Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Day #4

Long day.

Got up at 6AM and mapped out the drive-bys.

Speaking of drive-bys, here's the Definitive Guide for Doing Drive-By Signings.

1. Find the stores. Go to www.bookweb.org, www.bn.com, www.waldenbooks.com, www.borders.com, www.booksamillion.com, and search for stores by city and zip code. Or go to the public library and look through the phones books. Try to list all the stores within 20 miles of the city you're visiting.

2. Call the stores you intend to drop in on and ask someone if they carry your books. DO NOT tell them you're the author. Why? All that does is complicate things. Trust me on this. They'll tell you you have to speak to a manager, or an events coordinator, or they'll tell you you aren't allowed to come in unless it has been cleared by your publisher, or they'll tell you that they don't do signings, or they'll set the books aside and then no one will be able to find them when you come in, or you'll set everything up and when you get there no one will know who the hell you are, or... you get the point.

The truth is, bookstores and publishers have a set of rules about author signings.

You want to ignore those rules. So call and and see if they have copies, and ask how many. I wouldn't drive 20 miles to sign three paperbacks, but for three hardcovers I would.

Call a day or two before you plan on dropping by---calling ten days before may result in your books being gone by then.

3. Map out your route. www.mapquest.com, www.maps.yahoo.com, www.maps.google.com. Plot a course going point to point. A GPS navigation unit saves a lot of time and effort.

I've noticed that Barnes & Noble and Borders stores often have locations just a few miles from one another. If there's one, there may be another.

Independant booksellers are genrally happier to see you, and more eager to sell your stuff. Fit as many of these into the drop-in tour as possible.

4. When you get to a store, find your books. Booksellers are busy, and you want to be low maintenance and take up very little of their time.

On this tour, my books are eaither on the new release table, the 20% off table, or in the mystery section. Sometimes there will be extra copies on the floor, or stacked behind other books on the shelf. Look around.

5. Take your books to the Information Desk, or to a counter, and say your spiel to an employee. Mine is:

"Hi! This is me. (Smiling, pointing to my name on cover.) I'm an author. Great to meet you. (Shake hand.) Thanks for carrying my books! Do you mind if I sign them?"

Start signing when you get the 'yes.'

Then ask them if they like your genre, and tell them about your books. For the pitch I use, check out my website at www.jakonrath.com/tips6.html --- it's the same pitch I use to sell to customers.

While talking to the employee, give them something---a card, a bookmark, or in my case, a drink coaster with my book cover on it, and SIGN THE ITEM. Signing it will hopefully prevent them from throwing the item away, on the off chance that one day you'll be famous and they can sell it on eBay.

Also, ask them if they can check to see if there are any more in the store that you couldn't find. Be patient---if the store is busy, let them take care of customers before you. That gives you a chance to pitch to customers as well.

When the books are signed, ask if they have stickers that say "Autographed Copy". If they do, help them sticker the books. If they don't, use your own stickers, that you took from the last store you signed at.

Barnes & Noble have square green stickers. Borders and Wladenbooks have red triangles. Sometimes Waldenbooks has blue rectangles, and Borders has brown rectangles. Don't get confused.

After the books are signed and stickered, ask the employees to sell them.

"Please get rid of these for me... my kids need to eat."

Often they'll make a display for you. Don't suggest a display yourself--let them suggest it. This appeal for help is important--it shows you're not a snooty author, but a regular person who needs help.

I also tell employess that whoever sells 20 copies or more will be mentioned in the acknowledgements for my next book.

6. Meet as many employees in the store that you can, passing out signed cards. Thank them profusely for selling your book, and for the great job they're doing. Take their business cards, and add them to your email newsletter list.

7. If you're at an independant bookstore, never leave without buying something. If you want them to support you, you should support them.

8. Keep a log of where you visited and how many copies you signed. Share this info with your agent and publisher. You don't have to give them the full list, but an email saying, "I was just in Arizona for the weekend and signed stock at 21 bookstores" will impress them.

So now you know as much as I know. And how was my day? I'm glad you asked.

After planning my route, I hit the road.

Waldenbooks in Mesa, signed 5 hardcovers, 5 paperbacks.

Borders in Mesa, signed 3 hardcovers, 6 paperbacks.

Borders in Tempe, signed 3 hardcovers, 5 paperbacks.

Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, signed 7 hardcovers, 1 paperback.

Borders in Chandler, signed 2 hardcovers, 4 paperbacks.

Barnes & Noble in Chandler, signed 3 hardcovers, 2 paperbacks.

Barnes & Noble in Phoenix, signed 3 hardvoers, 6 paperbacks, sold 2.

Waldenbooks on Southern, signed 8 hardcovers.

Borders on 74th, signed 6 hardcovers, 6 paperbacks.

Barnes & Noble in Gilbert, signed 2 hardcovers, 2 paperbacks.

SCARY STUFF--The computer at B&N in Gilbert said there were 4 copies of Whiskey Sour in the store. We could only find two. Turns out they stripped and returned the other two that morning.

Whiskey Sour came out in paper on June 24. So in less than a month, they were destroyed. Ouch!

I did a talk and a signing with the talented and charming Louise Ure (Forcing Amaryllis---which everyone should read) at The Poisoned Pen. We had a nice crowd, and Louise is 100% pro, even though her book has been out for less than a month. It was a pleasure sharing the spotlight with her.

Some friends came to the event, including fellow scribe Stacey Cochran and some folks I knew back when I was a waiter. Naturally, we went out afterwards for beer. Beer became tequila prarie fire shots, but I had to wuss out early (2AM) because I have to catch a plane in a few hours.

Tomorrow (er... later today) I'll be in San Diego, and I'll also blog about some fellow authors who are kicking major tail on the self-promotion front. You think I'm the only one pushing myself to the limit? Think again...