Book Stores, Book Clubs, and Conferences

October, for me, was a busy month of promoting the paperback version of A KILLER PAST. I didn’t really plan it that way, but starting last spring and through the summer I kept receiving invitations to speak or appear.  All wanted October dates. These invitations included two book clubs, one book store, and one conference. I participated in all four and ended the month with several conclusions.

For me, being a guest at a book club is fantastic. The members don’t even have to have read any of my books. First of all, attendance is usually good. (One book group actually had 70 members in attendance.) Members are interested in books and writing, so they’re eager to ask questions. If they have chosen one of my books to read that month, it’s fun to hear them talk about my characters and the story. Members will usually hang around at the end of the meeting and buy books and ask more questions. It’s also one way to add to my newsletter list.

My book store experience wasn’t as positive. Oh, the bookstore owner and the bookstore’s community outreach person were wonderful. They used a somewhat spooky theme and held the event in the evening (6pm-8pm), advertised locally through posters and on Facebook. They invited 5 of us, all semi-local (Farthest, I think, was Traverse City), and all of us wrote mysteries. But . . .

The event was held after their normal store hours (store generally closed at 6:00 p.m.), and in trying to keep to the spooky theme, they turned out most of the lights. I think a lot of people thought the store was closed. Very few customers came in. Actually, I think the only ones who attended came because they already knew one of us or, in my case, had been prompted to come by her sister, who is one of my writer friends.

The positive side of doing an event at a bookstore is I get to know the bookstore owner and staff better. That often results in them hand selling my books. This book store takes books on consignment. (I get checks from them when they sell my books.) Their advertising of the event helps promote my name and my books.

Finally, my last event of the month was the conference put on by several west Michigan libraries. This was a first time event, therefore had some glitches, but on the whole, I found it well organized. The focus of the event was on self-publishing, and they had two best-selling authors speaking. I was on a panel scheduled at the end of the sessions.

Negatives: Those of us giving presentations who wanted to sell books, along with any writers who simply wanted to advertise their services or sell their books, were in the basement of the library. Although the room was spacious, and some attendees came down and wandered through, I didn’t see many attendees buying books, and I didn’t sell any.

Positives: This event cost nothing to attend, and presenters actually received a generous gratuity. We also had breakfast and lunch provided, along with on-going coffee and tea. The event was well advertised, with our names and information about the event appearing in several local west Michigan newspapers. (Good for name recognition.) The sponsoring libraries are now more familiar with my name, and, hopefully, will purchase future books of mine for their libraries. There were several in attendance for the panel’s discussion, even though it was the last session of the day. Again, great for name recognition.

My takeaway: Speaking to book clubs is great and generally results in book sales. Events at book stores are unpredictable—some can result in lots of sales, others not—but getting to know the store personnel is a positive aspect of doing them. Writers’ conferences, large or small, can provide name recognition, but rarely (unless you’re a big name author) result in a lot of sales. And, even though I didn’t sell any books during the conference, my appearance may prompt some in attendance to go on Amazon and buy a book or two.

I can only hope.

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