Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Cheryl Kaye Tardif - Author Interview Part 2

There were a few things that were recommended to me by others that I found to be a total waste of time:
  • One recommendation was to focus on the controversial angle of assisted suicide in one of my novels, and try to become known as an expert on that topic. Honestly, this doesn't work for fiction unless the author is already an expert in that field. People who read fiction want fiction. If you write non-fiction, then you'll have a more easily defined platform and can go this route. Fiction readers want the story to be believable, but they don't want an in-your-face platform, and after many early attempts to situate myself on this particular topic, I realized that I am not comfortable with sharing my views, and I'll never be an expert on assisted suicide. I did however convince one organization to promote my novel on their website, since it does deal partly with the topic of assisted suicide. The novel is Whale Song and there are definite benefits to reading it if you have experienced death, loss and grief. Whale Song also explores topics of bullying in school, racism, sacrifice, forgiveness and much more, but I would not profess to be an expert on any of these topics, although I will speak about this when I do school talks--if appropriate.
  • Another recommendation was to mail the libraries an information package on a new release. I found this to take up far too much time and it was far too costly, with very little results. After I sent a few dozen with nothing to show for it, I started emailing libraries instead. I found I received far more interest this way, and it didn't cost me anything but time. My emails also resulted in invitations from local area libraries to speak to various groups.
How were you able to book so many book signings year after year?
I am pleased to say I have a very good reputation as an author and promoter in the Edmonton area. Some store managers have said I'm the only local author who really sells much; some have said I'm their favorite (even though they shouldn't have favorites); and some have said I am one of few authors that comes prepared to sell and then does it; and one local store only allowed me to sign books, no other authors. I think that all of this says a lot. I've worked hard to create good relationships with store staff and to be an author that requires little work on their part.
My first signings were done professionally from the start. I had bookmarks and business cards made, a table cloth, posters for some of the stores (those that would put them up), and I invited everyone I knew. Very few of my invitees showed up, which left me with the regular customers. The very first signing taught me that, outside of a book launch party, I could not rely on those I invited, and that everyone who walked through the doors were MY customers, my invitees--whether they knew it or not. That is how I look at every signing. I don't need a lineup as soon as I get there. That would be icing, but the real cake are the hundreds of people who walk through the doors during the time I'm there. In my mind, they're there to meet me, learn more about my books and buy some. lol
I also consider myself an extension of every store I'm in. For those 3 or 4 hours I am part of the staff (again, in my mind), so I welcome people to the store, help them if I can, plus tell them why I'm there. If I am at a table near the doors, I prefer to be the only "staff" there so that I'm not fighting to catch the attention of customers with some poor girl handing out coupons. I become the greeter, and if I can I'll hand out the coupons myself, tell them of any specials and show them my books. I find this approach works best for all. Customers don't get mobbed, the real staff can walk the floors, and I get to do what I love--meet people and talk about my books. :)
It is because of what I do at a signing and how I do it that I am asked by managers to come back and do more signings. Some have called me to find out when I'm coming back. I'm usually one of the first authors they'll call if they're having a huge event too. I believe that's because they know I'm genuine around people, I consistently sell books, and I'm easy to work with. All I need is a table near the entrance, a comfortable chair and my books.
Tip: The best time for book signings is October to December. Christmas shoppers are looking for affordable gifts, espeically now.
I've written a couple of articles on book signings:

What are the specific first steps in getting booked at a bookstore?
  1. Dress for success. Before meeting store managers, dress the part of a successful author. Semi-casual is perfect.
  2. Introduce yourself to store managers. I think the best thing I did in the early days was go into my local bookstores and introduce myself to store managers. I told them who I was and what I'd written.
  3. Show managers your book. I showed them my novel and let them browse through it. Some wanted to read it first before commiting to a signing, so I left a few samples. Let them keep it and encourage them to pass it on to other staff members. You want them hand selling to customers, and that only happens when they have read or know about your book.
  4. Show them you know the business by asking smart questions. I asked which days were the busiest, which days were best for signings, how close to Christmas they'd book authors, and what could I do to ensure a good signing.
  5. Find out how other author signings have gone. I asked what their other authors sold on average, or what the last author sold. The numbers were mostly low and I knew I could do better. I told them that. "I believe I can sell more."
  6. Respect the manager's time. Keep your first meeting brief and to the point. Let them know that you know they're busy and make sure it's a convenient time to talk to them. I found I had more success popping by unannounced than trying to set up appointments.