Friday, October 25, 2013

Book Signing Tips For Authors by Gary D. Robson

The true bonus of networking at events such as the PNBA Tradeshow is being able to expand our horizons and now we’re able to bring that same benefit to our AM101 readers.

Gary D. Robson, author, bookseller, and tea expert, has been compiling Tips for Authors for that significant event: Signing and Selling their Books directly to readers In A Bookstore. He has graciously agreed to share his tips here, and as he has lots and lots of tips, consider this your introduction.

Gary D. Robson has just released his 23rd book, Who Pooped in the Cascades? It is part of his children’s series that has sold over 350,000 copies. Selling that many books means he’s done a lot of book signings, and made a lot of mistakes. As the owner of a (very) independent bookstore, he’s also hosted a lot of book signings over the last 12 years, and watched a bunch of other authors make mistakes. 

Hopefully, this article will help you to avoid some of those mistakes.

We will continue to post his tips with our weekly posts.


As an author who also owns a bookstore, I have a rather unique perspective on book signings. By this, I mean I’ve seen a lot of them from both sides of the table, and I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t.

You cannot simply expect the bookstore to do all of the work for you. A successful book signing is a partnership, and it requires at least as much effort from you as it does from the store. If you just show up at the scheduled time and expect incredible results, you are going to be disappointed. Here are 7 tips for making the signings work for both you and the store.

1.      Help with promotion. You’re an author. You probably have a website and/or a blog. You’re probably on Facebook and Twitter. You probably send out an e-newsletter. (If you’re not doing any of these things, why not?) Once you’ve finalized a book signing, tell everyone about it! Help the bookstore spread the word. It’s your book, and nobody can talk about it better than you can!
2.      Send promotional materials to the store. Sometimes, especially with new authors, I have a devil of a time finding a good hi-res photo of the author or the book cover to use on our posters and announcements. When you confirm the signing, ask the store manager if photos would be useful. If you have any little giveaways, like buttons or bookmarks, send some in advance for the bookstore’s promotional display.
3.      Communicate your special needs well in advance. Do you need a second chair at the signing table for your spouse or assistant? Do you need a projector, screen, or computer for your talk? Do you use a wheelchair and need help setting up? Do you need an easel for your signs or props? Do you need to leave right at 6:00? Do you need to be paid on the spot for books you supply? Figure it all out in advance and tell the bookstore — preferably in writing (email or letter).
4.      Let the store know when you get to town. As a bookseller, it frustrates me when an author is coming in from another state, and five minutes before the signing starts, I have no idea whether they’re a block away or caught in traffic in another town. If you’re running late, call and tell them. As my wife says, “If you’re not five minutes early, you’re late!” When you arrive, drop by the store and tell them you made it. Then (if you have time) go out and grab some dinner or whatever else you have to do. Speaking of which…
5.      Do what you need to do before the signing. Booksellers don’t like telling customers, “Yes, the book signing was supposed to start now, but the author is having a smoke/going to the bathroom/buying a soda/calling home.” Take care of everything in advance and be at your table ready to go at the scheduled start time for the event.
6.      Be prepared! Bring a spare pen in case you run out of ink. Bring a little notepad where people can write down the spellings of their names. If the store doesn’t have a coffee shop or tea bar, bring your bottle of water or thermos of hot drink (save the booze for after the book signing, please).
7.      Speaking of pens, bring one that dries quickly. Especially if your book is printed on glossy paper, you don’t want to close the cover and have the signature smear or transfer to the previous page. If the paper is thinner, make sure your pen doesn’t bleed through.

Web site and writing/personal blog:

In addition to his books and technical manuals, he’s written hundreds of articles for magazines, newspapers, encyclopedias, and websites. He’s written for a wide variety of publications, from the World Book Encyclopedia to Renaissance magazine, on subjects ranging from cattle to computer hacking.

Gary’s first foray into historical fiction is coming out next: a series of interconnected short stories entitled The Myths and Legends of Tea.

Watch for: Gary D. Robson Book Signing Tips for Authors:  on Future Posts

Friday, October 18, 2013

PNBA 2013 Recap

This is only one corner of the  Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association (PNBA) Fall Tradeshow and it was awesome for us to spend days surrounded by books and book lovers. We learned a lot, and that we have lots to learn about the layers of producing, distributing, and selling books. It was great that many of these industry professionals were thrilled with our little book, our message, and workshop. We were also thrilled to be able to offer this blog site as a repository for so many examples of good marketing, creating author events, and more.

It was a marvelous opportunity to be featured authors, autographing our book for our fellow authors as well as for librarians, publicists, agents, booksellers, and others who have made their passion for books into their profession. It was fulfilling to have so many ruffling the pages of our book and talking about how to put our advice to use, for themselves and to help each other. It warmed our hearts!

Experts in cover design, formatting, distribution, selling, and Marketing (Of Course!) wanted to chat with us and our publisher. It was suggested we create additional books to broaden our audience base. Libraries don't like to shelve books that encourage readers to write, draw, and tatter the pages so if we want to reach library patrons (and we do!) we'll need to create another version of this book for those shelves.

We have events and presentations scheduled through the Spring of 2014, but also have to keep our own career advice front and center. We're writers and novelists first, so we'll be working on our novels before we create another marketing book.

We saw lots of great displays but that's because it was a huge room full of professional exhibitors. Instead of looking for examples of marketing to post here, we spent our time ruffling the pages of many books and chatting. Everyone in the room was as passionate about books as we are.

For another impression of this trade show - read Keely Burkey's post for the student run publishing house at Portland State University, Ooligan Press.

Our friend Kristina McMorris was a featured author and she's also our primary example of a Great Author Website that we use in our workshop.

When we met our publisher on June 4th, Shelley stated she wanted to be selling it at the PNBA Tradeshow on October 6, 2013.
Yep, four months from contract to autographing!

Fortunately we had spent a week brainstorming a proposal for this book, so we knew it was a doable venture even with our very busy schedules. This summer may forever remain a blur in our memories, but we'll never forget how thrilled we were to sign our author names that first time, especially since everyone was so enthusiastic to have one of our books for their very own.

For an entirely different conference experience - Check Out this post by our Friends at Wise Ink and the 12 Things We Learned at the 2013 Writer's Digest Conference West.  

Friday, October 11, 2013

Book Page Organization

One of the most important pages on your website is your BOOKS page.  
This is your personal bookstore and all the books are face out on the shelves so the covers are doing their promotional job.

George R.R. Martin, is a very prolific author and he has a nice drop-down menu with the BOOKS link on his navigation bar. This is a professionally created and maintained website and is almost an explosion of all kinds of a fan-centric experiences. 

Yet, this is a classic and organized website, and easy to navigate. Here's a good opportunity to see how the professionals apply the basics of website design and organization. Look at the banner, it's his name on a simple background with a crest.

While not easy to read in this picture, each one of his books is designated as to its inclusion and place within the series, or as a stand-alone novel. 

Neil Gaiman is also a prolific author but doesn't have quite the explosive experience of colors. His navigation bar is a jumble, but the "works" link brings us to a clean page with easy choices. 

What interests you most about Mr. Gaiman? "He is listed in the Dictionary of Literary Biography as one of the top ten living post-modern writers, and is a prolific creator of works of prose, poetry, film, journalism, comics, song lyrics, and drama."

For Authors who write in multiple genres, organize your books by genre and add a link to your navigation bar, with a nice drop down menu, like Paty JagerShe designed and maintains her website but did so with advice and support from professionals.
Delilah Marvelle is an entirely different experience. The level of heat and flavor of the stories is revealed with the colors, the level of clothing, and the positions of the characters.

Delilah Marvelle thinks and writes in series where a different couple is featured per romance but relating to the same time and events as the other books in the series. While each book is also written to stand alone, there is greater value to the reader when it is easy to determine which book to choose first.

The whole point of studying the public presence of prolific authors is for you to decide, do I want to be a prolific author or a one-book-wonder with a single message? Both objectives are valid and awesome.

All we promote and provide on this blog is how to present your choices in the best light. We really don't care what you do, but if you do something, we care that you have the option of doing it - well-done.

J.A. Konrath is another highly prolific author and he's got one of the cleanest and easiest to navigate books pages.  The book list on this page is a classic Table of Contents. There's all kinds of fun stuff on the rest of his website, but when it comes to his books page, it's simple enough to make us applaud!

One click on the title of a book take you immediately to The book Cover and Blurb!
Followed by links to every where this book can be purchased, with price and format included!

Then in the bottom left corner of each book section, separated by nothing more than a line, is [top] that returns the reader directly to the table of contents.But, even better, this page is easy to scroll up and down and see every cover, blurb, and point of purchase.

For the author who has only a few books being promoted, Kristina McMorris has a classic and stylish books page. 

She not only includes colorful links to all the locations where her books can be purchased, but there's a nice text box that includes information for booksellers, and distributors. 

The similarities of all these websites need to be highlighted. They are all very individual and give a flavor of the author persona and the stories.

If your book is available in both print and e-book, say so and be sure to include links - especially if your e-books are available via different outlets than your print books. Check out our books page to see how we've showcased our book links and included information wholesale outlets (bookstores) will need to find our books.

Friday, October 4, 2013

When You're Ready for Business Cards: Part 2

Terri Patrick Business Card:

Therese says: I never had a need for business cards. My goal when attending conferences was to get business cards from agents and editors so I could contact them through the postal process, which took months - or longer. This process only changed in recent years.

But now I have a digital book and my website to promote and I need business cards to do so. I really liked the font used for my title and name on the book cover and tried to duplicate that on my business cards. When my order from VistaPrint arrived, I noticed the yellow fonts were a wrong choice. The color contrast looked better in digital than in print.
Three days later I realized, I hadn’t included my email address on the card! Oh well.
The cover of my novel only takes up 2/3 of the back of the card, leaving space for my autograph or notes. I made up labels of my email address then trimmed them by hand to fit on the edge of the card next to the cover.
Notice how the red title still pops in thumbnail size.
The bonus of having business cards was almost immediate, we were at a picnic last month and someone mentioned I write books, and interest buzzed. As I handed out my business cards I was asked to autograph them. The thrill I got from that lasted for - well - I can still feel it.

C. Morgan Kennedy Business Card:

 Morgan says: I've used this card design for years (long before AM101 was created) and I still love it! It screams urban and dark, but the streams of light suggest hope. Like Therese's cards, mine were produced on Vistaprint. Orange is my favorite color and there it is peaking through the copper and brown hues providing a nice contrast for my website address text. This card was specifically designed for my adult, futuristic, urban fantasy series. My manuscript pitch is on the back of the card, so that agents and editors will have a name and a face to link to my pitch. When I do another print run of my cards, I will do a version that doesn't have my story synopsis on the back of the card to have two versions of the same card: one for  agents and editors and one for everyone else. By the way, this business card and pitch worked for me - my manuscript was requested by a number of agents and editors. While my adult novel is making the review rounds, I started working on my next novel - which gave birth to Morgan Mechan. This card and affiliated website designs will continue 'as is' with only minor updates until my futuristic, urban fantasy sells. At that point, I will need to transition the site from a pre-published to a published author site.

Morgan Mechan Business Card:

Morgan says: My Morgan Mechan cards and website were pulled together at the last minute. I was invited to be on author panels at Portland's Gear Con in July. I still don't have my steampunk author persona portraits done, but there is plenty of room to add a picture when I'm ready. The back of this card is blank. Once my young adult steampunk adventure has a cover image, I will add it to the back.
 Notice that my business cards and website banners match. In fact, I used elements form the same vector illustration. This image uses my all time favorite color palette: chocolate browns, burnt oranges, deep golden rod yellows, and light sepia tones....perfect for a steampunker!
A steampunk owl in a top hat with goggles will be my avatar until I get pictures taken. My website banner and Morgan's Compendium blog banner are also coordinated to indicate a transition in content via the banner titles. I am very pleased with how these designs work together to promote my steampunk persona. They reflect the steampunk aesthetic, while giving me the flexibility to create a wide variety of stories and characters.

Author Marketing 101 Promo Cards

Our graphic card is used as a handout for workshop attendees. During our first year as Author Marketing Myth Busters, this was a simple venture and we felt a one item handout and a simple blogspot would be proactive and sustainable. Both cards represent our process in one glance. We'll still run this blog for fun, with FREE advice, but our graphic needed an upgrade as it now applies to our book. It's the same message and process but you can see the difference a professional designer can add!

Previous Posts on Business Cards:

Mirror Your Business Cards and Website

When You're Ready for Business Cards