Notes from the Road

In the eight weeks since Tap Out was released, I have held six events, from bookstores and libraries to an MMA gym and a local bar. Throughout these events I’ve taken notes on what worked, what didn’t. For those of you interested, here’s what I’ve learned:

Libraries:

I went to one local library on September 25th. For those of you who are unaware, as I was, Yom Kippur began at sundown. Thus, traffic at the library was not high. Fortunately, I was able to talk leisurely with the patrons who did show, as well as the booksellers who were with me. Next year I will be much more mindful of the calendar.

Bookstores:

I held three events at bookstores. One with an independent and two with a big-chain store at two of their locations. The indie store was as charming as ever, and I spent a fair amount of time chatting with those who turned out, but traffic was, again, low. I cannot attribute this to the calendar, and can only wonder about my promotion. I relied on Facebook, twitter, flyers and postcards. People knew, but not enough, so possibly a different medium would have been a better fit.

The chain stores were a night and day experience. One was holding a book fair, and the sight of so many people flowing through the aisles would make any author or publisher smile. I received a lot of attention, both from people who knew I was going to be there, and from those who had no idea who I was. I stayed for an additional hour because the traffic was so brisk and signed the remaining copies of Tap Out. Definitely a success.

I went to the other chain store location on a Sunday, and that right there, might have been my flaw. It was quiet. Very quiet. However, I did have sales and I did meet people, who are now hopefully new fans. I even challenged a teen to read the first page of Tap Out and if he liked it, well, we could talk. If he didn’t he could throw it at my face. Fortunately, he was glued to the page, as every teen boy I’ve set this challenge to has been. It’s a wonderful sight, and for that a worthwhile event. And they let me sign all their stock, too.

MMA Gym:

If you put the author in a cage, the fans will come. Seriously. This was a fun event because of the location and its atmosphere. Fighters were sparring off to the side while I was signing. I had hardcore music playing. Everyone who wanted a copy signed had to take off his or her shoes to enter the cage with me. Just beyond cool. I would strongly suggest to any writer to find a location that in some way is an integral piece of your novel and go there. Good times all around.

Local Bar:

There’s just something perfect about an Irish bar on a cold and rain-filled Friday afternoon that screams, “Books!” No there isn’t. What a local bar offers on a Friday at 4 pm is a place to go, forget about the week, eat, drink and be merry. And oh, yeah, check out that guy’s book. Far and away McGrievey’s was the best experience. There were many factors at play that I believe suggest why my bookseller left with only two copies: food, drinks, friends and community support. The owner was kind enough to donate appetizers from 5-7 pm; I arrived at 4:00, because that’s when happy hour begins; and people came out to be part of something fun, unique and cool. I will hold a signing for every book I sell at McGrievey’s because all the necessary elements for a good time were under one roof. And book signings, in my opinion, should be more party than anything else.

Final Thoughts:

While some events were more successful in terms of sales, it is impossible to know the effect one sale may have. Word of mouth is enormous, so I do not discredit the value of any of the more quiet venues.

Promotion via Facebook and twitter is sensible and free and worked well for me. I distributed hundreds of flyers and promotional postcards. I don’t know what return I received from them, at least not in person, so I can’t judge in either direction.

At signings, stand as much as possible. Some locations aren’t amenable to such, but if possible, be upright, even at a pub table. There’s just something natural about meeting a person face-to-face, as opposed to making them do the work of stooping and questioning.

As feasible, find a novel setting to hold a signing. Give people something else to do besides buying a book and chatting. Yes, they may love you and your work, but if you can provide more than just your presence and words, go for it.

I thank everyone who hosted me. Without your willingness I would not have had nearly as much success as I’m enjoying. Next fall, when my next novel is out, we’ll do this again. Sure I’ll tweak some things, but I’ll retain the core purpose: connecting readers to the author. I cannot stress how important that is. The people I met and had a moment to speak with will remember me. And hopefully because of my work, I will stay with them, and they will want to meet me, again.

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