Saturday I held another book signing on Fort Sam Houston, and it was by far the most successful one to date! Thanks to everyone who came out, whether you bought a book (or three), took a free bookmark, or just asked for directions to the bathroom. :)
This was the fourth of my on-base book sales that I've done, third on Fort Sam with the previous one held on Lackland AF Base. All have been one-day events (since I have to go to work five other days in the week), and I generally came away from the first three with mixed feelings. If you have attended or just passed by any non-superstar book signings yourself, you've probably seen the writer sitting or standing alone an awful lot. The experience can be both encouraging and discouraging, depending on how few and far between the sales and signings, or just plain conversations, may be. And if the writer has no interested parties or human contact for the last two or three hours of the day, they leave feeling pretty crappy. But not this past Saturday. That day I left with only a great sense of success and accomplishment! Saturday's sales were triple of any previous signings, spread across the entire day from set-up to tear-down, and I think there were a few key factors involved in making that happen.
One is that I have new cover art on two of my books, which look awesome. Covers definitely help sell books. If your cover looks unprofessional, readers will assume what's inside is unprofessional too. Second, getting the word out ahead of time so those interested can actually plan on attending. About half of those who bought books had already known I'd be there; the other half were spontaneous walkers-by (I think I just invented that word). And strategic site location certainly helps. There are a lot of younger readers on Fort Sam (being a training base there's quite a lot of 18-22 year olds), and of course younger folks are probably more into fantasy books than the older, retired military crowd (lot of those folks here, too).
A final tip that I think helped me, something I learned at my last signing event: A woman was checking out my books and after deciding they might be something she was interested in, she asked how much they were. When I told her, she said, "Is that all? Okay, I'll take these two." It then occurred to me that most people seeing someone selling their own books--not from a shelf in a bookstore but right there in person--probably assume the price is inflated. And to a degree, they are correct: it's much more expensive for the individual to have books printed and shipped than for the mega-publishers who are rolling out thousands at a time. We do have to charge a little more to keep from losing our shirts. However, if said self-pub author stays aware of that inherent price hurtle and is committed to keeping theirs modest, if they realize they are a humble newbie in a mega-corp world and price accordingly, they might actually sell a few more books. Right after I sold and signed those two books for her, I went into the PX and bought me some colorful sticky notes, which I then used as price tags. Stick note may look tacky but I think posting the prices for passersby to see helps bring down one perceived barrier between author and potential readers/customers; that being the idea that this person is going to charge too much, so I won't even bother to go over there.
Of course, there's also the perception that anyone who is selling their own books couldn't get really published and therefore must suck. Fortunately, this misperception is slowly fading away as readers discover they sometimes like the self-pubbed work better than those cranked out by the big publishing machines.
(Mine may not be the best possible display, but it gets a little better looking each time. My philospohy is to put colors and information out there for easy access to those stealing a peek as they go by.)
This past Saturday may well be my last on-base event here in Texas. Next month (May 3rd) I am go to appear at Dragon's Lair comics and game shop in San Antonio for their Free Comic Book Day, and I have reserved a table for the Capital City Comic Con in Austin, TX, happening July 11-13. I am also looking into getting a spot at the Texas ComiCon in San Antonio in June. As my wife so thoughtfully pointed out to me, events like these are just the kind of places I should be going, even if I have to pay to be there. While being on training bases gives me access to younger adult readers, which is certainly a big genre-reading demographic, having a booth at a Comic Book Convention is even better: everyone there is a nerd like me, so what better place to peddle my wares and meet and greet?!
If you're reading this in Texas, I hope to see you soon!