Friday, March 30, 2007

Your Trade Show

One of the MWA members dropped an interesting post on the mail loop this week. She noticed that there are two types of authors at book signings: those who sit behind the table and wait and those who work the floor.

I hadn’t thought about that until she mentioned, then realized I’ve seen the same thing. Having never held a book signing, I once again have to revert to my experience in the RV industry. My version of a book signing is the trade show. I live by a few rules at the trade show that I believe are relevant to your book signings.

First, stand, do not sit, at the front of your booth (or table). Greet the customers as they pass or approach. Engage in conversation. It doesn’t matter how great your product is, people won’t beat a path to your booth (unless your selling Play Stations).

Second, tell them the benefits of your product before you discuss price. Now, with books, this isn’t so much an issue. The price is set. But you should expect to have a “pitch” ready for anyone approaching your table. In sales, we use a script. The next time you’re at a trade show, watch the guy selling the salsa makers or automatic melon balers. Really, just stand back and listen to him speak to several customers. He’ll give the same speech over and over, not varying by so much as a single word. I promise you, he’s written that sales spiel out and practiced it to perfection. Do you have to do the same? Not exactly, but you should have your initial pitch ready, just as you did when you chased editors into the men’s room at the last writer’s conference. You may need to tweak the pitch a bit as you learn, but give it a try. You may surprise yourself.

Finally, whether you make a sale or not, get the customer information. How? A drawing for a free book is always good. A gift certificate for the store you’re at is even better. Whatever it takes to get a name and e-mail address. These are solid leads to a salesman, because you’ve met the prospect face to face and he or she has expressed interested in your product. They’re golden. Add them to your database (get that started, too), and send them updates and your e-newsletter.

Remember, if you had to justify a book signing by the number of books you sell there, it’s not worth the time or effort. Your goal is to get your name out and gather readership. It takes time. Be patient. And keep smiling.


Mark Terry said...

Two things, and you're really right, I think.

1. In my experience, just sitting at your table is not likely to work. My most successful signings at bookstores involved me wandering the store with bookmarks in hand, asking if people wanted a free bookmark, then introducing myself with, "I'm a local thriller author. I'm signing copies of my latest book, yada yada yada, at the front. Stop by and check it out."

2. There may very well be better ways to get your name out there and by hanging out at bookstores. That's because many, many people who go to bookstores are there looking for something specific--and you ain't it.

Sally Bradley said...

Ron, great post. And Mark Terry's comments are good, too.

Have a question about getting people to sign up to your database. Since spam laws require them to join your mailing list on their own, how do you do that? If you ask them to do it when they go home, well, we know that's not going to happen.

So how do we do that? And link it together with joining the mailing list database in order to be eligible for the giveaway? Love the idea of the gift card, by the way.

Robin Caroll said...

Smart sage, oh Ron dude! LOL As I've been preparing to set my marketing plans in motion, this is very timely. One other thing to add in....a drawing to win a gift basket, which you have displayed at your table, is also a big draw. And free stuff at your table. Chocolate works! LOL

Dineen A. Miller said...

Oh good stuff. The gift certificate from the book store for a drawing is an excellent idea. I'm going to file that one away, hoping... :-)

Delia Latham said...

This is one of those "Duh!" moments for me! LOL I've tried gift baskets, chocolate, etc. ... but never once even thought about a gift certificate for the hosting store. That's a great idea, Ron - thank you!