounter will be at ease also.

I fight my introvert tendencies every time I do a book signing, or talk about my book. It's a pity flowers are so expensive. If you handed a rose to each person as an ice breaker, that would be fun. Or--it might increase the creepy factor. But most women like flowers. :)

Good luck!

Michael Knudsen said...

Stephanie - I'd love to team up with any of the Utah authors with current releases. I hope they're reading!

Cheri - Thanks for the advice. If it was only summertime, I could gather up the bushels of dandelions from my yard and pass them out! Just kidding...about passing them out, not about the dandelions existing in scary quantities.