I always thought that getting published was the biggest challenge for an author. I’d been fortunate because I had very little difficulty in finding a first-class publisher for my business book, Corona: The Inside Story of America’s #1 Beer.
However on the completion of my novel I ran into all the usual problems of finding a publisher. After numerous rejections from both literary agents and publishers, I was fortunate to be introduced to my current publisher, Morrison McNae, who liked the manuscript and agreed to publish.
But this is not the end of the story. In fact, it is only the beginning. Promoting and selling the book, especially in today’s environment of declining sales and competitive online media, is an even larger challenge. I quickly discovered that even celebrity authors have to go “on the circuit” of discussions, book signings, and promotions in bookstores around the country. I understand that even some of the most successful authors get their RV out on the road and tour the country in this fashion.
Being recently published, I’ve done my share of book discussions and signings at public libraries, special events, and bookstores. Today, I was with my friend and recently published author, Jian Ping, whose compelling Memoir, Mulberry Child, describing her family life before, during, and after the Cultural Revolution in China is a beautifully told story of strength of character and family devotion.
Through her connections, we were at the Barnes & Noble bookstore at the University of Chicago. The manager, Ryan McCarl, provided a covered trestle table in the entrance to the bookstore, which also shares space with a university café. We set up our display posters. Ryan had advertised the event and posted flyers inside and outside the bookstore, and had ordered fifteen hardcover copies of our books each. He then kindly arranged for a substantial discount for today only, on our hardcover copies, which he advertised on a separate flyer for prospective customers as they came into the bookstore.
Both I and Jian Ping told our respective stories, my Cold War espionage novel, with a World War II background and European family saga, and Jian Ping, of her family’s experiences seen through her eyes as a young child during the Cultural Revolution.
For the most part, people were interested and pleasant and asked lots of questions. We kept the patter light and friendly and were very pleased to sell thirteen copies over an extended lunch-hour period. Ryan was very happy particularly because this was the second signing that he had arranged with Jian Ping. He’s asked us to return in the spring.
Sometimes these events can be daunting when you only have four or five people attending, or when, as I have experienced, they have great enthusiasm with lots of questions and then don’t make a purchase.
Today can be considered a good day. But how many of these events does an author have to attend in order to achieve sales success? I’ll let you know.