So you’ve completed your manuscript and gone through production – now what? Aside from the first draft, marketing is the most important part of the process, especially when you’re self-publishing. A great way to market yourself as an author, as well as your latest book, is by doing book signings and author meet-and-greets. This is an opportunity to introduce your writing to an entirely new audience that may not have known about you otherwise. We’ve asked Sonia Farnsworth, whose book Losing the Plot in LA came out in June, to share some of her tips and tricks on navigating the world of book signings.
Mascot Books: What was the first step in marketing your book and what were some of the avenues you used?
Sonia Farnsworth: Telling everyone about it that would listen! I started an Instagram and Twitter account just for Losing the Plot in LA (not a personal account) and added a Facebook Page for the book as well. I made a commitment to post something minimally once a week but aimed for a few times a week. I reached out to my favorite bookstore on Sunset Blvd in LA called Book Soup. They’re quite the iconic bookstore as it’s located in the thick of it on the Sunset Strip and attracts a great audience. I reached out to other local bookstores in Southern California as well. Then I had fun, catchy, bookmarks made and passed them out everywhere I went. I give them to people that I think will enjoy the book. I also ask retail stores if I can leave a few on their front desk. I’m always armed with books and bookmarks wherever I go. If I’m at happy hour I pass the bookmarks out to the entire bar, you just never know and it’s a great conversation starter!
MB: You had a very unique book launch event, being that the location was actually on the cover of your book – how did you pull that off? Did you know before putting it on the cover that they’d be supportive?
SF: El Coyote is my favorite hangout of all time as it is such a huge part of my LA experience and so much of my book happens there, so I HAD to put them on the cover. Plus it’s a very well-known restaurant in LA….it’s claim to fame is that it’s where Sharon Tate had her last meal…hmmmmm, not sure what to say about that… and it’s been around since the 1930’s! El Coyote is my home away from home so everyone knows me there but I wasn’t sure if the owner would let me use their logo, so I got his approval before I put it on the cover. It was totally logical to have my book launch there so when I asked them if they were up for it they said they would be honored to host my book signing launch. In fact I asked for the back room, which they usually don’t use during the day, but they wouldn’t have it! They gave me the “fun room”, the exact room that I write about in the book, the Pink room…which isn’t even pink…I digress… They were so cool and accommodating, they’re selling my book as well!
MB: What was your game plan when deciding where to set up signings?
SF: Los Angeles locations were the logical place to start since the book is called Losing the Plot in LA. I needed to milk the local aspect first which is a huge draw and then I branched out to Orange County. My character and I both grew up in Orange County and once we turned 20 hated it, so she got the heck out from behind the orange curtain as quickly as possible. This is the only exact parallel, NO this is not an autobiography, but everyone thinks it is…NO! LOL.
MB: How did you find the “right person” when approaching these spots?
SF: I googled every B&N from LA to San Diego and asked, “Who is in charge of your book signings?” At Barnes and Noble it is usually the Community Relations Manager or CRM. It’s amazing, when you’re nice and polite, how many people try to help out. I am very persistent, follow up is key as they are very busy and many authors are calling and emailing them constantly. Always call and then follow up with an email. You can’t just call once and hope they get back to you…but you never know, you might get super lucky!
MB: How do you go about pitching your book without sounding like you’re bragging?
SF: I asked friends of mine who read the book to describe it in their own words, as I am not good at succinctly explaining it without going on and on. I’m too close to it and tend to babble on so I needed outside help to nail it! I share the feedback that I’ve received from readers or reviews as well so it’s coming from someone else, not my opinion. I also suggest they check out the reviews on Amazon. I probably could come off a bit cool at times which might work in my favor, I’m not sure yet….time will tell…
MB: Once you had a signing set up, how did you market the event?
SF: I put it on my personal Facebook account and the Losing the Plot in LA Facebook account along with Instagram, and Twitter. I also reached out to the local paper and asked them to put in a blurb for me. I’m a member at the San Clemente Wine Store so one day when I was passing out my book marks and talking about my book the owners offered to do a book signing party for me. They said they would invite all of the wine club members and provide appetizers. The wine club members were a totally new audience so I was very excited! Having relationships with the San Clemente Wine Store and El Coyote obviously helped! I also told anyone and everyone that would listen and made it sound more like a fun party/event, not a brag about my book.
MB: What was provided to you by the locations and what did you need to provide?
SF: Barnes and Noble provided my books to be signed, advertising on their website and in their store weeks beforehand. They had a very huge poster with my photo and book on the outside window as well as on my signing table and throughout the store. I provided my huge poster board I had made of my book cover that I set up in front with my bookmarks. The other signings/launch parties I brought my own books, my poster board, bookmarks and armed myself with a Square so people could pay with credit cards. At El Coyote I provided the appetizers and everyone bought their own margaritas. The San Clemente Wine Store provided appetizers while everyone purchased their own wine. I had the El Coyote party from 2-6 which, according to my PR friend, was too long but it turned out to be the perfect amount of time. Always listen to your intuition, you usually know best! Also Barnes and Noble did it from 12-4. Perfect amount of time as it flew by because I was having so much fun!
MB: Walk us through a book signing from the moment you arrive at the location to the moment you leave.
SF: I arrive early, from a half hour to an hour to set up my books, poster board, bookmarks etc. At Barnes and Noble they put me in the front of the store where everyone walks in with a table, chair and books to sign. Not too much to set up except my bookmarks and poster board book cover. At El Coyote I wanted to make sure there were chips, salsa, candles, bookmarks etc. on all tables. My friend offered to take care of the book sales so I could mingle and not be distracted by collecting money, running credit cards etc. My job was to sign them, mingle and have fun, which worked out perfectly because so many people attended ranging from friends I hadn’t seen in 20 years to strangers from social media and close friends. It was really crowded and overwhelming. For the Barnes & Noble signings, I’m not one to sit in a chair and wait for people to come to me, I am up and about giving away bookmarks and chatting with people. It feels more natural than just sitting there.
MB: How do you get stores to keep stock of your book AFTER your signing is over?
SF: I sign about 10 so they can have autographed copies and I give suggestions as to how to display it so they don’t just shove it in the bookshelf. My cover is catchy and helps to sell the book. Shoved in a shelf, a book won’t sell until its author is established and people come looking for that specific book! I suggest a few employees read it and if they like it they’ll put it in the “recommended books” section which is a huge draw. Book Soup purchased 4 books to start and they sat in the bookshelf until someone read it, loved it and now it’s on the “recommended books” table and they’re selling like crazy and it’s on their best sellers list!
MB: What are your 3 biggest tips for new authors trying to set up book signings?
SF: 1.) Be persistent, think out of the box, and have fun. Have various types of signings and or parties. My next signing will be by the pool at a hotel across from the harbor in San Diego. I will invite people but also the hotel guests are now part of my audience and by the pool is a fun summer thing to do. The hotel said they will put posters up for me and invite the guests. It’s a kitschy hotel so it fits the book. 2.) Don’t give up. Call local book stores to get your book in and then ask for a signing. I’ve learned that book stores need assistance on how to get creative in featuring the book or it will just sit. 3.) Don’t pigeonhole your book into one demographic, assuming only that audience will like it. For example, I assumed only women would like my book since it’s Chick Lit. Losing the Plot in LA has been a big success with men as well as women. I was surprised when I read the reviews on Amazon and when my friends’ boyfriends and husbands told me how much they loved it!
MB: Tell us about the best experience you had at a signing…and the worst.
SF: I was a nervous, sweaty mess at the El Coyote book signing, seeing so many old friends and just the excitement of the day that my face was shiny and looked horrid in all the photos. Use a lot of powder! LOL. But seriously it was crazy, overwhelming, and fun. The hardest part about this type of event is not offending your guests, as you need to socialize and make your way through the crowd making time for everyone. Invite everyone from your past, present, social media etc. I enjoy the party signings best as they are more relaxed and fun with drinks, food etc. When at a book store signing, don’t just sit there, have something to hand out or just mingle with people. If you have something to pass out such as a bookmark, they have something to check out later and hopefully buy your book. If you can engage them, show them your book and pull them into conversation. The hardest part was trying to catch up with everyone because there were friends I had not seen in YEARS. The most embarrassing was spacing out on the El Coyote Owner’s name while I was signing her book, DUH! I’ve known her for years, Uhhh, embarrassing! I also bought a cheap flimsy stand for my poster board book cover thingy and it kept falling down. The coup de grace was when I tripped over it and almost knocked a guy and his girlfriend down as their quesadilla flew across the room and my book whacked him in the head….but hey, I’m a clumsy dork so not too surprising! I tend to lose the plot daily!
Losing the Plot in LA is currently available for purchase, you can get yours here! If you have any further questions about book signings, or any direct questions for Sonia, please leave them in the comment section below and we’ll answer in a future blog post.