Please welcome Michael Pogach to The Qwillery. The Spider in the Laurel, Michael's debut novel, was published by Ragnarok Publications.
Book Signings without the Excuses
By Michael Pogach
About once a week I find a blog or article about how authors, particularly indie authors (self-pub or small pub), can make themselves stars by doing book signings. Most feature similar advice. Show up early. Stay late. Be friendly. Have customized pens or bookmarks or a poodle with your book’s title shaved in its fur or whatever.
And for every such article, I run into the same excuses for why book signings are a waste of time. Things like:
-They’re useless because I didn’t sell any books the first time.
-The in-person audience just doesn’t get me.
-Spending those 2-4 hours writing is a better use of my time.
-My book is too complicated to pitch to customers walking by in a bookstore.
Before I go any further, let me say that I’m not trying to attack anyone’s position on book signings. Don’t like doing them? No problem. Find them too stressful to be productive? That’s okay. But so many of the reasons I hear for avoiding book signings aren’t much more than half-assed excuses, the kind I hear from my students on essay deadline day.
Here’s the deal with book signings, folks. They’re not going to make you a bestseller. They’re not going to kick your amazon sales rank up 500k spots. And you’re not going to meet a rep from Sony Pictures who just happens to be in the neighborhood and wants to make a movie out of your novel.
Book signings can be wonderful events that build your fan base. Look, I’m a nobody. Yet, I sell at least a dozen books at every event I attend. No bullshit. Never less than 12. My best signing produced 34 sales. That’s over 100 copies sold at half a dozen or so book signings in the six short months that my debut novel, The Spider in the Laurel (Ragnarok Publications), has been out. I say this not to brag, but to hopefully show I know at least a little on the subject.
So allow me, fellow authors, to ask two questions before we start looking for somewhere to place blame for less than successful signings.
1) Will you sell twelve copies of your book in four hours doing anything else besides a book signing?
2) Are you actually SELLING your book at your event?
The answer to the first question is easy. Most of us indie authors aren’t selling twelve paperbacks on average in a week. So, are the three thousand words you could write, or two chapters you could edit, in that four hour stretch worth more than a dozen sales? If so, then you do you, friend. No judgement from me. But if not…
Selling is a shitload more than just hocking wares. It’s more than just setting up a table, smiling, and saying, “Would you like to see my new book?”
I’ve been to many events where the author never smiles, never stands up, and just shouts at customers with the grace of a construction worker whistling at women, “Hey, do you want to buy my book? Free autograph.”
Newsflash – the autograph doesn’t sell the book, nor will it entice a passerby to pick up your book. And that’s the key. Get the customer to put their hands on the novel. Feel the cover. Read the back. If it’s in their hands, you’ve got the got the sale. It’s just up to you to close it.
Or blow it.
Engage, friends. That’s the key. I’m a writing professor and author now, but my previous careers included selling auto parts, electronics, cell phones, and motorcycles. Selling one was no harder than another. Because you’re never selling the product. You’re ALWAYS selling yourself.
“Hi, how are you doing today?”
“Okay. What’s this? You selling a book?”
“I’m just showing it off. What do you like to read?”
BAM. There it is. Whatever the person tells you they like, run with it. They like romance? Talk about the relationship between your characters, even if it’s an action/adventure. They like thrillers? Focus on the stakes your protagonist faces, even if the whole thing is an internal conflict. They don’t read unless it’s about wizards or vampires with a fetish for high school girls? Well, there’s got to be a Hermione or tortured emo guy somewhere in your book. If not, focus on generic relationship types and plot points. There’s only so many fiction roadmaps out there. And (sorry to break it to you) you aren’t the first author since Cervantes to invent a new one.
Know this: The customer won’t remember a damn thing you say. But they will remember YOU.
Want a goal? On average, I make a sale to 50% of the people who hold my book in their hands. And because I engage with these complete strangers, many of them show up at subsequent events…with friends in tow. My own traveling fan base. That’s what book signings create. A bond between you and your fans.
Don’t buy it? That’s okay.
Still don’t want to do book signings? That’s fine too. But if you do want to get out there and do a signing, I hope this article helps you find success.
The Spider in the Laurel
Rafael Ward 1
Ragnarok Publications, September 21, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 480 pages
Cover by M.S. Corley
In Tomorrow's America, Belief is the New Enemy.
Even a Silent Prayer can get you Black-Bagged.
In the Citizen's Republic of America, religion is outlawed. Historian Rafael Ward is a good citizen, teaching students the government approved narrative of the nation's history. But when he is tasked by Relic Enforcement Command with destroying the artifacts he cherishes, he begins to question the regime's motives and soon finds himself caught up in a secret revolution. It will take the uncompromising faith of an outlaw Believer as an ally, and the acceptance of his guilt for his mother's death, to help Ward break free of the government's yoke. If he's lucky, he might also prevent an apocalyptic future for which his secular world is completely unprepared.
The Spider in the Laurel questions the methods of both governmental authority and those attempting to subvert the status quo. It presents two unique visions: a new, never-before-heard fairy tale; and an alternate creation mythos inspired by Genesis and other ancient and Dark Age mythologies.
Michael Pogach is an author and English professor. He began writing stories in grade school. He doesn't remember these early masterpieces, but his parents tell him everyone in them died. He's gained some humanity since then, even allowing characters to survive once in a while. He is a graduate of Penn State and Arcadia University. His work has appeared in New Plains Review, Third Wednesday, Workers Write, the chapbook Zero to Sixty, and more. The Spider in the Laurel is his first novel.