Sunday, July 19, 2015

At A Book Signing

It was my first book signing as an independent writer. In other words, there were no other writers there, just me. I had visions of a room filled with people holding sparkling conversations, drinking Champagne, and lining up to buy my book. It was right out of Castle or Murder She Wrote. The problem was it was noon on a Saturday in Hayward California. It was the Book Shop in Hayward on "B" Street, (give your local supportive bookstore a plug) and who the hell has heard of Gene Poschman. Let's face it I am not James Patterson or Stephen King. There was no line out the door of waiting fans to get the next book in the Jonas Watcher series.

Carl, the Bookstore owner, set up a table for me prominently located so that each and every patron could see that I was there on display. "See the Local Author" should have been displayed above my head with some reference to feeding or not feeding me. I may recommend that to Carl the next time I go for a book signing. Yes, there will be another book signing. Let's go back about six weeks when I first approached Carl at the Book Shop.

I knew Carl supported local authors, and I approached him about carrying my books. The Book Shop has a section on local authors and he agreed. He carries only one book title for each local writer which is fair. Sometimes people will buy a local writer but there is usually very little movement on the books of local writers unless they put out some effort on their own. When he agreed to carry my books,  I asked about a book signing. We discussed it and came to an agreement. We found a date and Carl walked me through the process, it was quite simple. The Book Shop would advertise through their normal channels, but it was up to me to get the word out beyond their normal audience.

I did a number of things. I signed up on some online advertising through online PR sites and a local notice site. I created a flyer which I then walked around to local businesses and asked if they would put them up in their windows. Small local business were more receptive to accommodating me and it gave me an opportunity to meet with locals in the area. I should note, I did not do enough of this. I believe I could have gotten a larger following if I had applied myself better and worked out some additional incentives for the other businesses. This is an area I could use additional input on from others.

I arrived just at noon, "...a little behind my time", and Carl set up a table opposite the door with a blue table cloth. I put up my two books, and Carl provided me with some easels to prop up a sign and a copy of each book. I set an easel on a stack of the related books and sat down and awaited the throngs of anxious readers to get the next book in the Joans Watcher series.
While no throng appeared, people would stop by and talk with me. I probably talked to over thirty customers in the four-plus hours I sat there. I sold a total of eleven books, which gave me about 33% hit ratio for an unknown independent author. I am certain I made mistakes, but as I didn't cost Carl any money, and I did enjoy myself, the end of the day proved profitable in that I discovered I was comfortable talking about myself as a writer, the books that I have written, and my writing process which a number of people were interested in. Since I have gotten a lot of positive feedback on my books I suspect I will pick up additional readers, who will talk about and hopefully recommend  the book. For those who bought only the first book, I can hope that they will come back for the second.

There was no champagne to toast with.  There were cookies and tea and lemonade, I'm not sure if that was a normal Saturday ritual or if the refreshments were there because I was. It didn't matter.

I now need to do two things. The first is to write book three, The Case of the Jade Dragon is due out in late Fall. Book four, The Case of the Looking Glass Mirror is nagging at me, and I need to find another bookstore who is willing to let a relatively unknown author within their walls to sell his wares. I will still make mistakes, but I am on my way.

Gene Poschman