Poetry. Writerly Advice. Memoir. Literary Analysis. Book Reviews. Serious Journalism.
I am releasing a marketing book very soon alongside a few of my coworkers from Unsolicited Press. Today, I will share with you are brief excerpt from the book. "A Book a Day" will be available as a ebook and in print. It's loaded with invaluable marketing advice fro authors directly from the publisher.
Setting Up Readings
Readings are easy to set up, but it requires courage to walk into a bookstore of pick up the phone and ask a bookseller to have confidence in your work. But, you’ll never know if a business wants to host your reading unless you ask, so don’t short yourself…make the call or go down and speak with the manager.
Before you make any calls or drop bys, create a list of bookstores, bars, cafes, libraries, and other venues that you would like to read at. You should also look into venues that are known to host reading series’ in your area. For example, tons of little bars and cafes play host to monthly reading series’ and they are far more likely to support your event than a café that never hosts readings. Do your homework.
Once you have your list, you need to figure out whom to speak to and how those places go about setting up a reading. For most local venues, it is simply speaking to the event planner or manager. For larger venues, such as your local Barnes & Noble, it may require more effort. Major chains list their requirements to set up readings/events on their websites.
Add all the details to your list. You will want to have a calendar handy when you begin reaching out to venues; plan to schedule readings from the day of publication through 3-6 months afterwards. Be open to suggestions by the venues as well.
Once you have contacted all of the venues to schedule readings, follow through with them to set up readings. You may have to send your media kit and a complimentary copy of your book to the venue for consideration. On your calendar, make a note to get in touch with each venue 3-4 weeks after you’ve made contact (only if you weren’t able to schedule the event right away) to ask if they are interested in booking your reading. If not, thank them and move on. If you are able to book an event, work with them to get everything set up.
After you have reached out to local venues, begin looking at other locations within 100 miles of your home. You should be able to secure several readings with ease.
Having Books on Hand
We always suggest having a box of at least 100 books with you at all times for readings because things go wrong, and you need to be prepared. Publishers usually offer books at a highly discounted rate, so you can buy copies without going completely broke. For example, we offer our books at 40% of the retail price and don’t require authors to pay anything back. Not only do our authors get to buy the books for cheaper than retail, but the earn a high royalty because we don’t require remuneration (instead of the 25% royalty, they get a 40% royalty per book. Not all publishers are so friendly…some (even big houses) require authors to either buy the books at cost a pay royalties to the publisher as books or sold, OR buy the books at the listed retail price. If you are working with a press, don’t be afraid to negotiate a reasonable price for the books. If you are self-published or operating an indie press, then this isn’t something you need to worry about…just have the books ready to go.
Now, you shouldn’t have to use your box of books for readings that are booked at bookstores. Bookstores have the capability to order books through distributors to have books on the shelves, and you should encourage them to do so. For those of you self-publishing, you need to make sure that your book is listed with a friendly distributor. For example, if you are self-publishing via Create Space, you may find that bookstores are hesitant to order from them because they do not offer favorable terms. But that doesn’t mean that they won’t order from Createspace…it just may take a little convincing on your part. You are going to need to demonstrate to them that you are going to bring in a large enough audience to sell the books that they order. And if they still aren’t convinced, then you may need to agree to buy the books from them that they don’t sell.
If you are self-publishing or an indie press working with IngramSpark, then you won’t have this issue. IngramSpark offers standard terms to bookstores, making it much easier for you to get the bookseller to order via Ingram and give your book shelf space.
The only venues that you are going to need to bring books to are ones that aren’t bookstores. If you are scheduling readings at bars, cafes, parks, etc…then you need to bring books. These venues don’t have accounts with book distributors and you are going to need to help them out. Offer to provide the books, and ask them to do the promoting of the event. If you work together to create a reading that benefits both parties, then the venue is more likely to boost your reading if they see it as an event that will bring them more patrons.
Gather Everything You Need
Hooray! You’ve set up readings in your area for your book and you’ve posted the events to your blog/site and social media accounts. You know that you need to have books, but you also need other items to have a successful reading.
At every venue, you need to make sure that the proper AV equipment will be provided, if it is needed.
You also need to send each venue a poster with your book cover on it. Consider using Vistaprint or Staples or your local printer to help you come up with an eye-catching poster. Use a poster that is either 11”x17” or 16”x20”. The poster doesn’t have to mention the reading; in fact, a universal poster is best because you can send it to every venue without having to edit it. An eye-catching poster will contain a high-resolution image of your book cover, the title of your book, your name, and that 140-character book hook that you created a long time ago. It should also say where the book can be purchased (your website or your publisher’s site).
In addition to a poster, you should bring bookmarks, stickers, and any other promotional products that you have created. Readers love free goodies and they are more likely to buy a book if they know that they are getting something for free with it!
The Actual Reading
Plan to read for 15-30 minutes. You should select and practice the excerpt you plan to read from for several days before the reading.
When you arrive to the reading, arrive 15 minutes early to handle any business. Check out the reading and get comfortable.
If less than 5 people show up, don’t freak out. Do the reading anyways and do it as if 100 people were there. You should also bring somebody along with you to record the entire reading, which you can later post to your website, YouTube or give to your publisher for promotion.
After the reading, prepare to hang around 10-20 minutes to talk with readers and sign books. Remember, a book reading is a sales pitch and if you are successful, you should be able to sell every single audience member a book.
Every year, I write a little poem on my birthday. It's not perfect and it's never finished. This is what I wrote this year:
Tomorrow is my birthday
I feel ants sharpen their teeh
readying to peel back my rind.
It'll be easy for the ants and the beetles
to find me -- the grave, handdug
is near the wasp's nest under my favorite fig tree.
Three hours of pulling earth away
from itself, and my fingernails clogged-- I can smell
chicken manure from last year's harvest.
If you had sat me down six years ago, I surely wouldn’t have told you that I am a poet. I am a poet some days. I would have told you that I am passionate about nutrition, mental health and writing. Those are the things I love most. I love studies of things. God do I love statistics.
Six years ago, you would have found me knee-deep in pre-med, not pregnant and not thinking about anything but prereqs. But I found that my passion for nutrition would land me in an office talking about diabetes…no thank you. I can’t stand talking to people who don’t actually want to change their lives. So I studied nutrition and health on my own. I began studying writing and literature. I met professors who were awed that I’d never thought about writing “for real” …mostly because I believe that writers, especially poets cannot and should not live in academia. Academia kills the creative spirits because academia is a place for research and “ah-ha” moments. I was involved in academia to discover, analyze and contribute…not to write poetry. Or anything else in the creative writing field for that matter.