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Posts Tagged ‘Idaho Writers League’

Much to my surprise, I got a check in the mail recently. It was from Idaho Writers League, the group where I spoke last May. During July, they asked me to help judge a writing contest for their members. I had enjoyed their meeting, so I said, “Sure! But it will have to be after SpoCon.”

A few weeks later, in mid-July, the entries came by mail. I read and commented according to their instructions, and sent it all back. Then I got on with writing The Ice Witch and forgot about it.

Turns out, there was a fee for judging. That was a nice boost to my thus-far dismal earnings as a writer in 2019.

As writers, we often get people asking for favors. They want us to write things for free, or critique their manuscript, or introduce them to our agent. (As if I have an agent, ha ha.) Usually, these folks seem to think we writers should be grateful for any notice of our skill. If you ask what they pay, it will be “exposure” or a very huffy remark about being so greedy.

This is a touchy subject for a lot of writers, and it goes back to one thing I had emphasized at the Idaho Writers meeting. We authors are not menials who should beg for notice. We are highly skilled experts, and apparently someone is in need of our abilities.

If a writer believes in the cause and wants to help out, then they can go ahead and write for free. But no author should be attacked or shamed if they ask to be paid according to our merits.

In my case, I was not aware of a fee for judging the Idaho Writers League contest. I would have helped out anyway, because I like them. Still it certainly is nice to have my contribution recognized in a tangible way.


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My presentation to Idaho Writers League went really well. We filled the room. Okay, it was a small room. But still! I spoke for an hour and a half on Readings, Signings, and Book Parties. They were attentive and asked great questions, and I signed a couple of people up for my newsletter. Plus, I got to catch up on news with an old friend. What could be better?

Before I get back to writing posts for my blog tour, I’d like to share a bit of what I presented. First, I made that case that book tables are not a self-created torture and that you can sell some books while having fun. It all comes down to salesmanship, and salesmanship involves a lot of preparation.

Preparation involves asking the right bookstore at the right time. Book stores are best because you know the people are into books. Look for a local book store that already has a calendar of readings and similar events. For a date, I always liked Christmas, but you can look for times on the calendar that coordinate with your book. For instance, a patriotic book around the Fourth of July. Call about 3 months before your date and ask to talk with the book manager. If you’re self-published, you might have to show them copies of your book so they know your book will look good on their shelves.

Preparation also involves pushing the signing table in the same way you push your books. Put it on arts calendars, create a Facebook event if the store doesn’t, tweet it, post it, blog it. Plan some fun table decorations that have a connection to your book. Check your supply of books and order more if you need them.

Pack everything in advance so you don’t stress on the day of the signing. A cute book bag is better than a cardboard box. Show up early, check in your books, and set up your table. Try to get pictures — I always forget. When you’re ready, ask the store to announce you are there. That’s your cue!

Tempting as it is to huddle at the table with your cel phone, you can’t do that. You have to be friendly and approachable, say hi to everyone who comes near. Basic salesmanship, remember? Have a line you can bring out if anyone seems interested. My basic one is “Do you like to read fantasy?” If they say no, “Okay, thanks.” If they pause, “I’m a local author, and these are my books!”

Ask follow-up questions. “What authors do you like to read?” Always agree with them. You know that elevator pitch where you describe your book in one sentence? If the person picks up one of your books, bring that out.
Another tactic I like is to share my table with a friend so I have someone to talk to and if I need a walking break there will be someone to watch things. Also, it you’re having a fun conversation, that’s something that can draw people in.

This is not a lazy day at the bookstore. I takes energy and focus. I usually make my signings 2 or 3 hours, because after that I can’t keep it up. In that time, I usually sell between 2 and 5 books. A drop at a time fills the bucket, right?

At the end, you pack up everything you brought with you. Leave it looking nice. If the bookstore is keeping your books on consignment, they as if you can put down a few bookmarks, too. If they have computerized inventory, they should know how many books you sold and see if they will pay out then or want you to come back. The next day, go back to their Facebook event page and post how you had such a great time and thank them for the opportunity

There’s more to it, of course. A lot of it is your personal style. You practice, you get better, your develop your confidence. I hope this helps, and that you all make book tables a part of your sales strategy.


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The Tower in the Mist is basically set up as an e-book. The pre-order link is active. But there’s still a mad rush before publication. Currently, I’m writing a handful of blog posts to publicize The Tower in the Mist, making bookmarks, and so forth.

At the same time, I’m preparing for an in-person presentation to Idaho Writers League, which will be tomorrow at 6:30 pm, at the Lutheran Church of the Master in Coeur d’Alene, ID. My topic is “Readings, Signings, and Book Parties.” I’ll cover how to set them up, the planning and preparation. If time allows, people will have a chance to read in front of the group and practice their technique.

Honestly, I didn’t plan to be doing this presentation in the middle of the pre-publication rush. I requested a date in March, but it didn’t work out. At least I’ll have my bookmarks and such to show off at Idaho Writers League. I know that most of you are not near North Idaho, so you can’t attend. But if you want the address in Coeur d’Alene, please drop me a comment!


Did you know I have an author newsletter? You can join! I’ll even give you a free e-book for signing up. Just click here.

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