The Business Side of Writing—Plan a DIY Book Signing

Published by Daleen Berry on

As I finish packing my car to head south for Florida, I’m recalling my past book appearances. In part because I need to plan accordingly, and also because other authors have asked me how they can do the same thing.

It’s a fact that publishers these days rarely line up book events for their authors. Not unless you hail from New England and your name is Stephen King. (Or from England, like J.K. Rowling.)

Tamarack in Beckley, W.Va., sells books written by state natives, or which are set in West Virginia. I’ve appeared there a few times and, as an author, it’s one of my favorite places to visit.

That’s the bad news. The good news is this: you can do it yourself! And it’s not even hard. It does require effort on your part, so be prepared to work for it. But when that hard work garners you a bookstore appearance, it’s well worth it.

First off, you need a “hook,” something to pique a bookseller’s interest in you. I’m fortunate, because after a long professional writing career, I have awards and some degree of celebrity, having appeared on TV shows like NBC Dateline, 48 Hours, 20/20, Dr. Phil, Discovery ID, and Crime Watch Daily. But even more important, I have a writing style that people tell me they enjoy, which has created a loyal following. An audience, a platform. From early 2011 until November 2015, I’ve also written or co-written five books: Sister of Silence, Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese, Pretty Little Killers, and Guilt By Matrimony. That’s five books in five years. (Albeit, a better record than my childbearing one, when I gave birth to four children in five years. I have yet to decide which feat was more difficult.)

Book signings are a great way to get your work noticed and meet potential readers, but it’s a well-known secret that you won’t always sell many books. (Unless you are Paula Hawkins.) I’ve sold anywhere from five to more than 50 books at a single event, but the best way to enhance your chances—and draw people into stores to see you—is to do more than sign books. When reaching out to bookstores, offer to give a short talk, either about the writing process or your expertise on the topic, and to hold a Q&A afterward. Tell the bookseller you’ll read from your book, because there is nothing readers like more than hearing the author read a passage aloud.

Yes, if you write a book that ends up on the New York Times Bestseller List, you will find long lines of people waiting to meet you, and read your book.

Be professional.
Call the store at least six weeks in advance, since it can take up to four weeks for some bookstores to order your books. Be prepared to receive an email address when you call, since not all booksellers want to discuss book events on the phone, and get the name of the person you will email.

After the email salutation, in which you address that person as “Dear Ms. So-and-So,” introduce yourself, tell her why her store will benefit from hosting you, and attach a press kit that contains the following:
-A good author photo
-Links to your published work
-Writing awards and professional writing history
-Links to any public speeches or media coverage

Keep books on hand.
Do this because sometimes, things do go wrong. I’ve had bookstores call me to cancel just days before a signing, saying the books didn’t arrive. But when you have your own supply, you can offer them instead. The store can replace yours later, and often will mail them directly to you. It can be the difference between appearing in public with your books—or disappointing your waiting readers.

Promote your event.
Ask any Fortune 500 company: self-promotion is the name of the game. Especially nowadays, when new authors face stiffer competition than ever before. Facebook is a great place for this, where you can even advertise your upcoming appearance. So are Goodreads and Twitter. Don’t bombard people with hourly reminders; just put it out there a few times and let the universe do it for you. You can even ask your friends to share the event—and they are often more than happy to do so.

What if the door still won’t open?
If, after doing all of this, you find booksellers still won’t give you the time of day, there may be a small but easily remedied problem. Especially if your book is well written and readers are reaching out, telling you how much they enjoy your work. If you’re self-published, bookstores may not want you. But don’t take it personally! This is due to a small but easily remedied problem: just make sure your book is returnable. Call or email your distributor and if it isn’t, ask them to change that status. Bookstores cannot afford to purchase books they can’t return, and this is the biggest obstacle (after poorly written books) authors face to gaining entry into bookstores.

Next Monday . . . I’ll blog about how to make your book event a wild success!

* * * *

My fifth book, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister, was released November 17. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

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Daleen Berry

Daleen Berry (1963- ) is a New York Times best-selling author and TEDx speaker who was born in sunny San Jose, California, but who grew up climbing trees and mountains in rural West Virginia. When she isn't writing, she's reading. Daleen is also an award-winning journalist and columnist, and has written for such publications as The Daily Beast, Huffington Post, and XOJane. Daleen has written or co-written eight nonfiction books, including her memoir, "Sister of Silence," "The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese," "Pretty Little Killers," "Cheatin' Ain't Easy," "Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang," "Shatter the Silence," and "Appalachian Murders & Mysteries," an anthology. In 2015, West Virginia University placed "Sister of Silence" and "Guilt by Matrimony" on its Appalachian Literature list. You can follow her blog here: https://www.daleenberry.com. Or find her on Facebook and Twitter, as well as email her at daleen(dot)berry(at)gmail(dot)com. She loves to hear from readers.

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» How to Make Your DIY Book Event a Wild Success · February 15, 2016 at 4:16 PM

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