Mark had his first book signing yesterday. It went really well--lots of people showed up. Some bought multiple copies. He had a good time.
Ramping up to it, though, was pretty stressful for him. He's not a horn-tooter, or someone who is comfortable imposing on friends and family for support. He's more the guy who's always giving the support.
In last week's post I mentioned that there is so much that goes into being an author that most people are not aware of, including first-time authors. A reader asked me to expand on that, so I'll give a little behind-the-scenes.
For any event to be successful, people have to know about it and it has to seem interesting or relevant to their lives. They have to want to go to make the effort to go. Even then, it's still probably only one in ten intendees who become attendees. Life happens, you know? Things come up. Homework needs to be finished. Maybe they're just tired. Or maybe the weather's bad. Rain (or, hello, ice and snow!) is big factor in people not showing up. Even wind has the power to keep people away.
The bookstore will do community outreach (or poster placement) to alert their patrons to an upcoming event. They'll tell the local papers about it and get a blurb in the Community Calendar listing. Other than that, a lot of stores rely on foot traffic and schedule signings when they hope it'll be busy in the store. They're busy, too. They have a store to run.
So for an author event to be successful, it falls on the author to help drum up interest in the event. This is way more work than you might think. Authors contact local papers & TV and try to get a reporter/editor or producer interested in covering the story. Authors write their own press releases. They supply their own photographs. They e-mail and call and (this one's key) follow up, and, if they're lucky, they get someone to agree to write a piece on them before the event so that people know about it and show up.
More often, press people simply ignore your submission. They're busy! They have deadlines! Their in-boxes are packed, and their voice mail is full! They simply don't get back to you.
Even with 33 books, multiple awards, and 2 movies, they simply don't get back to you.
This is where you want to say Forget it!. It is miserable and time consuming and maddening! But you can't give up yet. You have to keep trying. You have to follow up. You have to find an angle of interest. You have to go until you get a "No."
No can be such a gift.
Authors are also invited (if they're lucky) to guest blog on sites where books are the focus. But submissions need to be unique. You can't submit the same piece to more than one blog.
The goal is to have people who are new to you (or your latest title) give your book a try. Or at least find out more about your work. So if you go on "blog tour" you have to come up with some new angle for each and every site. Try writing a dozen unique, entertaining, compelling posts (500-1000 words each) on your book. You will be so sick of yourself and your book!
So why do it?
There are SO MANY new books out there every season, that unless lightning strikes for you (or a constellation of starred reviews showers down on you), you have to make the effort to pop through all those pages and be seen (and, hopefully, read).
But wait, there's more!
Authors are expected / encouraged / required to speak in public--conferences, schools, bookstores, etc.--and many of us have (or had) a crippling fear of public speaking. Which makes sense--most authors are, by nature, quiet types. They spend many hours alone with their characters and created worlds. Behind a podium is not someplace they want to be. And without a podium is even worse!
I remember my first few conferences and school visits--I was visibly shaking. My voice was warbly. I was sick to my stomach. It was awful!
So, again, why do it?
It has nothing to do with successful writing, and yet it has everything to do with being a successful writer. It has to do with selling enough books to be considered by your publisher to be a worthy risk for an advance on the next one.
It's what we do so we can go back to our quiet lives and fictional worlds. And if it accomplishes that, it's worth it.