Now that DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS is making its way in the world, I had a few questions about how to gracefully go into a store and sign stock. A lot of the time, it isn't wise or practical to have a full-blown book signing, but it can be helpful to go into a bookstore, introduce yourself and sign the books they have on the shelf (it's best if you only offer to sign the books you actually wrote).
For me, it is a little embarrassing to just waltz into a store and ask them if they want me to sign their copies. (Even more embarrassing if they don't happen to have it on hand. ) Is there a protocol for signing your books? Is there a rulebook somewhere that I don't know about? Rather than go into a bookstore and make a fool of myself, I thought I'd ask my friend Jennifer Laughran for some pointers. For those of you who don't know her (and if you don't, why not?), Jenn is an agent at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency and counts award-winning authors among her clients. She is also a long-time bookseller and founder of the immensely popular "Not Your Mother's Book Club". I asked her to put her bookseller hat on and answer a few questions so that I could try to save face when the time comes:
Do you mind when a traditionally published author comes in to sign stock (assuming you have their book on your shelves)? Of course not. It is nice.
How is it different for a self-published author? Well it is unlikely that we would be carrying a self-published book unless it was consignment from the author themselves, so of course in that case, they are certainly free to sign the books. After all, they are theirs!
Does meeting the staff/signing stock help move the book at all? Sometimes, sure. It isn't a guarantee of anything, of course, but can make a difference -- particularly if the author is personable and friendly, and ESPECIALLY if they are from the neighborhood and are actual customers of the store!
Should we call first and make an appointment or just show up? If you are a regular customer, just ask "do you mind if I sign stock?" when you are shopping. If you are from the next town over or something, you might just call, talk to the manager or children's specialist and say something like, "My new book just came out from _____ publisher, I am going to be in the neighborhood tomorrow, if you have any copies on hand I'd love to pop by and sign stock." Generally speaking, if you are going to be visiting someplace quite far from home, you should ask your publicist if they know the local bookstores -- they are generally quite well-connected and will know exactly who to ask or what direction to point you in, anyway.
What are the WORST times to try to sign stock? The week before Christmas, or anytime the booksellers look frazzled and shortstaffed.
What's the best way for a local author to partner with their indie? I suggest you become pals with the booksellers near you. Tell them you are available for school visits and book clubs and the like, if you are. Ask them if they'll be your "official bookseller" -- so if you have school events, you'll get the books through them, and steer schools to do the same. Link to THEM on your website rather than an interweb monolith, and offer signed books for people who order that way. Again, if you are an actual customer who shops at the store, links to the store, comes to events, is generally loyal, supportive and interested, that goes a LONG WAY toward booksellers being loyal, supportive and interested in you.
Thanks Jenn! Now...off to the bookstore!
On this date: In 1587, Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded.