Preparing for my book signing tour, I’ve been attending a lot of other author‘s events to get some good tips on how to promote my new novel and attract readers. Instead, I have been learning what not to do. What I have found is a large number of authors are scaring away potential customers by simply talking about their books.
I have learned that just showing up for a book signing is not enough. Unless you’re a best seller or a famous person, you will end up sitting at a table in the back of the store all by yourself. Customers will avoid that area of the store thinking, who is that strange person?
The simplest way to attract readers over to you and your book is to schedule a reading and have a Q&A session. If you can add to it with a slide show or video, that’s even better. You’ll have their attention, all you have to do is close the deal. A good presentation will end with the majority of the crowd buying a book and wanting it signed. But, what I have found from watching many authors pitch their book, once they open their mouth, they scare people away.
“…when the author stands before a crowd and tells them his novel is bad, they have a tendency to believe him.”
I’ve witnessed authors try to answer simple questions with ten minutes of meaningless babble where they change the topic several times and end up never addressing what the person asked or even talking about their book. After 40 minutes of this, from one author, I saw people in audience checking their watches and texting on their phones. When it was over, four people asked to have a book signed. The other 20 walked out very fast.
Another author was asked, “How did you relate to your main character when you wrote this book?” He answered, “I didn’t. I don’t like the main character and I don’t even like this story.” Obviously, when the author stands before a crowd and tells them his novel is bad, they have a tendency to believe him. The end result was, out of a crowd of 30 people, maybe six or seven asked to have a book signed. I’ve saw people who sat with a book in their lap during the presentation put the book back on the shelf and leave. All of these people made an effort to go to the bookstore to hear this author speak. They wanted to buy the novel and were successfully talked out it.
“… if you tell your audience they are too stupid to understand your book, for some unknown reason, they won’t buy it.”
I once arrived to a reading a half-hour early and watched the author and bookstore employee set up for the presentation. During this time, the author, who is not a citizen of the United States, complain about how his book was not selling in the United States because Americans were too stupid to understand it. He gave a 1½ hour slideshow presentation where every few minutes he continued to insult Americans saying they were stupid, morbid and had no idea as to what was really important, such as his book. Because this presentation happened in Colorado, it’s safe to say the crowd was primarily made up of Americans. Of the roughly forty-some people in the audience, two asked to have a book signed. The rest couldn’t get out of there fast enough. What I picked up here was, if you tell your audience they are too stupid to understand your book, for some unknown reason, they won’t buy it.
So the lesson I have learned is, when speaking to a crowd, don’t forget to promote your book. Make it sound like one of the most fascinating stories out there. Let them hear the passion in your voice when you explain why you wanted to write this story and share it with them. Stay on topic, which is your novel and why they should read it. Keep it entertaining, as entertaining as your book.
Oh, and don’t insult your audience, it won’t end well for you.