Sunday, July 01, 2012

Ten+ Tips for a Successful Signing (YA Children's books)

I know what you're thinking, I'm not signing a board game.  It's Crush. Candy. Corpse plus my other backlist.

Let's first establish what a successful signing is.  Some bookstore managers tell me sales of 20 is what they hope for, some say 30.  Assuming a 10% royalty of retail price and a $15 book for ease of math, that means you would earn about $45 for a four hour appearance.  So we know success can't be measured in those numbers, it must be defined by the people you meet during the signing, hopefully kids who will love you forever.  Yes they will grow out of your books but they'll buy them for their kids. Or perhaps for nostalgia sake. Or because their house burnt down.  Teachers replace books because they've gone mouldy.  I've lived long enough to enjoy all of these kinds of repeat sales.  Educators, librarians and engaged parent and grandparents are also wonderful contacts to make.  But we're getting ahead of ourselves.  What kind of things do I do, and therefor you can too, to make sure you get at least those numbers the bookstore aims for?  Here's my ten top tips:

1)Engage in the new S & M for writers.  No not reading Shades of Grey, I mean posting on Facebook, Twitter and emailing all your friends who live in the area of the store you're signing at.

Let me take this opportunity to thank Andrea Wayne Von Koningslow, picture book illustrator and writer extraordinaire of How Do You Read to a Rabbit? and many more.  She showed up and bought books for herself and her daughters at my pre Canada Day signing in Yorkdale Mall.  Also she called out to passing eye-averting strangers.  "I'm buying three books of hers.  This is a fabulous writer."

2)Get your hair and nails done, buy a new outfit. (Yes Arthur, Shane, Eric, Ken, John even you)  Gives you the confidence to approach those complete eye-averting strangers ducking around you. This may also help counter the pre anxiety levels you experience thinking no one will even be in the store never mind anyone ducking around your table. I wish I'd tried nail decals.  They're a vaguely new and give you something to discuss with kids, besides your stories, so they can fall in like with you enough to buy the book.
Amazingly I can sign with no pen or hands!

3) Make or buy some treats.  No peanuts obviously.  My current favourite is  the Mars Bars Square, The recipe is on my Pinterest site.  While they are chocolatey and messy and, call for eight chocolate bars thereby denting that $45 profit, they help me get into shout out mode.  So instead of calling "Books for sale, signed by the author," I can say,  "Would you like to try a Mars Bars Square?"  Once I'm warmed up I can add,  "They're to promote my latest book.  Would you like me to tell you about it?"

4) Bring stuff to hand out, autographable stuff. Preferably with the image of one of your books but it could be a book mark from backlist, could be your business card with a white space to sign.  Those are good, actually, 'cause the reader can contact you after.  I bring literacy and writing talk tip sheets.  When your Mars Bars Squares run out you can call out to parents, "Would you like some tips to get your kids to read?"

5) Confirm with the bookstore contact several times that you are indeed coming along with the date and time.  Nothing funny about them totally forgetting.  Must have been hard on that one Chapters Store manager when I didn't show on the date they thought they had asked me.  Calling me on the day didn't help when I was in Vancouver.

6) Arrive early so you can check out the location of the latest reading must haves, either the stacks of Hunger Games or the various Shades of Grey.   The bathroom, you want to know where it is but so do all the eye-averting strangers.

7) Make sure you know the instore specials so you can promote your book with the "On Sale" feature of the day.   "If you buy a Canada Day mug, chocolate, card, etc, you get 20% off my book."

8)  Parents love to defer purchases.  "Lets just look around and then come back later."
"You bought the Hunger Games trilogy today, we can should come back another time for this book"  Develop a strategy to incur a sense of urgency in them, real estate agents are fabulous at this, and let me know when you've perfected it.  "If you buy one today, you'll get my autograph.  Teachers love when your kids do a book report on a Canadian author, and if they have a signed copy...well, guaranteed A+."  As I said, let me know if you find a better one.

9)  Get someone to take lots of photographs.  You can offer to email photos to the potential buyer, if
Jan Slerpe created this sketch from one of his wonderful photos.  His picture taking seemed to attract crowds too.
they sign a sheet with their email.

10) Believe that your book offers the best story for your target audience.  That tween carrying the Hunger Games or sadly the Shades of Grey trilogy can also read your novel and love it.  You just need  to coax them into buying it.  And that's why you're there.

And the +plus tip?  Find a way to enjoy yourself.  Bring your laptop and write--you know everyone loves to interrupt you while you're creating.

Good luck, we all need it.