Welcome back to learn more about getting people to your book signing! Last week in Part 1, I discussed various locations where you can hold book signings (aside from the usual book stores), and how to effectively use flyers, postcards, and social media to help spread the word. Today I’m going to look at two other important avenues to help get the word out about your book signing. After all, if you can’t get people to come, you won’t sell any books! So, first things first:

1. Tell the media: Aside from using social media, don’t forget about traditional media. Newspapers, radio, and local magazines still exist! Spend some time researching what media outlets or community organizations have local calendars of events, and ask to get put on their calendar. In my city, our local newspaper has both a print and online calendar that anyone can get added to for free. These things are out there, so take advantage of them!

Again, think about your target readership and what calendars they may be looking at. If you just wrote a cookbook, maybe there are local or regional specialty stores where cooking enthusiasts shop. See if they have a calendar or bulletin board for cooking events. A store like this may even want to host your book signing!

Depending on the nature of your book, you can also talk to local papers about doing a PR article for you. Send them a press release about yourself, your book, and the date and location of your book signing, and ask if they would put it in their paper. This works best if your book coincides with a holiday, specific time of year (back to school, for example),  or other special circumstance where it can be promoted in conjunction with another event. My book, Grandparenting Through Obstacles, for instance, came out right before Grandparent’s Day, so that was the angle I used when trying to promote through the media.

Also consider using radio to help drive people to your site. I’m not suggesting buying ad time, unless you have the budget for that, but rather trying to promote through radio interviews. This is normally the kind of thing a professional PR person would do for you, but you may just have to do it yourself. Send your local radio stations–those that you know conduct author interviews–a copy of your book to review (this needs to be done well ahead of your book signing), asking if you could interview with them.

If they like your book and your topic, they’ll probably say yes, as most of these stations are in need of new authors and new material. During your interview, make the listeners aware of your book signing and any other promotions or appearances you are doing.

2. Tell everyone you know–and even those you don’t! Of all the things you can do to get people to your book signing, there is none as effective as good ‘ol word of mouth. Start with your friends, family, and other writers you know. And don’t limit who you tell to only those who live near you or the location of your signing. You never know who these people might know who do live near you and would want to support you.

After sharing your news with everyone you know–and asking them to share it as well–start passing out those postcards! As I mentioned in Part 1, keep postcards and flyers with you at all times so you can talk up your book signing and leave people with some information about it. You don’t have to be an outgoing person to do this.

As you naturally strike up conversations with others during your daily routine of going to work, running errands, or helping at your kids’ school, ask people if they know of anyone who might be interested in the topic of your book and if they would mind passing along a postcard to that person. This way you’re not pushing yourself or your book on them, but rather trying to promote it through them. You’ll never know if you don’t ask!

Now that you’ve done all you can to get people to your signing, what do you do once they’re there to help ensure they buy a book? While there certainly are no guarantees that those who show up will buy, there are some specific things you can do to make book sales more of a possibility. Please come back next week when I will talk about 5 “tricks” that will make prospective customers more likely to buy.

It’s getting tougher and tougher nowadays for a first-time, or even somewhat-known author to secure a book signing at a local bookstore. And, even harder if that bookstore is a major one, like a Barnes and Noble or Borders. In general, the bookstores don’t see a big return on their investment of time and effort to have you sit in their store and bother their customers. Book signings used to be much more glamorous and exciting than they are now–unless you’re a bestselling author, in which case, you can pretty much do whatever you want!

With that said, however, there is still a place for book signings–it just might not be where you expect. And, wherever you end up setting up shop, there are things you can do as an author to make the most of your book-signing experience–things that will translate into more books sold and possibly invitations by the store manager to come back for future signings. I cannot guarantee that doing the following will help you sell a ton of books, but I can safely say that to not do them will certainly hinder your sales.

1. Location, location, location! As I mentioned, the larger chain stores have really turned up their collective noses at book signings held by no-name or little-named authors. It just hasn’t paid off for them. So a better route to go is to seek out your local mom-and-pop, privately held bookstores. They may not be big, but in a tight-knit community, word spreads. If the bookstore is a popular one, you should have a good-sized crowd come out to see you if you have a book they’re interested in.

Then, go beyond the bookstores. Think about your target market and where they gather, then go there. If you’ve written a children’s book, try to get into schools and libraries, or maybe even toy stores that are willing to sell your book. Or, look for parenting organizations in your city and find out where they meet. If you’re a fiction writer, go where literary clubs in your area meet, or hold a signing at your local college. If you can’t find a place where your target market gathers, you can always check into renting a room (often you can get them for free; if not, the cost is usually minimal, like around $50) at a library, community center, a YMCA, etc. If you do enough PR (which I’ll talk about next), the town will know how to find you.

2. Get the word out. Even if you are able to get into a Borders, you need to be prepared to do most of the PR work yourself. I held a book signing at a Borders store a couple of years back, and the extent of the help I received from them were posters hung on their doors! If you weren’t coming to the store anyway, you’d never know I was there!

The extent and mix of PR work to do for a book signing will depend on how much time, money, and effort you want to put into it. My experiences have been that the more I’ve invested, the bigger the pay-off has been. Of course, this may not always be the case. At the very least, I would suggest printing flyers and/or posters (most of this you can do yourself) that include a picture of yourself and your book’s cover, a blurb about the book, a review or endorsement of your book, and the time and location for the book signing.

Put a stack in your car and take one into every restaurant, store, coffee shop, dry cleaners, and so forth that you enter. Ask the owner/manager if you could hang one on their bulletin board or door or window. You’ll get more “yes’es” than “no’s.” You’ll want to do this about 2 weeks ahead of your signing so there’s ample time for people to see the signs, but not so much time that they become immune to the signs because the event is so far off.

Another great PR resource is the postcard. These are simply miniature versions of your flyers, which should include the same information. For those business owners who said no to your flyers, ask if you could leave some postcards on their counter instead. For that matter, even if they said yes to your flyers, you can still try to leave postcards so people can take them when they leave the store. I’ve had great success at getting postcards made through Vistaprint. The prices are good, and I’ve been happy with the quality.

Postcards are also great to hand out to anyone and everyone you run into. You can’t be shy in this business! If you want people to show up to your signing and buy your book, you’ll need to be proactive. Even if the person you talk to doesn’t seem interested, encourage her to take a card to share with someone else. Maybe that person doesn’t have kids and therefore doesn’t care about your children’s book, but perhaps she knows the head of the MOPS group at her church. You just never know until you ask!

3. Take advantage of social media. Announcing events like book signings are an excellent way to use social media. Definitely announce your signing on your website, through your email, put it on Facebook, Twitter, and any other virtual channels you use. Also include it on your blog and other blogsites you frequent, especially if your target readership hangs out on those sites.

Facebook has a nice feature for events where you can invite people from your email or Facebook contacts to your event. Take advantage of that, and ask your social media connections to help spread the word for you. If each person you’re connected to via Twitter or FB tells one other person, and those people do the same, you’ll soon reach a lot of people with your event info.

That’s enough for today. Please stop back next week because I have much more to share on how to get people to your book signing and then, most importantly, how to get them to actually buy your book!

Happy Labor Day!!

I wanted to post today about ideas that can work for us when it comes to promoting our writing. Not all these ideas will work for every single person, and some may work better than others, depending on the type of writing you do. If you write for kids, you may have better success with personal visits than if you write adult nonfiction. But I believe there are tips and ideas in here that every writer can use with success at some point or another. Because there are quite a few, I will break this post into two separate articles, the second of which will be posted next week.

1. Interviews: Whether you’re able to get a radio, TV, or print spot on your behalf, interviews can be an excellent way to not only promote your work, but also to promote yourself as an author. People are more likely to buy from you when they feel they know a little about you. As you allow your personality to shine through and make a genuine effort to connect with your audience, that can go a long way toward book sales. An added benefit is when the interview is connected to, and points the audience to, an event that is soon to take place with your book, like a book signing or a speaking event.

2. Book signings: Books signings have met with varying degrees of success for most authors. Popular authors can always generate a crowd, so they can set up national tours and have lines of people waiting for them when they get to the bookstore. But for most of us “average” or beginner authors, we need more help to draw the crowds in. As mentioned above, if you can arrange an interview ahead of a book signing, that will boost your book-signing audience.

Also, realize that it is going to be up to you to promote your signing, and don’t wait for the bookstore to do it for you. If you can start promoting 2-3 weeks ahead of your signing with fliers, Facebook/Twitter announcements, postcards, word-of-mouth, etc. you will see much bigger crowds than if you left it up to the bookstore promoters.

3. Magazine articles: It’s amazing to me how many authors neglect this very rich soil of book promotion. If you wisely target magazines that are relevant to the book you’re promoting, you will have a built-in, captive audience to which you can market your book. Some magazine publishers will offer to let you promote your book in your closing bio instead of paying you for writing the article; some will let you promote and pay you too! If someone is interested enough in your topic to read your article, there’s a good chance they’ll also be interested in your book.

Also, you can use the magazine space to publish an excerpt of your actual book. In this case, you’re not doing any extra work, so if you don’t get paid, it won’t be a huge deal. And the benefit is that the readers are now getting a firsthand glimpse of part of your book, which should entice them even more to buy it. When you consider how large certain magazine readerships are (and you should target the largest ones you can), this is really a big bang for your buck (especially since it’s not costing you anything).

For those who write for children, consider writing articles for industry magazines, or trade magazines that target issues your children’s book may deal with. You can also write for newsletters that different children’s organizations or even writers’ conferences may publish.

4. Postcards: Postcards can come in two forms–direct mail postcards that show up in a person’s physical mail box, and e-postcards that show up in an email inbox. The downside of the first type, is, of course, the expense. It will cost to get them printed and delivered, although you can print them yourself with the right software templates and graphics packages. But there is still an expense involved. The upside is that is can make more of an impact when someone actually holds the card in their hand instead of it being viewed on the computer and being only a click away from being deleted.

Postcards work best when they are sent out as part of a marketing mix and not just by themselves. They can be used as a follow-up, for example, to a larger internet push you did a couple of weeks back. Or they can be used as a reminder of a speaking event you are holding in conjunction with your book promotion. You can also give them away at book signings in hopes that people will pass them on to others, or as a reminder of an event that is to be held at a future date after the signing.

Postcards can be more useful to people and therefore, stand a higher chance of not being tossed, if you put something worth keeping on the back side (a calendar of your events; an activity that may tie in to your book, like a recipe or a kids’ game, etc.)

5. Establishing partnerships: This works best for nonfiction books, but I’ve known some fiction writers who have gotten very creative and come up with organizational partnerships for their novels, too. Find nonprofits or various organizations that provide a natural tie-in for the topic covered in your book, and approach them about working with you to help promote the book as a resource. Many writers have hit the jackpot with partnership promotions as the organizations will make the book available on their website, advertise it in their publications, and take it with them to sell along with their own resources when they travel to industry events.

Partnerships are worth investing some research time into, as they can pay off with huge dividends if you find partners who are willing to work on your behalf.

Come back next week when I’ll discuss speaking engagements and online marketing! In the meantime, I’d love to hear your comments about what marketing efforts have and haven’t worked for you.