As I launch into this adventure of (hopefully) publishing, the subjects of book marketing and author promotion are ever in my mind. It’s a fact that authors must self-promote books, and that’s hard in a world over-saturated with media promotions and advertisements. The savvy author gets creative, and that’s what I intend to do with these highly experimental and as-yet-untested ideas. Will they work? Will they fail in a fiery crash of doom? I guess we’ll find out.
This first idea I coined “planting the seeds of a book signing.” Here’s how it works.
It’s always a good idea to check with bookstore managers or inventory personnel about which titles are selling well in your genre. It’s a way of scoping out the competition. But have you ever thought of using it to get your foot in the door for future book signings?
When you call a store up, don’t just mumble out: “Yeah, can you tell me which titles are selling right now in YA epic fantasy?.” Introduce yourself (by the name you hope to publish under) and explain why you want to know this information. “Hi, I’m Rachel Heston Davis. I’m calling to ask about which titles in YA epic fantasy are selling well for you. I’m writing a YA epic fantasy and I’m trying to get a sense of the market and the competition.”
Okay, don’t say it just like that. They’ll think you’re a robot or an automated message. Speak like a warm-blooded human being, but for heaven’s sake get the vital information across: you are calling for this information because you are writing a book. Be friendly and personable. With any luck, your call will stand out from the masses of people who call in, don’t introduce themselves, ask a quick question and hang up.
Maybe this bookstore manager or inventory stocker will find it interesting that an industrious future author called for research purposes. Maybe this, along with your friendly demeanor, will help him/her remember you down the line when your book is finally published and you call to ask if you can do a signing at the store.
Okay, many of these people probably won’t remember you. But at the very least, what can it hurt to try?
And if you live anywhere near these bookstores, you should go have this conversation face to face. (I plan to do this, but I also plan to call stores from every region in the US to make sure I’ve got a feel for national trends as well as local.)
I’ve gathered phone numbers for stores from every region of the continental US (at least two in each region). Many of these places I probably won’t do a signing at (Montana, for example) but you never know! And it can be hard to get a book stocked in a big chain store, so having all the connections possible ahead of time will help.
Tips for pulling this off: make sure you ask for a manager or inventory person, not a clerk. Know what you’re going to say ahead of time so you’ll sound happy and confident. Write down the name of the person you chatted with, and anything interesting that was said during the conversation.
Don’t forget to write down the titles of the books that s/he says are selling well. That’s the whole reason you called, right?
If you really feel confident and excited about this project (I do), get out a map and look at likely routes you could take if you ever did a book signing tour. I, for example, live in Southern Illinois, so I researched Borders locations in all of Illinois, western Missouri and Iowa, eastern Indiana, and even into eastern Kentucky and Tennessee. I will call several Borders along those major interstate routes in the hope that someday, when Flynn is headed for the shelves, I can call back and ask to do a signing.