What should you do now? I’ve found that doing book events at stores, libraries and schools has been a great (and fun) way introduce my book both locally and beyond.
Over the five months since Goodnight, Ark was released, I’ve done seven book store events, two library visits, two readings at a local ceramics shop, two elementary school visits (one via Skype with 2nd graders in Iowa!) and two preschool visits. My goal between now and June (when school lets out) is to schedule 3-4 events per month.
I arranged my first three book events by simply calling local bookstores and sending follow-up emails that included details about the book as well as a link to the book trailer. But in the big picture I'm learning that cold calls aren’t the most effective strategy. More often than not, they don't go anywhere.
Instead, I have found that having some connection, or someone to introduce you, works best. For example, at my first bookstore event, I met a woman who loved the book and recommended it to the director at her daughter’s preschool. That led to my first preschool visit. The director of that school enjoyed the visit and mentioned it at a regional preschooler’s directors’ meeting. Now other preschool visits are in the works. Similarly, one bookseller thought I did a nice job presenting the story and recommended me for an in-store book fair with a local preschool. I subsequently did yet another in-store book fair at another store branch. The two library events were also initiated by recommendations from people that knew of me and my book.
To use a wintry analogy on this snowy day, I would say this marketing strategy has a delightful snowball effect with each visit leading to others. All it takes is a little effort to get the ball rolling. With that in mind, the first thing I would recommend to first time authors is to make a list of friends/colleagues you know who have connections to area bookstores, schools and libraries and see if they will make introductions for you.
Don’t fret if you don’t make a stunning number of sales at each event. A few sales are nice, yes, but at this point, it’s more about raising interest in your book. As two booksellers have reminded me, a book event is really about much more than the hour or two you are physically present at the event. It's about generating interest in your book. For example, the picture above shows my book being shown off in the window of Books and Co. (And Toys Too!), a lovely independent bookstore in Lexington, VA where I had two signings. Only ONE family came to the morning signing. But the owner was not concerned. Indeed, she was delighted because each day leading up to the book event (and afterwards too) customers, having seen the book in the window, came in to purchase copies. She sold 77 the week of the event and continues to sell copies.
So take my snowball advice and have a ball at local book events! It’s worth every snowflake.