Lisa A. Kramer

Author, Speaker, Theater Artist, Creativity Facilitator

Lessons of an Independent Author: Book Store Signings (Part 2)--The Human Element

Several people have asked how I did it? How did I, an unknown author with a debut novel, no publicist, and an extremely limited budget get onto the calendar at bookstores?

I wish I could say I knew the magic spell--that I could wave my wand like Hermione and make my books appear on shelves all around the world.

Bookstoricus Popularitus!

[caption id="attachment_8964" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Trying out my new magic spell. Trying out my new magic spell.[/caption]

Unfortunately that's not the way it works. I have plenty of non-responses from people, if not outright "No's!" to prove that there is no magic spell. I have a long list of "must and shoulds"--of people I need to contact if I want to continue growing as an author/presenter/independent artist (because remember I also have a theatre company that I am somehow trying to promote).

However, I am figuring out what might work to some extent.

It started when the chair of the Visual and Performing Arts department mentioned to me that most Barnes and Nobles look for events from local authors, as his wife learned when publishing her own book. Interesting, I thought, and then did nothing with it.

A few months back, just after P.O.W.ER became reality, I went to a book birthday event for The Gossip File by  Anna Staniszeski at The Writer's Loft, (A community dedicated to providing writers with what they need to get their careers to the next level.) I had a few reasons that I decided to attend this event.  Anna was my roommate at last year's NESCBWI conference and is one of the well established published authors I know that I feel comfortable asking questions. Sarah and I have read a couple of her books, and Sarah loves her work so I thought it would be fun to drag her and her best friend to the signing. I wanted to see how a book launch went, since I haven't really attended any and have rarely attended signings outside of a conference situation. Plus, I had been meaning to check out the Writer's Loft and see if I wanted to join (which I did).

At that event, a representative from Wellesley Books was there, manning the table to sell any and all of Anna's books. Anna and Heather (the head of the Writer's Loft) convinced me that I should talk to her about P.O.W.ER. They marched me over and introduced me, as I stood their quaking in my boots. She told me she had no power (he he he) over getting new books but she would pass the information on to the right people. Nathan (who I had dragged with me to this event) ran down to the car and grabbed a copy (I never leave home without them) and I handed it to the woman from the bookstore who commented on the cover and said it looked interesting. She left with the copy, and sometime over the next couple of weeks I got an email from someone else at the store.  While it was touch and go for a while as to whether or not they would take my book (my contact seemed to object to some of my questions) eventually that was settled and they agreed to take 5 copies on consignment. When I felt like she had forgiven me for my earlier faux pas,  I mentioned in an email that I'd love the opportunity to do a signing or a reading, and she asked if I would be interested in a Self-Published Author Night--which was also for authors from small publishing houses like Word Hermit Press, the publishers of P.O.W.ER.

First signing scheduled--because I made human contact with an actual person.

Sometime in the middle of all that, when I realized that talking to a human being made thedifference, I was at Barnes and Noble trying to do some writing/grading (it was either November or December). This is one of my regular spots to go work because I can spread out, the music is decent, and the dogs don't beg every few minutes. Besides . . . books.

Anyway, the whisper of the words from my chair echoed in my head. I screwed up my guts, still feeling terrified and went to the info desk. "I'm a local author," I said, "and I have a new book coming out, I was wondering if I could talk to someone about doing a signing or a reading or something."

I couldn't believe I actually did it.

The person was very nice, said "Congratulations!" and then said he had to go find the person who scheduled events and wasn't sure where she was. I told him I was hanging out in the cafe whenever he could find her. She found me there and told me that she couldn't plan anything for several months because of the holidays.

"I understand, of course," I said. (I think I've already mentioned that I discovered the biggest mistake I've made in this publishing journey is to launch a book on Dec. 1st). I didn't want to come off as desperate, so I left it open to possibilities.

"I'll get you my card," she said. "Email me more specifics about your book, including how it is distributed, and I will get back to you in January or February."

"I'll do that right now. Thank you. Whenever you can schedule m in would be great." She walked away from the table and I sent an email 5 minutes later.

I followed up after the holidays just to remind her I existed.

Second signing schedule, because I finally got the courage to ask face-to-face.

I have tried other bookstores via email and letters, but have gotten no response. Perhaps they are inundated with requests, or perhaps they simply don't care.

But I think the magic spell lies in face-to-face contact. I'm not saying it will work every time. If it would, I would be less scared of wandering from bookstore to bookstore and library to library saying "Hi, my name is Lisa and I wrote this book, would you like to have an event?" I need to do that, but fear still gnaws at my belly, so I have to time it when I feel the most courageous. Or perhaps I need to start carrying a magic wand.

Doing Magic



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