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First Book Signing Hot Wash

Yesterday, I had my first book signing in Leesburg, VA and to be perfectly frank, it did not go so hot. So in the spirit of sharing all my ups AND downs, here’s a run down of all the stuff that happened, and how I’m going to do things differently.

In the world of le military, a hot wash is where you look over the events of the day and try to make sense of what went right, what went wrong, and what could be improved or changed.

And yes, I am going to write this post like a real consultant report. Because that’s how I roll, yo.

Situation

For my first book signing, the date offered was chosen because there was an arts festival going on downtown the same day, and would potentially draw more people out and about. I thought it would be a good idea to be out in the city, drumming up interest, before the signing.

Pre-event, I set up the following things:

  • Created a Facebook Event and boosted it with a $50 ad, targeted to Leesburg and the surrounding 50 miles, and the target demographic
  • Added events to my Amazon page and Goodreads page
  • Set up scheduled tweets and posts about the event using local hashtags

I did not utilize traditional media during this event at all. More on that later.

Because I was going to be out in the arts festival for a while, I signed twelve books and left them in the store, using my patented 12-book-spiral Feng shui method to set the aura in the room.

Looking back on it now, I needed another 12 on the table to complete the method, and that is probably why everything went downhill. My neighbors at Comic-Con know my obsession with the 12 books on either side.

ANYWAY

Out in the town I went, passing out these lovely flyers that I got, 200 (100 printed and cut in half) for $18. I figured they had all the pertinent information on them, including my website, if any of the flyers made it far enough to meet a computer

After a few hours of doing that, I returned to the bookstore with my new pens and was ready for everyone to come in and buy all 75 of the books I brought.

Outcome

I sold a whopping six books. To people I already know and could have sold to without driving 30 miles and walking around for five hours.

Don’t get me wrong: Kris, Carmina, Heather, Miranda, Bob, and especially Harmony – who is on her fourth book purchase and is my fan-of-the-year – I thank you from the bottom of my heart for coming out to see me and buying a book. As well – Gary and Lindsey, who already have books and came to support me – you guys are the best.

That being said – I love you, but I know you. And you eight, plus one or two more random folks, were all the people who I had engagement with. Of those two random folks, I’m guessing maybe one will follow-up.

Strategic Goal Traceability

Returning to our strategic goals for Double Life, they are as follows:

1. Sell books (met)
2. Get books to new people (did not meet)
3. Grow audience (did not meet)

So this event met one out of three of the success criteria. There’s actually a fourth one that I’m going to add, now that I’m spending money:

4. Break even or make a profit (did not meet)

Between the useless $50 Facebook ad, the useless $18 flyers, and the not-useless food – and only making $9 a book, well you can do the math.

Analysis

Book signings at bookstores comprise the majority of my upcoming cross-country book tour next year, and my anticipated sales need to be in the 50s, not the 0s, in order to make the profit needed.

To be fair, Leesburg is a far-out suburb of Washington, DC, and most of the cities I will be hitting will be major metropolitan cities, so it is a bit apples to oranges. However, there are some lessons learned with regards to the way this one went:

Facebook Ad

I think those have proven to be highly ineffective for what I need them for. Of the 20 or so responses I got on the ad (not friends of mine), 0 showed up to the actual event. So it was $50 dollars effectively tossed out after the other money I spent so far.

Flyers

On paper (hah), this is a good idea, and I might try it again if the opportunity arises where it would be needed. For $18 and 200 flyers, it’s a good bargain, and it also put my website on a takeaway for people, which is just as good as a business card.

Traditional Media

I did not utilize newspapers, television, or anything like that, and that might be something that could have at least driven traffic to the blog, if not the store. Specifically for the cross-country book tour, there will be a unique media angle (“Author is criss-crossing the country on her own!”) that may be more appealing to the media folk.

Street Team

If I may be brutally honest here: I’m a little upset that more of my local friends didn’t come to my first book signing. Especially ones that I count as very close friends. Many of them had other engagements, as apparently this was the busiest weekend of the year, but still.

That aside: a local contingent to drum up audience members is a must. I did not utilize the people I know in Leesburg who have access to readers. I did not push on them to ask their friends to come except for a flippant, “Bring your friends, hah…”

For the book tour, this becomes mega-important. Obviously, the people I’m going to shamelessly stay with visit are going to be recruited to join the street team, but what about in cities I don’t have any close friends? Finding fans in those cities becomes important, or else I need to have a comic-con like booth where I can showcase my wares to draw people in.

Way Forward

I think it’s safe to say that comic-cons and other conventions are the best place to sell a lot of books. Unfortunately, those also require a couple hundred dollars months in advance to reserve a booth (in some cases). So book signings have to be part of the strategy, in order to move books now to pay to move books in a year.

I’m going to try again to see if some of the stores in Maryland and DC want me to come in, as well as be more forceful with my local libraries. There are events to be had, and I will have them!

Published inHot Washes
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