To new authors who are planning a book signing, hear me now or hear me later: you can't just sit there. If you're scheduled to read or talk, that's a different deal, but if just sit there like a lovely accessory, you will sell two books, and one of them won't count. If you're happy with selling two books, good for you. If you'd like to sell more than that, you have to get on your feet and talk to people.
I was signing books in Fredericksburg, VA on Saturday, on a custom-ordered day. It was be-uuuu-tiful. And the sidewalks were teeming with Fredericksburgers on their way to a street festival. Lucky for me, that had to pass Griffin Bookshop to get to the beer.
Owner Eileen Boyd really likes me now because I moved myself onto the sidewalk and barked my 21-word pitch: "Hi, I'm the author of this new mystery, and I'm signing at Griffin Bookstore until 4:00. I hope you'll stop by." Do you have a 21-word pitch? You can use mine as a template if you wish. It helps to hand them a bookmark. It does not help to run out of bookmarks, which I did.
As for sales, it was my fourth most successful signing (out of 12). I have Howard and Karen Owen to thank for sending their friends, fellow authors Steve Watkins (Down Sand Mountain) and Michael Zitz (Giving it all Away: The Doris Buffet Story). I'm particularly fond of Michael because he's knows what it it's like to be a 'Z' on a bookshelf. And he bought an extra book to give to his university president. "I'll see if I can get you to speak on campus," he said.
And a hearty thank you to Rica, who I pulled away as she was stepping into the passenger side of her car. "You're not going to go home without buying my book, are you?" She left the car door open and made the purchase, much to her husband's chagrin who made it obvious he was ready to go home.
My last customer wanted an audio book. "If this were an audio book, I'd buy it right now," she said.
"Its not an audio book," I said.
"Then I'm not gonna buy it."
"I'll read it to you personally," I said.
"Nah, I like Susan Erickson," she said.
"I can do Susan Erickson," I said.
She went away. But you know what? She came back and bought a book. She handed me cash.
"Sorry, you'll have to pay inside," I said.
"I don't want to pay inside. Why can't I just had it to you?"
"I don't have change."
She sighed, exasperated. "All right. I'll go inside. I really don't want to go inside, but I will."
"I'll sign it while you're paying," I said.
"Don't sign it to me," she said. "Just write something sexy so I can give it away." She went inside.I wrote something sexy. She came back.
"That's not sexy," she said.
I added another sentence.
She shrugged. "I guess that'll have to do."