Monday, October 31, 2011

How Important are Personal Appearances for a Writer?

Mary at Poppyseeds, Stanwood, WA

I have found that a big part of promotion is making personal appearances. Look around for opportunities to make this happen.

– Call on stores in person. Always have your books with you when you’re out and about. In my car, I keep a good sampling of my books in a wheeled carry-on. If you see a store that might feature your books, don’t hesitate to go in, introduce yourself and show them your books. Many times I have shown a store owner or manager my books, even though they currently don’t have books in their inventory. I’ve been gratified by their interest. For sure, call on bookstores, but broaden your scope to other stores your readers might frequent, such as drugstores, gift stores, tack shops, etc.. Non-book stores most often pay up-front rather than on consignment, and pay a higher rate than bookstores.

– Take advantage of writer group events. In the Northwest, Pacific Northwest Writers Association has a Cottage Event where members are encouraged to appear with their books. If you belong to a writers group (and you should!), help organize an event that will draw the public.

– Participate in community events. On Camano Island, where I live, an annual Women’s Expo draws a large crowd. Vendors display their wares at tables featuring health items, jewelry, gifts, clothing, seasonal items, hand-crafted goods....and my books. Often, I am the only vendor with books and I enjoy being a novelty. It’s gratifying when people stop by to tell you how much they enjoyed your book and will now buy another title, and perhaps one more as a gift. Watch for opportunities in your area–there are bound to be Christmas events, fall festivals, public markets, even flea markets. Sometimes there’s a fee to have a “booth.” You have to weigh the cost against the profit. But, if nothing else, your personal appearance has added to your name and face recognition.

– Become known at your local library. Inquire about the library carrying your books. Donate a copy of your book to show your good will. In my area, Friends of the Library has invited me to speak and it is expected that I will bring my books to sell to attendees. Friends of the Library regularly host writer events–readers love meeting authors. They also hold an annual book sale for which proceeds go back into the library fund. I save my slightly shop-worn books to donate to this cause.

– When we take a road trip, I always take an extra supply of books and call on stores along the way. I have found small town drugstores to be among my best customers. I don’t make a big thing of this–it is our vacation, after all. Sometimes I’ll explain we’re visiting the area and thought I’d pop in and introduce myself. The response has been gratifying. Throughout the year, especially at Christmastime, I follow up these visits with a phone call and often replenish their book supply.

– Team up with a friend. It’s fun to make personal appearances with a friend. I often team up with a writer from another community, giving us a wider selection of venues. Sometimes it’s fun going solo, but other times it’s good to share the cost of a booth with someone else.

– It’s always interesting to people to have a book written about where they live. Canvas that area, looking for stores or other possibilities for personal appearances.

As you make your personal calls, be professional. Be prepared to leave a brochure or at the very least a business card. Sometimes people need time to think new ideas over. Follow up with a phone call soon after your personal visit. You are unique. Show enthusiasm about your product.


Anonymous said...

All good tips, Mary. Thank you for new ideas!


Sue Cauhape said...

This is a great blog post, Mary. Lots of good ideas.
Sue Cauhape

Terri McIntyre said...

Excellent advice and great photo of you, Mary! You are a true professional. Terri

Joan Husby said...

This isn't necessarily for publication, Mary, but I don't know how else to reach you. I belong to Northwest Christian Writer's Association, which puts out a very helpful newsletter. They are interested in reprinting this article.There'd be no remuneration beyond the wider audience and a lot of gratitude. You can reach me at One of your "followers," Joan Husby