Lessons from a Book-Signing Disaster

In 2003, Gene and Kelly Tanabe of SuperCollege.com drove 25,000 miles to speak at more than 130 bookstores across the country about their four books on getting into Ė and getting money for Ė college. "(We) learned a lot from our experiences. But the most useful lessons came from events that werenít the most successful. OK, the best lessons came from downright disasters!" Here are 8 Lessons Learned from Book-Signing Disasters: Lesson #1: Be prepared for surprises. Learning this early was invaluable and has allowed us to take most of the risk out of an event. If you prepare for even the most basic of failures, such as a bookstore without your books, youíll be able to avoid most disasters. Lesson #2: Never do just a signing. Unless youíre a household name (or have a lot of kind relatives), very few people will make a special trip to the bookstore just to get your autograph. From the beginning, we avoided book-signings and instead chose to present information-packed workshops. We created a 40-minute presentation aimed at college-bound students and their parents. Itís much more enjoyable and effective to have people come to the bookstore because they want to hear us speak and to use one rehearsed and polished presentation to reach a large audience. Lesson #3: You need help to outtalk an espresso machine. Everyone gets a little apprehensive about speaking to a crowd. But imagine how much harder it is when you have to talk over the grinding and hissing of a busy espresso machine. For many bookstores, the best space to hold an event is next to (and sometimes inside) the cafť. After losing a battle to one of these machines, we decided that we would never again speak without a microphone. Lesson #4: Make the most of your space. Itís important that you create a comfortable and inviting environment for your audience. You are, in effect, putting on a show. While youíre a guest of the bookstore, that does not prevent you from changing things to create the right environment. We often rearrange chairs and books and always bring our own signage to create a better speaking stage. Lesson #5: Even if you sign it, they will return it. There is a myth that if you sign a book for a bookstore, they have to keep it on their shelves until it sells. Bookstores can and do return signed books. Now we politely suggest signing only about five copies of each title. Lesson #6: You canít fight local traditions and events. In Indianapolis, we thought we had done everything right. It turned out that not only was it spring break for neighboring schools, but also (and perhaps more significantly), it was the night of a key Hoosier basketball game. Itís worth asking the bookstore manager what local events might affect your event. Lesson #7: Use a multi-pronged promotion strategy. The most disappointing event is the one where nobody comes. If you want consistently good turnout, then you need to do your own promotion. 1) The first prong involves getting media coverage before the event. Weeks before, we set up guest appearances on the local morning TV news programs. These programs often plug the event with a full screen graphic giving the time and location of our workshop. Newspaper coverage, we have found, is even better than television. The value of print (even small calendar listings) was made clear to us when we asked the audience at one of our workshops how they had heard about it. More than half pulled out newspaper clippings of a small article about us that had run the week before. 2) Our second prong is something that we can control more directly. Since students and parents make up our primary audience, we send notices to the schools in the area a week before we arrive. Many educators share the information with their students and even attend themselves. 3) The last technique we use is to go directly to the people who actually want to meet the authors Ė our past customers. Since we sell a lot of books through our website, we have a large database of customers. Before arriving in a new city, we invite recent customers from that area to come to our workshop. Since we have four different titles, they usually leave having bought another book, too. Lesson #8: Reap those psychic rewards. To do a bookstore event right takes a lot of work, but we have found rewards beyond the sales and promotional value of doing events. One of the greatest comes from actually meeting the people whose lives we have touched. Writing can be a solitary task and we always wondered who was reading what we wrote and whether they found it helpful. Once we hit the road, we actually met some of these people and learned just how much of an influence we have had on them. Thatís the kind of psychic reward that authors need in order to go back and keep writing. * * * * * Gen and Kelly Tanabe are the award-winning authors of "Get Into Any College," "Get Free Cash For College," "Accepted! 50 Successful College Admission Essays," and "Money-Winning Scholarship Essays and Interviews." They are also the Founders of www.supercollege.com.

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John Kremerís Marvelous Book Marketing Strategies

Git-er-Done NOW Book Marketing Tip #6 - Talk to three bookstore buyers or owners.
Welcome to Marvelous Book Marketing Strategies, a monthly column based on book marketing expert John Kremerís 24-Point Book Marketing Action List, a list John compiled specially for the participants in his Book Marketing Blast-Off seminars. The actions on the list range from writing press releases and networking, to contacting Oprah and getting to know your bankís president. The underlying value of the list may be that it encourages you Ė the independent author and/or publisher Ė to focus on ACTION. As an independent author, self-publisher, or owner of a small publishing house, it all depends on YOU and your ability to GET THE JOB DONE. Self-promotion, guerilla marketing, and effective networking strategies are all vital elements of getting the BUZZ for yourself and your books that lead to SALES.

Each month we list one of John Kremerís Marketing Action suggestions, and elaborate a bit on why itís important and how to make each action happen effectively and efficiently. Prepare to TAKE ACTION, IMPROVE YOUR MARKETING, and SELL MORE BOOKS!

Book Marketing Action Tip #6:
ďTalk to three bookstore buyers or owners.Ē

ďGet to know how they think, what their needs are, how they can help you sell more books, and how you can help them sell more books. Learn how to make your promotions and media campaigns more bookstore friendly.Ē

Could there be a more appropriate place for you to hang out than at your favorite independent bookstore? You undoubtedly haunted the place for hours and hours while planning and writing your own book, "spying" on the competition, checking out covers, price points, and reading author acknowledgement pages trying to find "insider" info about the book biz. Now it's time for that store to begin thinking of you as an ally, not just a pest who leaves cookie crumbs on their cafe tables! It's time for you and the store owner to work together to produce a record-breaking, regional bestselling book that puts both of your kids through college.

Most bestsellers, especially self-published ones, start within a small circle and radiate outward. Make your "home" store the center of that circle, a hot spot with your book on the front table - and in the front of every employee's mind.

First, it's up to you to stage the biggest and best booksigning event they've ever had. Sit down with the store owner/manager to plan an extravaganza, and then follow through byfilling the place with customers and supporters that will buy books, lots of books. Call on every friend, relative, associate you have, call in all unreciprocated favors, and turn that store into Mardi Gras for a Day.

Once the excitement dies down, it's time to become a customer service provider extraordinaire. Keep your book -- and yourself -- front and center, and highly visible. Make sure they never get low on stock, and provide anything that will help them display and promote your book: autographed copy stickers, display bins, shelf-talkers, whatever fits their needs and your book's content.

Most self-publishing success stories radiate out from a hugely successful base of operations that generates big sales numbers. Having a great independent bookstore on your side can make a big difference.

Become your local bookstore's superstar local author!

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Previous Marketing Action Tips:

Tip #1: Develop a 25-Word Key Statement

Tip #2 - Get Testimonials from at Least Three Famous People

Tip #3 - Develop a free report and write a news release for it.

Tip #4 - Write a free report.

Tip #5 - Talk to at least one sales rep.

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Want to get more of John Kremerís book marketing advice? Find many affordable products here.

Other John Kremer links:

John Kremerís Book Marketing Website: http://www.bookmarket.com

John Kremerís Book Marketing Tip of the Week: http://www.bookmarket.com/tips.html
John Kremerís Book Marketing Update newsletter: http://www.bookmarket.com/newsletters.html

John Kremerís blog: http://openhorizons.blogspot.com