Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Book Signings:
A Sea of Monsters?
When I first started this blog I envisioned a site that would offer all sorts of information for authors who were considering using Print-On-Demand technology to publish their books. While I’m proud of the work that I’ve done on the blog, it has not yet realized my original vision. In general, the blog has featured anecdotal information from POD authors who can be called successful in one way or another. I’ve mixed in the occasional traditionally-published author for their perspectives as well.

Anyway, I’ll be striving to get a broader mix of topics into the blog in the New Year. This should be easier as I avoid doing my homework in my MBA classes at all costs. With that in mind, I’ve run across a couple of posts on other blogs that talk about book signings and there place in every authors marketing campaign. I’ve only attended a few book signings, but enough to know that first-time authors come into them with high expectations and are often sorely disappointed. I’ve seen authors become angry and even cry after failing to sell a single book at an event.

A small consolation may be that book signings are a challenge for even some well-established authors. Rick Riordan, the author of the Percy Jackson juvenile fiction series and the Tres Navarre mystery series for adults, recently blogged about his early book signing experiences.

“I remembered one of the first book signings I ever did, ten years ago, when Big Red Tequila first came out. I was invited to Waldenbooks in a shopping mall in Concord, California. They set up a table at the front of the store. They allotted two hours,” Riordan writes. “I sat there in my coat and tie and watched people pass by, steering clear of me like I was an insurance salesman. I gave directions to Sears. I explained several times that I wasn’t an employee at the bookstore and I didn’t know where the self-help section was. I signed a napkin for a couple of teenaged boys who thought the title Big Red Tequila sounded slightly naughty because it had to do with alcohol. I sold no books.”

Riordan’s book signing struggles ran through the publication of The Lightning Thief and Sea of Monsters, the first and second books in the Percy Jackson series.

“I remember when Sea of Monsters came out, a year later, I was still having anxious conversations with my editor and agent, wondering what I could do to improve sales,” Riordan writes. “Were we missing something? Was I wrong to think the series would connect with kids? It took almost two years before I really felt like things were turning around.”

One of Riordan’s big breaks came when The Lightning Thief was selected for Al’s Book Club for Kids on NBC’s The Today Show. That honor came just prior to the release of the third Percy Jackson book, The Titan’s Curse. It was also just prior to the release of the last Harry Potter book, when interest in juvenile fiction was at a peak. Timing is everything.

I’ve read all three of the Percy Jackson books and enjoyed them thoroughly. Greek mythology is a central element in the books. The stories of Apollo, Athena and Poseidon helped establish my love of reading early on, so it was great to see that world featured in new adventures.
The fourth book, The Battle of the Labyrinth, is available for pre-order and set to be released May 6, 2008.

Over on R.W. Ridley’s blog, The Self-Published American, authors are being encouraged to think beyond the book signing and take advantage of the many marketing opportunities that the internet offers. Ridley references a recent article from the Christian Science Monitor, Why Book Tours are Passé.

“Among the many reasons for this shift are marketing tools that have made it possible to orchestrate a virtual encounter, without the hassle or expense of travel,” the article states. “Publishers and authors are now touting books through podcasts, film tours, blog tours, book videos, and book trailers.”

Ridley is an award-winning, self-published author and is also a sales and marketing consultant for POD Company BookSurge. His blog features a number of other helpful marketing hints. Be sure to check out his books on Amazon as well, The Takers and Délon City.


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