Perhaps even literally.
In the last year, in addition to bookstores, I’ve talked and signed books at gift shops, diners, book club gatherings, Rotary Club breakfasts, libraries, senior community dinners, and summer festival booths. Since my novels are about a bird lover, I’ve also signed books at bird feeding supply stores and an annual birding meeting, not to mention an international owl festival, a regional hummingbird celebration, and the National Eagle Center. At every venue, I’ve sold more books than I have at any bookstore signing, not to mention the new readers I’ve found and the publicity such events generated.
So how do you pack your calendar with venues that will work hard for you? The answer is Creative Venue Planning, and here’s my three-step recipe:
- Look past your story, and instead, brainstorm your book’s topics. Like trying to identify keywords or tags for a blog, pulling out the topics, and even specific characters, in your book can lead you to new audiences and venues. Since my protagonist began birding as a child, I give talks about the importance of nature education for kids at family-oriented programs. A restaurant I included in one book happily hosted a signing for me, and displays my books in a prominent place. HINT: Does one of your characters run a small business? Your local Rotary Club or Chamber of Commerce might be delighted to have you come speak to them about how that plays into your novel. Many groups are eager for new ideas and personalities to book for their meetings. Find a link between them and your work, and you’ve got a foot in the door.
- Research opportunities. What groups in your community need speakers? My current goldmine is senior living communities who have busy activity calendars for their residents. Since many of my readers are older and enjoy birdwatching, speaking at these venues is a perfect fit for me. I’ve learned that many communities have on-site book clubs, too, and having an author (you!) available to join a gathering can mean a shortcut to your book being selected for reading. HINT: Would you be willing to talk to a high school class about something related to your book? Teachers are generally thrilled to have a guest speaker, and while you may not make any sales in the classroom, you can bet on word-of-mouth publicity (and perhaps a small fee from the school field trip budget!).
- Pick up the phone. Nothing beats personal contact when it comes to booking events at creative venues. Find the right person to ask (research on the internet or by phone) and prepare a short, convincing, sales pitch as to how they’ll benefit from your visit. Offer to email your photo, a brief bio, and talk description for their use in promotion. Take your bookmarks to hand out, and books to sell and sign.
What’s on your creative venue plan?