By Gail Mencini
The Boys of Summer are on the field. The smell of hot dogs, beer and peanuts waft through stadiums. The sound of the crack of a bat and cheers of the home team crowd resound.
What does that have to do with being an author?
Imagine the new baseball rookie in his first at bat. He stands at the plate, nervous and excited. The pitcher tries to stare him down.
The pitch fires at him, but he knows to let the first one pass without swinging—wide outside. Ball one. The second pitch comes quick and fast and straight over the plate. He swings. It’s a homerun!
What kind of publicity will follow that game in which the rookie’s first at bat is a home run?
Here’s a tip: Writing a book is not Field of Dreams.
You cannot write a book and expect the readers and buyers to come.
Are you a proven New York Times bestseller? No? How about a big name in politics or the entertainment industry? Not that, either. Maybe you’re a keynote speaker at national conferences, or the inventor of the next greatest thing.
No, no and no.
But you are an author of a well-written, engaging book produced with quality at least equal to that of the New York Times best selling books.
Odds are, whoever published your book—a large publisher, a mid-sized company, or small press—will not throw marketing dollars in your direction. This levels the playing field for authors who are independently published compared to those published by someone else.
How to Hit a Home Run
How do you turn this …
Partnering with your local bookstore and having an event there is a great start.
Credibility. You’re the real deal—an author with a bookstore signing.
To Tuscany with Love is an adult coming-of-age novel set in central Italy. Eight college students come together with sizzling chemistry and rebellious humor during one whirlwind summer in Tuscany. While uncovering the charms of Italy, they discover both friendship and love.
I have to confess, I was honored, excited and downright thrilled to see that big bookcase in the Tattered Cover bookstore filled with copies my novel, face out at the front of the store. Even better, that bookcase was there for all to see for the six days preceding my reading and signing event!
What were key components of getting To Tuscany with Love stocked by the Tattered Cover?
- The book has wide distribution, including Ingram and Baker & Taylor
- It is fully returnable by bookstores
- It carries standard industry discounts to bookstores
- It has an eye-catching cover
- It is well-written and has broad appeal
- I made a personal appeal to them
Did I do anything to make my signing a special event? Of course!
Little Extras and Big Benefits
After clearing it with the bookstore, I brought food—Italian Amaretti Cookies (homemade by me), a bouquet of sunflowers for the cookie table, bookmarks and business cards. I made dozens of cookies, and left the remaining cookies for the staff of the Tattered Cover Bookstore to enjoy.
What other benefits are there to a bookstore event?
You’ll sell books, always a good thing.
What happens when you sell books (other than make royalties or profits)?
You’ll have sales stats, if they are large enough, that other stores or the big chains might notice.
You have an event to crow about on social media—Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, even Pinterest, and Google+—before and after the event.
Tips for Filling the Bookstore
How do you turn it into a success? It’s not hard to figure out.
Get book-buying people to fill the seats. The staff at the bookstore for my event had to bring out extra chairs, and then more people came and soon were standing in the back!
Yes, that means reaching out to your friends, neighbors, hairdresser or barber, cousins, book club, bunko, or tennis club friends, parents of your children’s friends, and anyone you can get them to bring along. Oh, what’s that? They already came and bought books at your launch party? Can they come again? If not, you need to find more people.
Tell everyone you know. Send out postcards and emails. Call friends to remind them.
Hope the weather’s good, but not too good, that night.
Plan your talk. Respect the fact that someone may bring their young child or mother, and attempt to have your words resonate to a wide audience. You have a responsibility to make it an entertaining night for your friends that attend the event.
You created something wonderful and found a way to share it with the world. Have fun!
Afterward? Thank your bookseller host.
Then, take a short break and relax. Maybe even go to a baseball game.
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Gail Mencini is the award-winning and best-selling author of To Tuscany with Love, the first book in her Tuscany series. It’s available on Amazon.com and at the Tattered Cover. Connect with Gail through her website, GailMencini.com. She shares recipes and anything Italian on her Facebook page. You can also follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.