You’ve hustled and set up a book signing, reading, speaking opportunity, or tour. You’ve worked on your delivery, your timing, your tone. And during the event– you nailed it! Congratulations. The hard part is over.
But how do you make sure that the energy you’ve put into your booking, your preparation, and your “performance” comes back to you?
7 Ways to Make Lasting Connections After Your Book Reading
1) Cover the basics-
If your audience has responded to your reading, they’ll want to take a piece of you home with them– in the form of your book.
Make sure you have ample books available and that you’ve arranged the details of selling them in advance (oftentimes, you’ll be required by the venue to work with a local bookseller). Be sure to announce at the end of your reading that you have books available for sale and you’re happy to sign them.
2) Discount your books-
If it is possible to work with the bookseller on this matter (or to handle it yourself), take a few dollars off the price of your book. People love to think they’re getting a bargain, and the in-person savings might be just the thing to make someone in the audience say, “Ah, why not? I’m already here. The author is here. They’ll sign the book. Sure!”
3) Have a helper-
Books should be on the table well before your reading begins and there should be someone present at the table before, during, and after your reading to help you sell.
When you’re at the table after your reading, divide your responsibilities. Have the helper handle the actual sales, the swiping of credit cards, giving out change, etc. That gives you the space to personally engage with your new fans.
4) Give each reader your undivided attention-
While your helper is selling a book to one person, you should be giving your full attention to the next. Don’t look around the room. Don’t hurry them along (unless they’re starting to hold up the line for more than a minute or so). Make them feel special, appreciated, and essential to your own success. Make a point of asking the person’s name, shaking hands– if that feels appropriate, and engaging in a 2-way conversation. In short, be a generous human being. Granted, time is limited– but if you’re gracious and inquisitive, you can make that reader’s week!
5) Don’t sign books ahead of time-
Some authors have their books signed in advance. Then they either personalize them with the readers’ names or simply sell them with only signatures. While that may save some time and hand-cramping, it seems impersonal, mechanized, transactional. The full sweep of your interaction with the reader is important, from the “hello” to the quick cursive scribble you call your autograph, to the smile you flash as they say goodbye.
6) Collect email addresses-
There’s no better time to ask for an email contact than when that person is right in front of you showing their appreciation by purchasing a signed book.
At some point in your exchange, be sure to mention some new project that you’re working on– and ask them if they’d like to be kept informed on your upcoming writings, appearances, etc. They’re already buttered up; most of them will say “sure.”
Then send out an email the following day thanking them for attending, mentioning one or two memorable moments from that particular reading, and asking them to recommend your book to their friends (in the real world and the virtual). Maybe you can even offer to do a Skype appearance if any of them discuss your work in book clubs.
7) Don’t be in a rush-
Many busy authors will fly or drive in for an appearance, then rush out to their next reading, lecture, workshop, interview, or lunch. It’s fine to be busy; in fact, if you’re making a trip, you might as well take advantage of as many opportunities as you can. BUT… not at the expense of the most important people: your fans who are right in front of you purchasing your work and taking time out of THEIR equally busy lives to show you their support.
Give yourself at least an hour (preferably more) after your reading to personally thank everyone who buys your book. If only 3 people come up to buy a book, start a conversation with all of them– and hang out for as much of that hour as they’d like to chat. You never know what good might come of forging connections like that.
Lastly, I think it’s important to mention the matter of nerves and ego. When both are involved (you– being, perhaps, nervous AND the star of the show), and the fan (being nervous to meet someone they admire), even the most mundane exchange can seem a bit forced or awkward. Push through it. They’ll appreciate you making them feel more at ease.
And if you’re one of those sensitive artists who tends to feel like people expect too much of you in social settings– remember, the people lined up to have you sign their book copy aren’t your stalkers; they’re the reason you wrote, the reason you write, and the reason you’ll keep writing.
[Autograph image from Shutterstock.]