This is a variation on something Dean Wesley Smith suggested. (I’d link, but it’s in the part he’s taken down to be updated.) None of us create in a vacuum, and good ideas will beget good ideas.
I’m not fond of book signings. You’re basically rewarding existing fans and hoping there’s a spillover from bystanders asking “who’s that?” Very low return for your time.
On the other hand if you’re not a big name author having a presence at medium to large genre conventions is a good return. Now ideally this is something your publisher does, and though he may have a handful of authors present he’s pushing all the authors he has. Ideally isn’t how most work today, of course. sigh. But I digress. Anyway, the difference is that when at a book store signing you’re hoping to pull other readers into your genre. At a genre convention you’re hoping to pull people who already like your genre to you. Notice the difference.
Attending the convention, however, isn’t the marketing tool I wanted to mention. Instead: bring cards.
You’ve seen the loyalty cards, the member cards for stores and such. You’re going to print up a bunch of them. If the convention will allow, you want one for every welcome packet the con will issue along with badges plus 10 to 25% that number for your table. If they won’t add them, go to 50% of the con’s estimated attendance.
Prices range from $120 to $150 per thousand.
On the front of the card, print the cover of your most recent book. That’s all; a vertical card with the cover (title and author and blurb) of your current book.
On the back you want the purchase and contact information. Now I’ve a recommendation here but I admit it can feel like you’re stretching.
I recommend setting up a BOGO code. That is, for the duration of the convention plus one week anyone using the card who enters the code while buying your most current book can get one other book of yours free. Buy one get one.
Whether you have the offer or not, make sure the back includes a QR code. That’s that squarish bar code you’ve seen around that can be read by most smart-phones. If you’re doing the BOGO have this link to a page that includes a purchase link that already sets up the BOGO. If you’re not have it go to your webpage, the one that lists your works and has links to purchase.
And for those without a smart phone reader, have the information in print.
Finally, that little extra touch: make sure it has a signature pad. If they’ll bring the card to your table, you’ll sign it just like you would sign a book.
OK, let me deal with the major complaint I’ve heard when suggesting this sort of thing before. “But I’m going to be giving away potentially hundreds if not thousands of my books. I’m going to be LOSING money.”
No. well, yes, but no.
The single largest problem you and several hundred thousand other authors have is that there are several hundred thousand other authors. To sell you need to be known. The best selling tool you have is word of mouth; a positive review from a reader to several friends.
Let’s take the most paranoid path here just for giggles. You go to the convention selling roughly 100 items per title per month (or four times DWS’s ‘minimum’). You have three titles. The convention has roughly 3,000 attendees.
300 of them decide to buy your book. And some yahoo puts the code on some warez and torrent sites, where another thousand or so people around the world get it and use it.
So you had to give away 1300 books: 1300 sales at $3 (nominal) each is $3,900 you lost out on getting. Or so goes the whine.
However, that week you MADE $3900 in sales above your normal $300 per month. Even better, you got 1300 NEW READERS, some of whom (historically between 2 and 10 percent, or 26 to 130) will recommend you to enough friends that you’ll get one additional sale from them.
In other words, you’ve crawled a little higher on the notice charts, distinguishing yourself from many of those hundreds of thousands of other authors.
Oh – a small variation for the single-item author. Obviously you can’t do BOGO. You’ve got three possibilities.
1) 50% off. This will generate the smallest increase but loses the least profit per item. Do it for the convention plus a week.
2) 99 cents. This is the middle route. As with the half off do it for the convention plus a week.
3) Free. Just for the duration of the convention. Here, you’re counting on people recommending your book to others. It will generate a lot of moved books, but no direct income. I highly recommend that if you do this you have another book on its way since if your book is any good the downloaders will be looking for “next”.
By the way… As long as you are printing, print up another batch for carrying around. For this batch don’t put on a sale unless you have and want a permanent loss leader. (Not a bad idea, by the way, to make book one a permanent BOGO – buy this book of the series and get the first book free.)
Does it cost you money up front? Yes. Will it increase your visibility? Yes. Will the increase be enough to pay for the cards? Probably; likely enough to make it worth the payment even with the BOGO.