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Don't Do Book Signings

Forget about unprofitable autograph parties. Do a mini-seminar instead—you'll get a larger audience and sell more books.

One of the joys of being a published author is receiving appreciation for your work. Many believe a book signing to be a big part of that appreciation. Unfortunately, authors misunderstand the purpose of a book signing and attend unprepared.

"Never do an autographing; always offer a mini-seminar," says Terri Lonier, author of Working Solo.

An autograph party says, "Come and appreciate me and buy a book"; a seminar says, "Come on down, and I will give you something free (information and/or entertainment) that will improve your life." Always think of the benefit to the potential customer. How can you lure them out of the house and down to the store?

Autographings are not a party in your honor—you and your book may not even be known. Your appearance is a promotional opportunity for you—and requires hard work.

Use the bookstores

Bookstores, both chain and independent, stage events to attract potential customers into their stores. Authors are celebrities and provide the draw. The store supplies the venue and handles the commerce. You concentrate on entertaining your audience and signing books.

To increase sales, make up a sign that says, "Autographed books are more valuable. Have your book signed by the author."

This prompting works. People in your audience will realize that to get your autograph, they have to act now. They can't delay the purchase and still receive a signed book.

These mini-seminars may lead to longer ones for other groups at other locations—for money. Go for the exposure, and go prepared. Your book deserves it.

Get the word out

Patricia Bragg (www.bragg.com) publishes health and fitness books. To promote her mini-seminar at a local bookshop in Santa Barbara, she posted handbills in all the local health food stores. Then she made a postcard mailing and an e-mailing to her customer list within a 50-mile radius. The store was packed, and she was onstage for more than four hours, until closing time. The store sold out many of her titles and gave out rain checks.

Be realistic about who your potential customers are and where you will find them. Bragg knew there would be a high concentration of buyers for her books at health food stores.

Know your strengths

People think if you wrote a book, you know something. And you probably do. Books are written from research—you direct your material toward a certain type of reader, and you color it with your own experiences. We learn everything there is to know about our subject and, in effect, we are gaining an advanced degree in our area of interest. So, authors are pretty special—and often interesting and knowledgeable.

If your book is nonfiction, you can talk about the subject. If it is fiction, talk about how the story ties into recent events, the community or an issue the audience can relate to. Build interest in the book. The more interesting and entertaining you are, the more books you will sell. People will want to take a piece of you home.

This article appeared in the October 2002 issue of Writer's Digest.

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