My favorite local bookstore died sadly and suddenly a few months ago, and my world seems diminished without it. That’s where I had hoped to have my launch party in June, my first signing of the real live copies of Breath of Angel. Sigh.
In reality book signings have always been an iffy deal for me. My very first signing “back in the day” (no, I won’t tell you how long ago) drew about two people. My second book signing was so well-attended, I signed for about three hours straight and went home thinking my fingers might be cramped in signing mode for the rest of my life. I’ve signed at conferences and conventions, for crowds of hundreds and for so few people I could count them on one hand.
These days, I’ve been told that most authors’ signings fit the count-them-on-one-hand model. So most bookstores turn the event into a “stock signing,” wherein the author comes to sign stock, which the store will later sell as special autographed copies. That way, if people show up to buy the book at the signing, great. If not, the time was not wasted.
This week, I learned about a new twist. Many bookstores are happy to host a signing event but ask the author to bring their own books to sell. That way the bookstore has not invested in stock they can’t sell. The downside for me: If I purchase my own books from my own publisher, those copies don’t count toward recouping my advance or generating royalties, both of which are very important to me. Nor do those copies count in numbers sold for any ranking on the sales charts – also important. Plus I’m liable for state sales taxes in locations where I sell my own books. (Yes, wherever you sell books, you’re responsible for the state tax, filing the forms, etc., which varies state to state. Messy.) On top of all that, I pay all travel expenses to and from the signing. (If it’s here in town, no big deal. Out of town . . . you get it.)
The upside: I connect with bookstore owners and whoever comes for the signing (at the signing recently offered to me, the bookseller suggested that I might sell twenty books). Worth it? Hmmm.
Enter book bloggers and the virtual book tour. The downside of the virtual book tour: the author can’t autograph books for everyone who buys, and buying is a click or two away. The upside: the book is actually reviewed, the author may be interviewed, and depending on the blog, hundreds, even thousands of interested readers get to see what you’ve got. (Of course, if the review is negative, that could be a downside.)
Bookstore and/or book blogger. May be an apples and oranges thing. I love both. We need both. The truth is, it’s the book that sells itself if it’s well-written. The author’s challenge is to let readers know it’s out there.