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  • Carrie Bradshaw Spoke Here! Five Tips for Scoring Book Readings
Carrie Bradshaw Spoke Here! Five Tips for Scoring Book Readings
Written by
Maria Ross
July 2012
Written by
Maria Ross
July 2012

Whether you're self-publishing or published, one of the most fun things you can do to engage with your audience and create buzz is to organize live book readings and events.

When I first moved to San Francisco back in 1999, I would often take the bus down Van Ness Avenue. Across from City Hall, stood a small indie bookstore, called a Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books. I'd marvel at the banners outside promoting visiting authors and thought, "That would be fun one day to have a book signing event like that. Of course, I have to write a book first."

An episode of Sex and the City found our heroine, Carrie Bradshaw, making a stop in San Francisco on a book tour. I always pictured that she was at this particular store.

Fast forward to today: I've launched my second book and am being hosted by this bookstore (which is now called Books, Inc) TONIGHT at 7 pm! Dream realized....

Book tours seem to be reserved for best-selling authors with lots of money and legions of adoring fans. I'm not there....yet. So a good strategy for promoting your own book is to at least secure events in your local city. It's cheaper on the travel budget, plus bookstores like local authors. You get the added bonus of ensuring that the stores order a quantity of your books for the event, which increases your sales.

Here are some tips on how to score these events for yourself and build your audience:

  1. Target Independent Booksellers: I once got caught in the crossfire of Barnes and Noble's disfunctional communication between their stores and HQ in NYC. I was able to score two book events for my first book, but the hassle really wasn't worth it. This time around for Rebooting My Brain, I hired a Virtual Assistant to research all the indie bookstores in the Bay Area and create a list with event contact names, as well  as call the stores to gauge interest. I then personally sent those contacts an email pitch to hold a live reading/Q&A - and I called to follow up. As things shook out, there are two local stores who will be promoting me and my readings.
  2. Open the Door: Some indie bookstores just don't have the space to hold an event. So for them, I offered to come in personally and sign books for them if they ordered a quantity from the distributor. This way, they still order some books, and I am able to give them a sales advantage by offering autographed copies to their customers. They now know about the book and it opens a relationship for future marketing.
  3. Bring Something to the Table: One bookseller initially told me my "type of book" doesn't perform well at the store. I doubt she meant humorous and heartwarming memoir, so I took this as a veiled way of saying "self published books." I didn't take no for an anwer and proved how I could help promote the event: my large email list, social media channels, local network. When they saw that I could pull in people and would not solely rely on their marketing efforts, they said yes.
  4. Be Prepared to Pay: Some savvier bookstores will now charge the author a small fee to offset marketing costs. You need to make sure you are getting something good for that money, but I've heard this is more common for smaller shops and unknown authors. One bookstore requested $150 but I get a lot for this, including notification to all media, an announcement to their large email/mailing list, and a front window display the week of the event. That exposure was worth the small fee to me.
  5. Promote, Promote, Promote: You've got make good on your end to drive traffic to the event. Post an Event on Facebook, send an Evite or personal invitation and invite all your friends in the area. Notify your mailing list. Talk it up with friends, neighbors, colleagues - even your hairdresser. Generate excitement about the event and let people know how honored you would be to have them attend. Plus, you can tell them an added bonus is that they come out and support their local indie bookstore.

If you have a dream of doing at least one live event to promote your book, I hope these tips prove useful! Do you have any other great tips about book signings to share? Please write them in the Comments.

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  • Maria Ross

    Rebecca, GREAT idea with the local coffee shop! And yes, a VA can do so many things for you, like managing your promotion plan, researching venues, speaking engagements and media contacts, updating your website, putting together mailings, etc. Or if you can't afford that, hire a really savvy intern from a local college and put them to work.


    I've seen the local new coverage work both ways. I'm trying to use my book readings to spark interest of the topic of the book for a possible story. Will let you know how it goes!

  • Rebecca Trotter

    I like your suggestion about hiring a virtual assitant to do some of the research. It's so hard (and tedious) to find the time to do everything!

    I was able to get a book reading scheduled after arranging for a local paper to do a profile on me as a local writer. Actually, I used the book reading as part of my pitch to the local paper. So, it was kind of a package deal.

    An idea I have been talking with a local coffee shop that sells a small selection of books and stuff is holding a reading followed by a coffee chat with my blog readers who RSVP in advance. It would probably be easier if I actually knew how many of my readers lived nearby, of course!

    I'd love to hear other people's ideas/what's worked for them as well.