Saturday, September 17, 2011


By our very nature, writers (people who spend ninety percent of their time alone) find marketing a daunting task. There are exceptions, but most of the authors I know admit that signings, readings, and interviews create anxiety not joy and they only market because they have to.

Even unpublished writers say they aren't looking forward to that part of their job and if given the choice will prefer to be left alone to write.

During a recent visit to Lauren F. Boyd's: My Path To Publication blog, in her post on Marketing Your Book - Offline she wrote "I don't know much about marketing. [...] Don't see a lot of blogs focusing on how to do it..."

I read that and realized I've contributed to this problem by keeping silent. Why? Two reasons. I don't feel qualified and I didn't want to bore you.

Yet, I've been marketing since I first published Dead Witness in July 2008. You'd think I'd have learned a thing or two?

Actually I have, and still am.

Because I was brought up to not toot my own horn, at signings you'll find me next to my bowl of candies, smiling and approachable. But not aggressive. I've bought too many useless gadgets from door-to-door salesmen to entice readers with a hard sell.

Instead you'll first see a huge poster warning that I'm the visiting author. Next to me will be stacks of my novels to prove it. I'll also have free bookmarks and candies (wrapped) on hand.

If you're brave enough to approach, after our initial greeting, you'll note I'm passionate about writing. During a brief but exciting synopsis of my books, you might even notice my eyes sparkle when I speak of my protagonists: Valerie McCormick (Dead Witness) and Brendell Kisepisim Meshango (Broken but not Dead).

Before you take a copy to the till, I'll autograph it. Then I'll show you where you can find my email address inside and say that I'd love to hear from you when you're finished. (News Flash: It just occurs to me that everyone who has ever approached ends up buying a copy!)

No, this isn't me. I took the photo.
I self-published my first novel, and in a future post I'll explain how and why. But for now, I want to mention that I spend days on the phone preparing for these book signings. I contact the vendors and request a date at their convenience. For Dead Witness I then contact my distributor and ask them to ship books to the store. For Broken but not Dead, I contact my publisher.

Announcements are emailed to newspapers, radio stations and news wires. I've got the standard formats already made up. Since starting marketing in 2008 I now have a list of contacts I notify personally. Posters, supplied by my publishers, are stuck up everywhere.

At this point you're may be wondering: If authors dislike book signings so much, why do them? Do they create sales?


No matter how uneventful, signings create a buzz. I once had a bookstore manager tell me that although I sold no books during my visit, they sold 5 after I left.

And that brings me to my next question.

What is an acceptable sale?

I was brought up to never ask, but I think the reason authors hesitate to say is because they don't want to be compared. Which is sad and unfair. Weather, location, season, and day-of-week leave their mark. I've stayed at a bookstore for 4 hours and sold nothing. Somewhere else I've stayed 2 hours and sold 19.

Generally, I sell 3 to 5 books an hour. Not a huge amount, but a number I'm happy with. I once sold 10 books to the same customer. On the launch of Broken but not Dead, I autographed 30. The store has since sold 10 more.

The secret to marketing is to find your comfort zone, push at it gently and learn from the experience. Start by writing the very best book you can possibly write. Study, research, grow. Then employ every single opportunity available to present your book to the world. For instance, while we're visiting our newest grand-baby in New Brunswick next month, I'm doing a reading one evening at the Oromocto Public Library.

This past Thursday evening I did a reading at the Vanderhoof Public Library in Vanderhoof, B.C., I spoke for two hours about my path to publication, my love of writing. But more on that in a future blog. I've already reached my quota of words for today.

How about you? Have you grown to love book signings yet? Or are you like me and still learning to appreciate them?

--Happy Signing,


  1. Thanks for sharing, Joylene. YOU Rock! *grin*

  2. Ah, thanks, Keith. You rock too. Which reminds me. I'm off to email you...

  3. I've attended signings and readings... even read at a few writers' events... but since I'm not a published novelist yet I can't really say how effective I think such events are. I'm one who would rather stay squirreled away in my writing space than meet the public, but I'm prepared to do whatever it takes to promote my work when that time comes. I like people so that will help. I suspect attitude plays a big part in the whole marketing effort, and I think you have a wonderful approach to it.

  4. Thank you, Carol. I'm almost positive that people don't suspect just how nervous or uncomfortable I may be feeling. I felt sick to my stomach at my book launch, yet when I mentioned it to close friends they were shocked at how well I hid the fact. I tried to remember that this is my audience, the people that will buy my books, so I treat them with the respect due and try to act like a grown up. LOL.

    Okay, a silly, but pleasant grown up.

  5. Carol, meant to say that I'm planning on attending your book launch if God willing.

  6. I love this post and all of its marketing goodness! (Not just because that's my industry, I promise!) I haven't had the opportunity to experience any of these things (yet), so it's fun to see them through your eyes. :) Thanks for sharing!

  7. Thank you for saying that, Carrie. It means a lot. I'm going to post more in the future, but I don't want to overload anyone. Have a wonderful weekend.

  8. I went to a book signing and was scared out of my mind to approach the author..that was before I started blogging. I think when my time comes, I'll have a shot of something to calm the nerves. I can already picture myself stumbling and tripping over something, the reviews readind, "Drunken Lails sold 100 books due to brief flashing of onlookers. It was a good night. Thanks for the great post, Joylene. :)

  9. LOL, oh, Laila, I hope I'm there. Sounds like we'd have fun. A few years back a young woman attended a reading with her mum. She made her mum come with her to the front of the room when it was over to say hi. It was so cute. Her mother actually had to speak on her behalf.

    Another time I was in a store and the clerk paged another lady so she could meet me. We said our greetings and she beamed and said, "I can't wait to tell my mum I met you."

    When I tell my family and friends about these moments, it cracks them up. Of course they know me as goofy Joylene who stutters when she speaks and snorts when she laughs.

    Have a wonderful weekend, Laila.

  10. I appreciate this info, Joylene, for although I am not to this stage yet, someday I hope to be. And I will be thinking of you and your great advice! :)

    I've found Tony Eldridge's blog, Marketing Tips to be helpful along these lines:

    Thanks again for sharing your wisdom with us!

    Have a great weekend,

  11. Hi Joylene,
    What a lot of informative information you have kindly informed us of in this informative informational posting.
    Book signings eh? Well, I don't think I shall ever have to worry about the anxiety signing a book by me, might produce. Of course, Penny the Jack Russell would have no trouble pawing her autograph for her adoring fans at such an event.
    Seriously, I would be extremely nervous if I saw you sitting at a table ready to sign one of your books. I'd be star struck. Then again, the lure of a bowl of candies might help me overcome my nerves :)
    Take care, eh....

  12. @Karen, hi. Yes, I've been to Tony's site. He's been very helpful. I hope to give a face to the marketing experience. Why I hesitated before seems silly now. I never expected anyone would be interested. Thanks for stopping by, Karen.

    @Gary, I hope that's not true. I'd love to have your journey in book form. Or maybe Penny's. Yes, a picture book full of pics of Penny. What a super idea.

    Have a wonderful weekend, Karen and Gary.

  13. Joylene thanks for posting this. My debut novel comes out Feb 1 so I've not experienced any of this yet and I'm already nervous about it.
    BTW I'm now reading broken but not dead and I have to say I'm enjoying it very much. Of course I have to keep checking to make sure my doors are locked. :)

  14. Lisa, hi. You're going to do well at marketing your book, I'm sure. There is so much more available online now. I'm excited for you. Your first time is so frightening and exhilarating.

    I hope you enjoy my book. Thanks for letting me know. Happy Weekend.

  15. How do you think this is all going to change with the recent upsurge in e-books? My debut novel will be released in July 2012 through MuseItUp Publishing. It's an e-publisher so I won't have a physical book to sign.

    Readings, I think, will be something authors will continue to do, but what of signings? I'vwondereded (obsessed) over this since signing my e-book contract. Not because I think e-books aren't "real" books, but because there isn't anything, well, to sign! :o)

    Concilium, July 2012

  16. Hi Joylene .. it's those baby steps once again .. if we don't get out there and talk to people about our work .. we get nowhere .. and once the steps are in place, then that background work is done, and can be repeated for new towns, libraries, shops, exhibitions, and then the next book etc etc ...

    Do you put up flyers on noticeboards around the neighbourhoods?

    Good for you - cheers Hilary

  17. Good question, Michelle. I have an ebook coming out through MIU next month too, and I've been wondering the same thing. I've decided I'll continue doing the same type of offline marketing that I'll incorporate into online marketing.

    When I do readings I'll just print out those scenes I want to read. The best part is I'll also have MIU behind me, so I'm sure I'll learn even more strategies.

    I'll contact vendors, print bookmarks, set up readings, do interviews, and make myself available for fund raisings.

    Most of my marketing will take place online. From what I've witnessed at MIU, Lea and the gang will be a huge help. I'll also polish my current WIP and have it ready for query. Because as all readers know, once you've enjoyed a book by a specific author, being on the lookout for another by same author is a given.

    I'm excited for you, Michelle. You're going to have a great support group. I bet your experience as a published writer will be awesome.

  18. Thank you, Hilary. Yes, I put up fliers. I even mention I'm baking cookies. I think that's the key. I've had readings where I didn't bake raisin oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies and lo and behold few showed up. So, yes, this time I not only did bake some, I mentioned that on Facebook and my blog.

    I think the cookies made the difference. What do you think?

  19. I do enjoy book signings, even when I don't sell anything. There have been some like that...and then a few where books have sold.

    Sometimes it's just great to be out there talking about my books.

    I do recall being on a panel at the neighborhood library talking about my books and the process. That was fun.

    I went to Book Expo America in LA in 2008 and signed a bunch of copies of Chasing Stardust. The buzz was great.

    Thanks...I'll be looking forward to your posts about your journey to publication, etc.

  20. Great post, Joylene. I have to get in gear and set up school visits, library visits, and book signings.

    Tony Eldrigde's blog is great - he actually tweets a guest post I have on his site about grassroots marketing, once or so a month.

    There are actually a number of sites that offer great book marketing information.

    Michelle, Kindle, and I think B&N, now have the ability for the author to do an e-signature on their e-books.

    Karen Cioffi Writing and Marketing

  21. Thanks, Karen. I've got to set aside time and spend more than a few minutes at Tony's blog. That's great to hear about Kindle.

  22. Hey Joylene.

    I think you've included the most important part: the number of books sold at various events. By giving hard statistics based on your experience, the data then gives other authors a better idea of realistic expectations. Rather than see themselves as failures for not having sold 20 books — or whatever amount they imagined — they can come away feeling like a success at having sold 5. Such feelings of positivity then feed the next marketing attempt.

    I sold 2 books at my event yesterday, which, according to your perspective, makes me wildly successful. That's much more preferable than to feeling rotten!

  23. I totally agree, Martha. I hear too many authors berate themselves because their numbers don't coincide with best selling authors from huge houses. There are too many variables involved to feel down about one's sales.

    I live in a rural area where the nearest bookstore is an hour away. I read all the best blogs on marketing, knowing that most of what they advise won't work for me because I'm a day's drive from the a metropolitan area.

    What works for Vancouverites isn't going to cut it in my small town. And that's okay. It's all about adapting. Just like we've adapted to ebooks and online virtual tours. We can adapt to the changing times and sell our novels because the world will always have readers.

    Thanks, Martha.

  24. In a way, I'm a little envious, as my book is only ebook. My publisher doesn't print books until they are novel length, and mine is a novella.
    I never thought about that as I wrote, and the book simply ended where it ended, at novella length.
    I DO sort of regret that...because it means no book signings.

    But, should my current WIP become novel length (and IF it gets accepted), that's something I'll have to think about. Promoting through signings.

    Promoting on its own, sans signings, is tough. But, reading about your signings, though? It sounds like a wonderful adventure! I reading about your appearances.

    Best of luck to you! You're a stellar author!

  25. Thank you, Carol. It's unnerving getting out in public, but it has a good side. I've met some terrific people from all over the world. When I did my book tour in Kelowna which is an internalization vacation destination, and consequently I met people from Europe, Asia and Australia, and of course, the States.

    Being able to connect with your reader is a blessing, and I never tire of it.

    I'm not familiar with marketing ebooks, but I'm about to find out very soon. I'll post if I find out anything worth forwarding.

  26. Hi Joylene .. I'm sure cookies are a great marketing edible tool .. and they seem to be from your findings .. but for me no!! Desperately try and stay clear of them .. enjoy the week .. Hilary

  27. I'm so sad to hear that, Hilary. Candies? I bet you have your own ways of winning over your readers. Cheers and have a great week.

  28. Hi Joylene .. Dead Salmon this latest post?! That'll bring a chuckle and do watch the Air NZ video .. well worth another chuckle .. cheers H

  29. You are so awesome! I freak out just thinking about it. I get nervous just running my twins' homeschooling book club. LOL

  30. I bet your nervousness turned out to energize you. I know mine does. Thanks for the kind words, Amanda. You're a darling.

  31. I think you hit on a topic of great interest to writers. Just look at all the comments. Proud of you for getting out there when it is hard to do so. I have done one e-signing and sold nothing. It's hard to sell an e-book when there is nothing to go home with!! My mystery/horror Sunshine Boulevard catches attention with the book cover and give aways, but people's eyes glaze over when they realize it has to be read online or on e-reader, etc. Do you have advice on how to market an e-book? Thanks. Best wishes!!

  32. Great blog. I'm posting your link to my FB Saga Books page for my authors to read.

    I also hate book signings. After all, would I be an author if I wasn't a bit of a hermit? But, I find that once I get into it, it's fun.

  33. JQ, I don't know much about marketing ebooks, yet. "Dead Witness" comes out next month, I believe, so I'm going to learn fast. I will definitely blog about what I learn, and together we'll figure it out.

    For now, when I do appearances, I read from Dead Witness and explain to my audience that it will soon be available online as an ebook. More and more people are loving the idea of using an ereader. It's convenient for so many reasons. No, I don't think it'll replace books, but it'll find its place. Just as radio did after TVs were invented.

    Thanks for stopping by. Don't be discouraged, JQ. Sales for my first book were modest. The release of my 2nd has rejuvenated sales.

  34. Hi Debra. Thanks for reposting. That's so generous. I will do a series on marketing and hopefully quash some of those fears for new and old authors. You're right, it's all about having fun and loving what you do.

    People are great, especially readers.

  35. Hey, Joylene! I'm so glad you wrote this!

    I have to say, first, that you made me laugh by saying that you sit beside your bowl of candies during a signing. HAHA! You're funny - but that is a great way to relieve your anxiety while doing a book signing (and while waiting for the next potential reader to approach).

    Secondly, I am SO glad to hear that you have found book signings to be an effective way of selling your work. Because, honestly, if I ever get a book published, that is the one thing I just can't wait to do! I think book signings just go with the territory of being a professional writer - and selling any copies is just icing on the cake.

    Thirdly, I can see why you say marketing takes a lot of work. I hope, now that you've done it for a few years, it's easier and quicker (like you said, you've got a list of contacts ready to go).

    What you have shared gives me hope and excitement about marketing for the first time. So please, please keep the marketing info coming! Because there's such a need out there among writers to learn how to effectively market their work.

    And thanks for commenting on my blog earlier today! Great thoughts, as usual!

  36. And by the way: I bookmarked this post for future reference (Lord-willing!)

    Thanks again!

  37. Lauren, I can't wait until you're published. It's going to be a very exciting time, & I bet I learn tons from you. You've got an awesome attitude. Don't forget to buy wrapped candies. That way people feel as if they're less likely to be unsanitary. LOL


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