Monday, June 15, 2009

Arranging a Book Signing

This is an anonymous blog, so the details will be spared. Another Blogger and I recently sold short stories to anthologies printed by the same publisher. This publisher emailed the database of all authors for the current season to each author in the published collections, and promised us $50 each if we could arrange to autograph books at a local bookstore. Since this anthology pays no royalties beyond the initial acceptance fee, pay-to-autograph is the only way an author can get more money, aside from buying books at author's discount and reselling them.
Greedy publicity fiend that I am, I contacted several authors who live near me. One tried to recruit me for her Christian writing group. Several ignored me. The other Blogger gave her enthusiastic assent, provided I could find a willing bookstore.
How hard can that be? I wondered. I see autograph sessions at bookstores all the time. When I called the chain bookstores, the first person to answer the phone had a wrote speech -- No, they don't want signings for books that are not best sellers. And chains stores don't arrange their own signings. I called the Indies. No, they didn't want a book signing for our anthologies. No, they couldn't recommend anybody who could help. Finally, I called the used book store that sells library cast-offs, where I sometimes shoot science videos.
Yes, they would host a reading and autograph session IFF my fellow author and I would provide the books. We get author's discounts. That seemed fair. My fellow author and I also agreed to do the publicity and provide the food. As authors, we get half off on the books. If we sold a few, that would cover our costs, and we'd still get that $50, each. I wrote the bookstore and offered them 20% of any sales, as a thank you for letting us use their space. I printed up hundreds of fliers and distributed them to veterinarians, pet supply stores, pet grooming salons, chiropractors, dentists, barber shops, hair salons, my yoga center, my gym, and the library. My co-author also distributed fliers, and arranged to drive people to the bookstore. (That was the most brilliant idea of the day.)
A few days before the reading, the used bookstore manager emailed me that he needed 40% of the retail price. I tried to explain to him that even if he bought the books from the wholesaler, at the regular 40% discount, he'd have to pay shipping to get the books, and shipping again to return unsold copies, so his real take would be 30%. I reminded him of the expenses my co-author and I were putting out to publicize and cater this event. He didn't care. He wanted 40%. It was his store. And at this point, we were committed.
So, my co-author and I signed the contracts giving him his blood money.
We had a good time. Our audience (mostly people my co-author drove to the store) laughed in the right places, even became choked up at the right place in my co-author's story, and ate our food. They didn't buy many books. We both still have plenty of copies of our respective anthologies. And we have a new friendship brought about by an emailed database from an anthology publisher with an odd marketing plan.
My co-author may mention this on her blog. If so, please buy our books from her. These books really do have good stories. They're all short, and positive, and you already know we can write and entertain.

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