Thursday, April 12, 2012

Using Book Signings, Book Launches, and Book Bombs for Marketing Tools

Today I'd like to talk to you about three mainstays for marketing your book and what I think of them---Book Signings, Book Launches, and Book Bombs.

Book Signings

As an author, I've lost count of the number of book signings I've done. Some authors I know hate book signings because it can be uncomfortable, but I've always enjoyed them because I get to meet so many interesting people.

Book signings can be a wonderful way to do some marketing (albeit a more spontaneous and unpredictable way to do it) and there are a few things the author can do to make it work.

Have a display. Make sure your book is prominently displayed on your table. Just seeing a person sitting behind a table doesn't tell anyone what you're doing there and it doesn't get your name or product out there. I have a large cardboard-y type cover of my book that I can use, and I also make little display designs with copies of my books on the table. Silly, I know, but you'd be surprised at how many comments I get about that.

Have candy at your table. It sounds like bribery, but it gives people a reason to saunter over and talk to you.

Talk to the people who come in. I have sold so many other authors' work because I ask people who their favorite author is, or what genre they like, and I truly enjoy the conversation and being able to give them a recommendation. Building community with readers and writers is always a good thing because I believe it comes back to you.

Have a bookmark you can give out and have a sign up sheet on your table where they can sign up for your newsletter or a drawing or whatever. Getting readers to give permission for you to contact them again is a gift. I always enjoy new subscribers to my newsletter and try to make it worth their while. Giving the reader the chance to look at your bookmark and see your name one more time before they throw it away or mark their page could be considered "planting a seed" if you will.

Get to know the staff of the store. I am so grateful for the friendships I've made with store managers and clerks because they request me for signings and they recommend my books to others. It's a win/win situation for me because I get to talk books and make new friends.

Book signings aren't necessarily the greatest way to market your books, however, because you can't predict how many customers will be there, weather conditions, people's reactions to your product, advertising success for your visit, there's just a whole host of things that are out of your control. But if you look at it as a way to build your name and build relationships, then I think you can count every book signing a success.

Book Launches

I was part of a multi-author book launch for my book Dangerous Connections. It was probably one of the most successful things I've been a part of, not only because of the number of books we sold, but because of the example it set for me in how to do a book launch well.

(Sadly, I can't take much credit for any of it because I was in my first trimester of pregnancy and really sick at the time.)

Here's what we did: Annette Lyon, Sarah Eden, and myself all had new releases coming out at the same time. Annette had a women's fiction release, Sarah's was historical, and mine was romantic suspense. That was the first stroke of genius because we had different genres, so our fanbases were there and exposed to different authors that they could try. It was great marketing because all three of us were promoting to a different group of people so the same groups of people (historical fans, suspense fans, etc.) weren't getting bombarded with announcements for the launch.

Annette Lyon also put effort into getting prizes for drawings very half hour of the launch. People stayed to talk to us and to browse while they were waiting for the drawings.

With book launches, getting the word out is the main thing, and having other author support combined with store support is critical. That's why having a writing community surround you is so important--writers helping writers to promote and market. Another author that does this well is Josi Kilpack. Her culinary mysteries are masterpieces and she offers yummy treats from her books at her book launches. She also sends out postcards to let her mailing list know about the launch. I think the key is planning how to magnetize people to your release party and then execute it in a way that excites the reader and makes them glad they came.

Book Bombs

This is the only one I haven't personally participated in (because I haven't had a new release since these became popular) but I have had several author friends do them. So here's what I've learned:

Book bombs are when you have a specified day for people to buy your book to "bomb" it so to speak. Some people offer specific prizes throughout the day for those who produce a "receipt" of their purchase on that day, like giving away deleted scenes, or other ebooks, what have you.

Here's the rub, though. One of my author friends did a book bomb and sold 500 books in one day and got some pretty high Amazon rankings. Another friend did a book bomb and sold around 50 books. Both of them felt their "bomb" was a success because they'd gotten their name out there. This told me that defining what will make your book bomb a success to you is what will make it a success. Will you define your success by number of books sold? Is your goal to be a high-ranking author on Amazon? Whatever it is, spend a bit of time thinking about it beforehand so you can do your best to reach for it.

Again, the key to a book bomb is planning your strategy. Getting the word out there that it's going to happen is imperative and getting people excited to buy your book goes without saying. (It's that whole "have a great product" thing again.) Using social media is a great way to get the word out, but having word of mouth from the writing community you've been building is the easiest way to spark interest since your reach will be longer.)

So, the moral of my marketing tale today is, build your writing community. Like we talked about last week, when you have followers/friends on your blog, Twitter, Facebook, pinterest, etc., and you post regularly and build up your friendship/face/name you are only helping yourself when it comes time to market. People will come and see you at book signings, they will come to your book launch and tell their friends, and they will participate in your book bomb because they know what you're about and like you and your writing. Plus, it enriches your life to have a supportive community around you. (But don't blow it by pestering people constantly with it. Then you're the guy that everyone can't wait to get away from.)

Have any of you participated in book signings, book launches, or book bombs? What did you like or what didn't you like?


Angie said...

Thanks, Julie. I need this information!

Jon Spell said...

I like book signings as a chance to meet authors in person. I've been to at least one signing of yours, Kerry Blair, Stephanie Black, Jeff Savage and Robison Wells. (Just imagine there are possessives on all of those.)

I have sort of mixed feelings about the book bombs. On one hand, it is exciting to have a flash mob sort of event, but on the other hand, it has a little of the high pressure sales approach that rubs me the wrong way. One Day Only! Act Now or miss out! We just want to put our sign in your yard as advertising! (Oh, wait.) In the one I participated in, I liked feeling that I was helping with a cause, not just a marketing ploy. (But now I'm wondering. Hmmm.)

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Angie, you're welcome!

Jon, the one I participated in for Rob Wells seemed a little different to me than the ones that seem to take place every day now in the fact that his was more of friends rallying to support and help him during a difficult time. I can totally see your point of feeling pressured and I see it on both sides. What if you want 500 books sold and you get your message out there, you work hard, as an author that's a lot of pressure. As a reader, like you said, it's the buy now feeling. Makes me wonder how effective book bombs really are, but since I haven't tried one, I can't say for sure.

And how interesting you've been to signings for all the Six LDS Writers. Did you see the frog by chance? ;)

Tracy Krauss said...

this was excellent information. I have done all three (even though I didn't know it was called a book 'bomb'!) but some of your tips, especially for the signings, were things I had not thought to do. (Having a sign up sheet for instance) thanks!

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Glad to help, Tracy!

Debra Erfert said...

I went to one of Kerry Blair's book signings. It was very interesting. She had snacks, and I think I met Tristi, but I'm not sure. That was the only book signing I've gone to, but being down here in no-LDS-man's land, I guess that's not unusual. We don't even have an LDS bookstore any more. I bought three of Rob's books when the bomb was going off. I felt as though I was helping a greater cause than just buying books, too. (Get well, soon, Rob!)

Thanks for the tips on how to promote books. Hopefully someday I might be able to employ some of them. ;D

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. "Searching for My Wand" was my first release and I have learned so much since then that I am hoping to apply next month when I release "On a Hot August Afternoon"! Book bombs for example, I'd never heard of that.

C. Michelle Jefferies said...

Interesting information. Thanks. I'll be using this info soon enough. :)

Michelle J