We all know the stereotypical image of a writer – an introverted, hermit-like human hiding from civilization and typing away at a keyboard into the long, lonely hours of the night. But in today’s world, more is expected of us writers than merely getting our stories down on paper. We need to take an active role in the promotion of our books. Although it’s a role that can be uncomfortable for some of us, connecting with readers can also be satisfying and energizing.
Maintaining a digital presence and an online community is an important part of developing a brand for ourselves and helps to get our books into readers hands, but sometimes we need to meet readers face to face. As an avid reader myself, I covet the signed copies of books I’ve purchased at a favorite author’s event. And, I’ve had the pleasure of being on other side, of readers waiting in line to meet me and get a signed copy of one of my books.
Events and signings are exciting. We get to talk about our stories, meet our fans, and yes, sell some copies of our books. Events can also be time consuming and exhausting, so how do we maximize our results?
Who is your reader?
First, understand your audience. Who are they, and where are they likely to show up for an event? The year I released my first book, I went to every possible event I could, from library signings to craft fairs with book tables. I learned quickly that as a science fiction writer, my fans were often at conventions. If you write YA, maybe you want to focus on high school events. If you write women’s fiction, you may want to attend local book clubs. Where ever fans of your genre hang out, that’s where you want to focus your efforts.
Which events are right for you?
As I mentioned above, my core readers are likely to be found at comic cons and science fiction conventions. I also tend to make good sales at events where I’m the only author and there’s a lot of foot traffic. And finally, I always sell tons of books at my release parties. They’re a fun celebration of an accomplishment, and nearly everyone who attends will buy a book! Try different types of events to see where you have success. Thereafter, use your time and energy wisely.
Here are a couple of other things I consider when I’m planning my travel and book signing schedule. First, I aim for places within driving distance. For some events, I’ll get a stipend or travel costs covered, but for others, I’m an artist with a table that I’ve had to pay for, so minding my budget is important. Second, I try to be part of the event programming. Are you able to do a short reading? Hop on a panel? Have a Q&A session? If there’s an opportunity to get up in front of a larger group at an event, that event may be worthwhile even if short-term sales aren’t impacted. Finally, if I am traveling a good distance from home, I try to schedule more than one event in the area.
I’m here. Now what?
Be yourself. For me, I was a science fiction fan before I was a science fiction writer, so when I’m at cons and conventions, I’m having fun too. I don’t try to harass people into buying my books. Rather, I engage with them about their cosplay, ask their opinion on Altered Carbon, learn about their favorite books. I make a connection on their terms first, and then, if they ask, I’ll share about my books.
Meeting readers in person and attending events can help get your books into readers hands. Find your people, meet them where they are, and then have fun!