Yesterday I hosted my final talk and book signing on my drawn out little book tour around Ann Arbor. This time, I repeated a few marketing techniques that worked in the past (flyers in a few choice locations, local event calendar submissions, etc.) but mostly relied on the article in the Crazy Wisdom Journal that had been out for 3 months by the time I did my talk. This is the journal put out around town by the bookstore on local events of interest to the bookstore’s patrons (green, Zen, etc.). I also created a Facebook event for this talk to invite people who might want one last opportunity to come see me, or to invite their preggo friends.
One person came. Seriously. Well, unless you count the homeless woman who fell asleep next to my guest and snored through my talk. (I couldn’t make this stuff up.) I attribute the turnout mainly to the fact that we planned the event during the week, so many people were working, but that’s still pretty crazy considering the number of people–a blog reader, friends, local folks–who said they were coming. Well, it was also dismal weather, which never helps. And the bookstore got the date of the event wrong on their calendar twice, but I don’t think many people look at their calendar.
1) As if I didn’t already know this, I learned well and good this time that RSVPs mean nothing. Hardly anyone who says they are coming to your book signing will actually show, whether that’s your mother-in-law, your best friend, or a person who is very excited about your book. Don’t plan a book signing around RSVPs.
2) Good news! I also discovered that the bookstore wanted to stock up on their copies of the book, so after selling 2 books at the event (one to the lone attendee, one to the girl manning the tea counter), I sold several more to the bookstore. That’s actually not bad. Double your sales by stocking up the store whose stock you just depleted. That’s a great lesson!
IN CONCLUSION (OR MEMORIUM?)
I feel conflicted about book signings and talks. On the one hand I sell more books at certain kinds of these events than I would any other way and I’m great at public speaking, but on the other hand it’s a lot of trouble to go to for mediocre results. Next time around, I’m planning to:
1) Focus my book signings on one or two events early on and promote them heavily.
2) Arrange to teach classes at my local hospital, which will guarantee me a certain number of attendees before I have to commit to show up. No more wasting my time, and this will qualify attendees as interested persons and weed out the hecklers (and presumably the homeless).
3) Always bill my book signings as free talks to attract attendees. This was my biggest draw, because people wanted to know the book delivered on its promise of saving 70% off baby’s first year before they would shell out for it.
4) Keep a good attitude regardless. The only thing more demoralizing than having a crappy turnout is pouting about it. I have to keep my spirits up and treat this as a learning experience or it will get me down and suck away the energy I need to get the next book out.
5) Good riddance to authors days at libraries or any other event that doesn’t focus on my subject area. This is too niche of a book to sell any copies at a generic authors event. The only reason my initial book signing was successful despite being part of a multi-author event at Barnes & Noble was that I promoted it on my own steam as an event featuring moi.
6) Along the same theme, always host my events in a venue that attracts pregnant women and their relatives who are already interested in green parenting. It’s a waste of time to try to convince someone of the merits of keeping chemicals away from their baby if they don’t understand what I’m talking about.
7) This one is unavoidable with this book, but in the future I probably won’t publish a book targeted toward people who want to avoid spending money, or who don’t have money to spend. This makes it a much harder sell and is probably why the publishers I approached early on turned me down. The guy at the library authors day who had published a book on zero cost living said it nicely: “If you ever publish a book, publish a book for people who have money.” Touche, sir.