It’s finally here. Your book is in your hands. Hours of cramped fingers, writing, rewriting, revising, and proofreading are represented in its cream-colored type-written pages. But now comes the hard part – getting it into readers’ hands. Book marketing.
You think book marketing’s not so bad. So much can be done online. Send a few emails. Run a few Facebook ads. Submit it to reviewers.
But then you remember. Your author friends from critique group said they’d made lots of sales at book signings. You were there. They seemed to eat up the attention. Chatting amicably. Animated. Having the times of their lives.
But, you. You’re – gulp – and introvert.
What would you say to book signing attendees? How would you convince them to buy your book? How could you even set it up? And worse, what if they all passed you by, barely giving you a glance as you stand there smiling stupidly?
Your hands sweat and your throat closes just thinking about it.
But you’re not alone. A lot of people and a lot of authors are introverts.
I’m an introvert. And I always thought there was something wrong with me because of it. Now I know that it’s not that I don’t like people, interacting with them, and connecting with them, I just need to have certain conditions met.
Here are some things I do to help me cope.
Set up the personal appearance
Before you incorporate any tactics to help you survive your personal appearance, you have to schedule one. I hate cold calling and I wouldn’t think of hauling my books into a bookstore, asking to see a manager, and saying something like, “When can I visit?”
If you’re not familiar with the book stores in your area, visit a few just to see if they have a local authors section or if they have signs up announcing any upcoming events with other authors. If they do, you will know the chances of them being open to an event will be greater. I always first try to find an email address to contact them to introduce myself and ask about opportunities, but if you really want to have an event there, you might have to just grit your teeth and call or stop in. (Work out a little script of what you’d like to say and practice to make it a bit easier.)
Libraries, especially those in smaller cities and towns, are usually open to having an author visit. They are always looking for ways to engage with their audiences and having an author come in to talk about writing and reading fits right in. To schedule it, I always find an email on the library’s website for the head librarian. When I email, I introduce myself, explain what my book is about, maybe mention some good things said about it, and ask if they’d be open to having me visit for an hour or two to read, talk about my experiences as an author, answer questions, and then sign and sell books. I offer to donate a portion of my sales back to the library, usually a dollar per sale. I also offer to send them a copy of my book to read first, too, if they like.
Don’t do signings
I hate starting conversations. So I’m never going to be one of those authors who can go up to someone at a bookstore and say, “Hi, I’m author X. Have you heard about my book?” I need a built-in reason to talk to people. This is why I avoid pure book signings and strive to hold events where I read or give a presentation. For some reason, I’m much more comfortable performing, at least at first. Once I read or talk about my books and invite questions, people have a reason to start a conversation with me. Plus, then I feel like I’m offering something with an added value than simply saying, “Here, buy my book.”
Make it easier for people to approach you.
Have a big, easy-to-read sign that people can see from across the room. This way, you can avoid the awkwardness of them coming within three feet, deciding they’re not interested and walking away. Having a free treat – cookies or candy – can help, too. Sure, some will just come to get free food, but some will start talking with you. As people come by, simply say, “Hi, how are you?” and see if they engage. If you’re feeling brave, you might ask them if they’d like a bookmark. Otherwise, a small sign saying “please take one” will save you the trouble.
Hold a virtual event.
I’ve seen several people doing blog, Facebook, or Twitter tours lately. With these, you leverage your online presence to get people to blog on your blog, allow you to blog on theirs, post a review on their blog, or have Facebook or Twitter conversations during a set time period. I’ve seen them last a couple of hours to days. You can build awareness about your book this way and it lets you do it from the comfort of your own home, sitting cross-legged on your office chair. And in your jammies if you like.
See the benefit, no matter what
If you walk out of your event having not sold a single book, don’t worry. It happens. Instead, measure your success by engagement. How many bookmarks did you give away? How many people listened to your presentation? If it was a signing only, how many people were intrigued by your sign and came up to your table?
And, as an introvert, I always pat myself on the back when I’m able to have fun and interesting conversations with a few people about writing and my books. Because it means that I got out of my comfort zone, I did something I find intimidating, and I’m still there to tell the tale. Plus, maybe the next time all those people who didn’t buy but who saw me, my book, my sign, or my bookmarks and business cards I always leave behind see one of my books, they will buy.
It does get easier. For me, I know I’ll never be a social butterfly. And after every event, I usually need a couple of hours of downtime to read a book or take a walk to re-energize. But, more and more, I find myself thinking I really enjoyed that event and that I’m looking forward to the next one.
Open a new tab in your web browser, find a bookstore or library, and send them an email. And then come back here to tell me about it and any additional ideas you have for handling and learning to love personal author appearances. Just jot it down in the comments section.