Wednesday, September 2, 2015

how to sell a book before it is published

My book isn't out until January, but generous friends hosted a party for it this weekend after I mentioned to them a few months ago (trying to sound casual) how important pre-orders are for authors, especially unfamous novelists publishing a debut. It was a great party, with lots of good friends/neighbors/ supporters in attendance. We called it a Preview Party, not a Pre-Order party, but people got the idea. Today, I checked my Amazon numbers --yes, I'm months away from publication, but already checking my rankings--and my “best sellers rank" improved by about half a million--whatever that means, surely NOT that I sold half a million books.

A book party is like a wedding in that, while on the whole it's fantastic, one of the best events in your life, there's a few things you'd hope to remember, should you ever do it again. Like--

1. If more than two dozen people will be there, GET A MIKE. Most writers aren't great talkers (that's why they're writers) and unless you've got the big, booming voice of a trial lawyer or James Earl Jones, give a break to the people who've gone to the trouble to come out and support you--make it easy for them to hear you. Especially if your audience includes boomers who spent their formative years lying on shag carpeting listening to Procol Harum at max volume on lo-fidelity earmuffs. Also--think of the mike thing before the day of your reading or you might not be as lucky as I was when I frantically contacted my host's caterer, who was able to provide a last minute hookup. (Don't be insulted when the sound guy shows up and seems disappointed that his fancy setup will be used only for reading, and asks hopefully if he ought to tweak a few settings because maybe someone in the audience will want to play something?)

2. If your book isn't out yet, MAKE CHAPBOOKS AS PARTY FAVORS. These look like the galleys, but contain only about the first fifty pages or so... just enough to give people a taste of your book and hopefully give them an appetite for the whole enchilada and seeing it lying on their kitchen counter will remind them to put in a pre-order. I am exceedingly grateful to my editor for making these for me, but if yours can't, you can do it yourself at a Kinko's.

3. APPOINT A PHOTOGRAPHER. It doesn't have to be the professional photographer friend you've already imposed upon for your author photo. It can be any friend with an iPhone and a good eye who isn't too shy to ask people to pose holding your chapbook. (See above.) I really, really wish I had done this, because images are valuable content for social streams.

4. ASK PEOPLE TO POST One of my guests had the social savvy to hashtag the event and post a photo on Instagram, but I wish I had thought to ask others to do so. Social buzz can help start up interest in books.

5. WEAR SOMETHING COMFORTABLE. I'm grateful to my husband for this. There I was at the mirror, trying to decide between shoes--Toms or heels--and he said I should go with whichever pair would be better to stand in for hours, trying to remember people's names. There aren't nametags for book readings. I guess because the only name that you want on people's minds is yours.

6. READ FROM A SCREEN, NOT FROM A PAGE. Especially if you're an older (ahem) writer who needs reading glasses. You can adjust type size on screen, so you won't have to perch readers at the end of your nose. (I've gotten progressives which eliminates this problem, but it's weeks before you can wear them without feeling like you're falling downstairs, so don't make the mistake of making the switch the same month as a reading.) Also, the light emitted from Ipad or Kindle or whatever you're using will save you from having to worry about finding a reading light.

7. BRING BUSINESS CARDS If your publisher has been good enough to provide you with chapbooks, your contact information probably isn't in them. I've used MOO to make cards with my book cover on one side, which reminds people later who the heck you are. The best part about book events is the connections that you make with new readers, other authors, booksellers and even (in my lucky case) someone who asks for an ARC because they want to review it. Business cards stuck in a wallet can remind people of idle offers they made once at a party.

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