It was a packed house last night at Newtonville Books in Newton Center, just outside of Boston. You couldn’t fit another body in the bookstore with a shoehorn as there was an abundance of excitement and anticipation for author Rachel Kadish to debut her latest novel, The Weight of Ink published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Rachel took to the podium shortly after 7PM, allowing store employees to set up extra chairs for the continual flow of fans. She read from chapter one—the first time she’d read from her book publicly, and delivered a wonderful reading which was sure to entice spectators into diving into their own copies as soon as possible. I know that I will be. During her Q and A, Kadish responded to questions in an engaging and informative fashion. She spoke to everything from the writing process of “Weight,” the historical research involved, her detail to accuracy and her refusal to outline her writing projects ahead of time. After which she signed copies of her novel to a lengthy line of fans. Thank you, Newtonville Books, for hosting yet another terrific event.
The Crooked Roads through Cedar Grove is now available. Get your signed copy at My Website and it will get shipped right out to you. The first batch of pre-orders were mailed out yesterday so if you’ve already ordered yours, they are well on their way.
A big thank you to everyone who came out to Super Megafest this past weekend. It was great fun and terrific seeing some friends—old and new. I spent the weekend signing books at the Books & Boos Press booth with friend and author, Stacey Longo. Next to us sat the fun loving New England Horror Writers. Having friendly faces around you at a three day event really does take the edge off. I had a wonderful visit with my friend Marshall and his friend Andrea, and oh—hey, I met Barry Williams, AKA Greg Brady from The Brady Bunch! It was tough topping that experience but I’m always up to a challenge. Thanks again to everyone who stopped by the table. Hope to see you out there at an upcoming book signing!
If you’re in the area of Portsmouth, NH on Friday night, March 31st, I’ll be signing copies of my novel, The Crooked Roads through Cedar Grove, now in paperback. This event is 2017s Author’s by the Sea expo which runs from 5pm-9pm. It’s free admission. Stop by and see me, along with many talented local authors.
As Independent authors, promoting your books can be tiresome, especially when you don’t have the big publishing industry machine at your back. It’s time consuming work and there are times when it becomes discouraging to the point where you ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” Between writing, blogging, promoting on social media, sending your books out to legitimate book reviewers (because we all know that paying for phony, one sentence long, five star reviews on Amazon is just plain wrong) and everything else involved in self-promotion is a job in itself and can be downright draining. It doesn’t have to be such a tedious effort all the time. When you’re willing to back away from the computer (or tablets/phones), it would be beneficial for you to set up some book signing events to promote you and your work in a public setting. It can be at your local library (recommended), at your neighborhood independent bookstore (also recommended), a local arts & crafts fair—this is good if you have a book set in or near the town the fair is held, regional author expos (they are getting more and more popular) and Comic Cons or Horror/Sci-Fi Expos (good if your book falls in these genres.)
Why is it a good idea to attend these events? Well, obviously, you’d like an opportunity to sell more books, but your reasons should extend beyond potential sales boosts. These events are more about networking and meeting people that you’d otherwise never have a chance to have the pleasure. Oftentimes, as writers, we fall into a cozy little bubble and it’s difficult at times to pull ourselves away from “our world” and willingly venture out into the “real world.” We get so engrossed with our work and are enticed by the safe simplicities of promoting ourselves from our computer desk. But this behavior becomes counterproductive and can be downright unhealthy. By placing yourself in an on-site marketing situation, you expand your marketing potential and strengthen your selling abilities to people who might never have discovered you otherwise.
In my latest book, Book Signing 101: An Author’s Guide, I breakdown the different factors and specifics about the above mentioned events as well as the various costs involved. I will give you a general idea of what to expect at the different venues.
- Local Libraries: The Pros? You don’t have to travel far to get there. Everything will be set up for you (except for your own additions) and your event will be relatively stress-free. Whether it’s a group author event or a solo signing, it won’t cost you money to be there because public libraries have to host these sort of events at no charge. The Cons? Attendance could be hit or miss. Library events usually have a steady trickle of people, but depending on the town, the weather, or any other number of factors, the trickle could be small.
- Arts & Craft Fairs: The Pros? It’s relatively inexpensive to rent table space so it won’t cut into your budget too deeply. Depending on the population of the town and how well the event has been promoted, there could potentially be hundreds of attendees. These are all possible book buyers and potential new fans. The Cons? You will be competing with other crafters selling handmade jewelry, bird houses, candles, fragrances, handbags, clothing, more handmade jewelry and EVEN MORE handmade jewelry. You’ll really need to be on your A-game to attract new buyers and convince them that they’ll want to read your book.
- Local Author Expos: The Pros? These too are relatively inexpensive, but they range slightly higher than arts and crafts fairs. These are terrific networking events where you are in a setting with like-minded individuals who share the same passion as you; writing. There could be upwards of 50-100 authors at these events and the more authors you meet and befriend, the better your networking circle becomes. The Cons? You have 50-100 authors all competing for the attention of the same people who walk through the doors. Because of this too, many people aren’t willing to walk into events where 50-100 sets of eyes are on them trying to guilt them into spending money.
- Comic Cons (Horror/Sci-Fi Cons): The Pros? They are fun, lively and there is hardly a dull moment throughout the entirety of the event. You get to meet a variety of personalities and there are usually celebrities at the events (my table was once set up accross from Ace Frehley of KISS, I got to hang out with 80s rocker, Lita Ford, Kim Coats from Sons of Anarchy and Joey Lauren Adams of Chasing Amy to name a few.) The Cons? It’s very expensive to rent table space at these events, they run 2-3 days on weekends and you must be behind your table at all times—the events run between 6-8 hours, so it’s a true endurance test, mentally and physical to say the least. Read my Blog Posting on the financial breakdown involved in signing at these events.
Yes, there are some downsides listed above but I’m nothing but honest about what’s involved when it comes to book signing and marketing. Forewarned is forearmed. You yourself will know the genre and topic of your book and you’ll know best which avenue to take. Once you commit yourself to getting out there to promote your work, meeting new and interesting people and growing your potential fanbase, your future opportunities will open up and take you to the next level in book marketing. It’s all there for you, you just need to go after it.
Want to learn more and become a Book Signing Pro? Download Book Signing 101: An Author’s Guide on Kindle now for only .99 cents.
Chapter 7: How Much Money Should You Spend on your Book Signings?
Again, this is entirely up to you but my suggestion is, as little as possible. This is where you the author—and this is probably the most important lesson in this book, need to wear your business person hat before committing to costly author events. As previously outlined, there are a variety of venues to hold your book signings but each one is going to vary significantly in cost. You need to give serious consideration on the matter of;
· Amount of books you’ll need to sell to cover the cost of your table.
· Distance from your home to the venue.
· Cost of Lodging if overnight stays are necessary.
· Cost of fuel, food and marketing material for the event.
Let’s assume that you’re attending an author expo held at a public library and the event is free for authors to participate. This is great because so far you’re not on the hook—you don’t have to pay the library for use of their table. Let’s also assume that the library is located in your hometown and you don’t have to drive more than five miles to get there. This is also something that works in your favor. What also might work in your favor is the fact that since you’re a local author in that community, you’re more than likely to sell a decent amount of books at that particular event. Let’s assume you’ve sold five copies of your book for $15.00 a copy. That’s $75.00 in your pocket without breaking much of a sweat. Since you’re not spending money on gas and lodging, you’re ahead of the game with a decent profit.
Now, let’s discuss some events that charge a modest amount of money to rent a table. There are author events that may charge anywhere from $25.00 to $50.00. This is still relatively inexpensive and if you can manage to sell five copies of your book at these events, you’ll still turn a profit. However, let’s assume you paid $50.00 to participate in the event and you’ve sold $75.00 worth of your books. That’s a $25.00 profit, which is still very nice. Ask yourself this, though; how far away was the venue? How much did you spend in gasoline? How much did you spend on food? You may find that $75.00 disappearing very quickly and in the end, you’ve simply spent $50.00 to $75.00 on the privilege to appear at an author expo.
Okay, now let’s talk about events that charge a hefty fee to rent space to sell your books. Comic Cons, and the like, charge a significant amount of money to rent table space—primarily due to the fact that these events are typically two to three days long. On average, Comic Cons charge artists, anywhere from $150.00 to $400.00 per event. The lower priced events are more or less new Comic Cons starting out with the hopes of growing into a larger-scale event. The higher-priced events are Comic Cons that are located in a large city catering to a huge market which draws a large audience throughout the two to three day run. Let’s just assume that you’re planning to rent a table that costs $150.00 at an event which runs from Saturday to Sunday and both days have a 10:00am-6:00pm event time.
Let’s also assume for the sake of argument that you’ll order twenty copies of your book specifically for the event. If you publish your books via CreateSpace, you as the author are purchasing copies of your own book at a large discount, not available to the general public. If the price you pay per discounted book is $3.25 and you order twenty copies, you’ll pay CreateSpace $65.00. Of course, additional fees will be tacked on to that shipment of books. You’ll pay tax and shipping and handling costs. Depending on where in the United States your order will be shipped to, this price will vary slightly. Conservatively let’s just say that your total order costs $80.00 give or take a few dollars. Your $80.00 investment on a fresh stock of books plus the $150.00 table fee at the event has now set you back $230.00 and there are still a few more things to consider.
· How far away is the event from your home?
· How much fuel will your car consume driving to and from the event?
· Will you need to rent a hotel room for Saturday Night?
· How much will you need to spend on meals?
· Are you taking time off from your job to appear at the event?
· Will you feel comfortable inviting your fan base to see you at the event, knowing they will need to pay about $25.00 each for admission?
· How many copies of your book will you need to sell to at least break even?
· How many copies of your book will you need to sell to make a profit worth your time (8 hours each day plus travel) and energy?
· Are you confident that you can sell that many books?
Depending on the type of vehicle you drive, if the event is more than twenty five miles away, your fuel gauge will definitely reflect that. On the low side, let’s assume that you’re only using $10.00 worth of fuel for this event, it’s now costing you $240.00 and you still need to think about lodging if your event is too far of a distance to drive back and forth from the event to your home and back and forth again the next day. If so, the upside is that events such as comic cons offer a discount deal with neighboring hotels if you’re a vender at their event. Again, depending on where you’re located and how pricy hotels are in that area, you’ll need to think long and hard about whether or not it’s worth the added cost. Conservatively, let’s say that you’ll spend Saturday night into Sunday at a hotel near your event for $80.00 a night. You’re now paying $320.00. Another thing to keep in mind is that you’re going to get hungry, both during and after the event. You can pack all the snacks you want to get you through the day, but after eight hours behind your table, continuously standing up and sitting down, talking to interested buyers, and people watching all day long, you’re most definitely going to want to treat yourself to a sit-down meal after a long day. Whether that meal is eaten at McDonalds or The Capital Grille is entirely up to you, but let’s low-ball and assume that you’ll spend $20.00 on your meal (assuming that you’re dining alone.) You’re now spending $340.00 and you have only two days to make this amount back in book sales.
As discussed above, the twenty copies of your book that you’ve ordered for the event at a cost of $80.00 will need to be the star of the show. It will be up to you to turn those copies into pure profit, but at what cost? Well, at previous events such as the free library author expo, you sold your books at $15.00 each, so let’s assume you’ll do the same at a comic con. Let’s say that you’re an absolute bookselling pro and you’ve sold out of your twenty copies by the end of Sunday night. You’ll have earned yourself $300.00—quite impressive. But wait one second; you’ll still be $40.00 in the hole. I guess the best remedy for this is to try charging $20.00 per book. That will leave you with a gross of $400.00 and a profit of $60.00—for two long days of work on a weekend.
Oops, and I almost forgot to mention that you’ll more than likely need to pay taxes on your sales for that event. Depending on what state your event is held, you’re more than likely going to have a tax I.D in order to sell goods at that event. Rhode Island, for example, had implemented stringent tax laws and I.R.S. agents were visible throughout public events such as comic cons. On a positive note, Rhode Island has recently passed a bill which permits the sale of original and limited edition works of art exempt from state tax. Rhode Island was the first state to sign this bill into law and many other states will soon follow suit I’m sure. Be sure to check your local tax laws before selling your goods at events.
While I don’t want to come off as pessimistic, I feel it’s only fair for me to lay out every possible outcome, be it positive or negative. After all, book selling is a business whether or not the actual writing of your book was born entirely out of love and passion. In the end, you’ll want to get your book in people’s hands, but it shouldn’t be at the cost of your own wallet. Sadly, I know some authors who spend a great deal of their time and money on book promotion events, yet their personal lives and, unfortunately, their finances suffer as a result of their shortsightedness. The practice of book selling really does need to be approached as a business. It can’t be all fun and games.
I Sold Out (and thank you for that by the way!)
Sadly, I’m going to have to append any future book signing engagements. Yes, it’s a total bummer because I do enjoy getting out there and engaging with people—discussing books and what not. It’s not because I’ve decided to kick back and catch up on the television shows gathering on my DVR. It’s because YOU BOUGHT ALL OF MY BOOKS! Yes, I’m out! “The Crooked Roads through Cedar Grove” Hardcover/CD/Vinyl Limited to 200 Copies is now GONE! “Americana,” w/Vinyl Album Book Cover, limited to 50 Copies is now GONE! Thanks to a few Record Store Day posts on social media a couple of weeks ago, the few remaining copies were snatched up by vinyl album lovers. So if you own either of these (or 2011s Huldufolk & 2012s Crabapples), congratulations—you own something that will never be printed again. Only a modest amount of 2014s Left-Hand Path copies remain (at a handsome price by the way.) If you missed out on the physical editions and would still like to read “The Crooked Roads through Cedar Grove” and “Americana,” you can download them to your Kindle from my Amazon Page. So while I won’t be traveling around with a box of books, I will be working on some new writing projects for the near future. Best to you!
Saturday, November 21st, my co-author (and co-founder of WAUNDERS CHILDREN’S BOOKS) Susan Saunders and I signed books in Denville, New Jersey at the Valleyview Middle School Holiday Artisans Fair. Turnout was great and we sold quite a few books. More importantly, we met and made some great new friends. Susan sold and signed copies of her anti-bullying book Beach Boogie & the Clam Jams, as well as our adventure collaboration, SNOWPOCALYPSE. I moved a couple of Left Hand Path‘s and I’ve officially depleted my stock of the limited edition hardcover/CD of The Crooked Roads through Cedar Grove. It’s now sold out, and I believe a delightfully enthusiastic teenager named Hannah snatched up the final copy. Go Hannah!! Here are a handful of pics we managed to get from that afternoon. Couldn’t make it out or wish now that you had? You can pick up SNOWPOCALYPSE and/or Beach Boogie & the Clam Jams at Waunders.com and why not go out on a limb and visit RobWattsOnline.com to see what I’ve got going on these days. Have a great day! RW