Agent Monday: Making the Most of Book Festivals (even if you don’t sell gobs of books)

Eliza Bing jktHappy Agent Monday, and happy September everyone!  Fall, for me, is a time of new beginnings. New books to read. New books to pitch to editors. New things to write… If you are writer, you may soon be staring down at a terrifying new thing: THE BOOK SIGNING. Well, fear not. Today I have some words of advice and encouragement for you from my wonderful and talented author, Carmella Van Vleet. Her most recent titles include the middle grade novel ELIZA BING IS (NOT) A BIG, FAT QUITTER (Holiday House, 2014), which features the hilarious and endearing Eliza (who also happens to be coping with ADHD); and the picture book TO THE STARS! co-authored with astronaut Kathy Sullivan (Charlesbridge, 2016).  Take it away, Carmella!

Making the Most of Book Festivals – Even If You Don’t Sell Gobs of Books!
guest post by Carmella Van Vleet

When I walked in the door, exhausted from spending the day at a local book festival, the first thing out of my husband’s mouth was, “So, how many books did you sell?”
I’m proud to report I resisted the urge to unleash some inner-ninja on him. I knew he was doing his best to be supportive, but it’s a loaded question. Those of us who attend book signings and festivals know that it’s not always about the number of books we sell.
For the record, I sold and signed around nine books that day. I’ve had better days in terms of sales and I’ve had worse. But despite the lower sales, I had a great time and was glad I participated in the event. Why? (I mean other than the fact I spent the day sampling the candy I’d set out to lure readers to my table.) Simple: I focused on all the other successes of the day.

Here are the cool things that happened that didn’t include actual book sales:

I got to meet another writer from the Class of 2k14 (a group of 20 debut YA and MG writers who’ve banned together online to support and help promote each other). This was a first for me.

I spent the day chatting with several writers sitting nearby me. We shared advice and tips for other book festivals, school visits, and promotional materials.

I handed my card to a librarian who was interested in me doing an author visit at her school.

I got to participate in two well-attended panels about writing for children. Not only did I get a chance to do one of my favorite things in the whole world – talk shop – I met an editor who asked me if I would be interested in writing for their new biography series for middle grade readers.

While doing the second panel, I also got to connect with an illustrator I heard speak a while back. Something she’d said in her workshop resonated with me and it ended up being a key puzzle piece that allowed my picture book to finally fall into place. It was such a gift to be able to tell this other writer she helped me and my book sold and is now scheduled for release in 2016.

I was able to help a fellow writer who was struggling with the close-but-no-cigar stage of her career. (I told her the old adage is true – just when things seems darkest and most hopeless is usually when your “Yes” is just around the corner.) And I got to rave about Marie to another writer who queried her.

At lunch, I spent a few minutes hanging out with an author whose writing I deeply admire – and totally experienced the “getting to sit at the cool kids table” thing.

Something really funny happened to me at the festival, too. This boy around ten years old walked up to my table. When he noticed my cover, he pointed and said, “I read the first two pages of that book.” (I was pretty sure he didn’t realize he was speaking to the author.) “Oh yeah?” I asked, all excited. “Did you like it? What did you think?” The boy shrugged. “Eh. It was okay.” His mother turned red and promptly began apologizing. But I waved her off; I thought it was hysterical. I thanked the boy for his honesty and offered him a candy bar.

So, in other words, I got a good story about humility to tell!

You never know what you’re going to encounter when you attend book festivals. They aren’t always going to be rainbows and glitter, long lines and adoring fans. But if you keep yourself open – and remember there’s more to these things than just selling books – you’ll never have a bad day.

My tips for book festivals

* Get to know your book neighbors. Listen to their pitch and give them yours. When they step away for a break or lunch, help cover their table and talk up their books to readers walking by. They’ll do the same for you.
* Standing up at your table is a great way to increase your visibility during crowded times.
* Bring your own water and snack in case you can’t get away or there’s not a nearby volunteer. You’ll need them to keep up your energy.
* Have readers spell out their names and write them on slips of paper before you sign a book. This will help cut down on inscription mistakes.
* Always give a reader more. For example, I have a collection of rubber stamps I like to use after my signature. (Each stamp corresponds to a specific title. For instance, I have an old fashion key stamp that I use in my Ben Franklin book.) Another writer I know personally attaches “Autographed Copy” stickers to her books after signing. An illustrator friend sketches a kid-friendly doodle. These little touches make the book extra special.
* If you’re comfortable talking to groups, volunteer to participate in panels and other activities; the people who plan book festivals really appreciate this and will remember your name when it comes time for the next event.
* Don’t be afraid to connect with people even if you don’t think it’ll mean a sale. Compliment someone on their cool shirt or ask what kinds of books they read. Always be genuine but never pushy.

 

Carmella Van VleetCarmella Van Vleet is a former teacher and the author of numerous hands-on science and history books. Her debut MG novel, ELIZA BING IS (NOT) A BIG, FAT QUITTER (Holiday House) is a Junior Library Guild Selection  about a girl with ADHD who takes up taekwondo. Carmella is looking forward to the release of her first picture book, TO THE STARS! THE STORY OF ASTRONAUT KATHY SULLIVAN, which she co-authored with Dr. Sullivan (Charlesbridge, 2016). For more information, please visit www.CarmellaVanVleet.com

Advertisements

Writer Wednesday: About those Book Signings…

I have a book signing coming up this Saturday at the beyond wonderful indie bookstore Farley’s Bookshop in New Hope, PA.  It’s from 1-4 p.m. Stop by if you can!  I haven’t really done too many book signings this year, so this got me thinking about all those book signings I have done in the past.

I used to have several a month, sometimes even a few a week.  I kept my book signing stuff together in one spot in my office, ready to grab and go. A bag of book plates, pens, fliers, signs, and candy to give away (usually chocolate kisses).  But now I feel almost rusty.  Since it has been a while, well, needless to say the chocolates are all gone.  My fliers are used up or just out of date, missing the most recent reviews.  And is that sign seriously turning yellow?

Jeesh.

The last huge book signing I did was back at another beloved indie, Doylestown Bookshop. That was for the launch of DRAWN way back in January.  Since then, my books have been for sale at various events where I’ve put in appearances. At these, I’d sign a copy of  a novel if someone approached me with one.  But I haven’t really done one of those “sit at a table for a few hours and smile” thingees for DRAWN.

Book launches are a blast to do. It’s the first time your book hits the stands, and all your friends and family rally with readers to show up and celebrate and eat cake. At these the author feels an outpouring of love and appreciation.  There’s constant conversation. And, as I mentioned, there’s cake. Many books are sold.  You head home feeling awesome.

But other signings, well…

I’ve recently talked to a number of new writers all fired up for their very first signing.  It’s such a landmark, and such a thrill.  I never want to bring them down, but I wish there was some tactful way to prepare the new author for that second signing. Or that third and fourth.  Not every signing will sell 100 copies like you did on launch night. If I could somehow make them lower their expectation and view every signing as a success even if not a single book was sold, it might spare them from that sinking feeling of misery.  Same feeling you got as a kid when teams were picking sides and the captains argued over who would get stuck with you. Blech.

I’ve been at signings where not one person showed up. I’ve been at signings where someone came up and asked, “Do you people sell rubber bands?”  I told them I didn’t work there, and I was the author.  “Oh, really?  You wrote these?”  So, fine. Lesson learned. I started wearing a tag that said: Marie Lamba, AUTHOR.  And I made a giant poster with the book cover, and my picture.  And at the next signing someone walked up to me and asked, “Do you guys sell magazines?”

I’ve had people come and talk to me forever about my book, about writing, and then not buy the book.  I’ve had people not stop or talk to me at all, which is far worse.  I’ve been scheduled to give a talk, and showed up to a space with seating for 100, and only the bookstore person and my daughter came.  I gave a talk at an urban Barnes and Noble, and the audience was made up of a sleeping homeless guy, and a woman who sat in that space every day just to knit. No clapping that day.

But you know what?  It’s a total crap shoot.  I’ve had talks that I thought would surely be a disaster, and when I got there, the room was so packed they had to drag in extra seating.  And I sold a ton of books afterwards.  I’ve done signings where people flocked to the table, eager to buy. I’ve been at signings where old high school friends showed up and brought their kids.  I’ve been at bookstores where fans of my books came and acted like I was a rock star!

You never know. So you lower your expectations to none, and smile.  Book signings can definitely keep you humble. You’ve got to remember that not everyone is a reader. That people are busy. That times are tough. That reading is a subjective thing, so not everyone will be interested in what you write about. That some people feel they can’t walk over to talk to you, because if they don’t then buy your book it’ll be weird.

So how can every book signing be a success? Well, I always use a signing as a newsworthy moment. An appropriate time to tell the area about my books through press releases and feature stories that I send out to press, and through announcements on social media.  That’s a win.  Someone could read about your book and buy it at a later time. At signings, I always enjoy interacting with the bookstore staff and supporting what they do.  I work hard to make the event fun (bringing munchies for the booksellers, too), and I’m building relationships with these fellow book lovers. The bookstore also always has me sign the remaining stock, so that even if the signing felt like a bust, the books will probably be prominently displayed and sold.

And then there is the experience of meeting people…something we isolated authors don’t get to do on a daily basis.  We can yak about books and writing, and share our book info with others.

So, if I could speak directly to those new authors out there, I would like to tell them to not count the success of a signing by the number of copies sold. To check egos at the door, but haul along your sense of humor.

And you may want to find out ahead of time if the bookstore sells rubber bands!

Wish me luck on Saturday…

Doylestown Bookshop Hosts DRAWN Launch

Here’s a quick shoutout to the wonderful independent bookstore The Doylestown Bookshop who hosted the launch party for my new paranormal novel DRAWN.

We had cake and goodies, and great people filling the store, and we sold a ton of books too! Heartfelt thanks to everyone who came. If you missed the event, the bookstore has on hand signed copies of DRAWN, plus my novels WHAT I MEANT… and OVER MY HEAD, and a few copies of the short story anthology LIAR LIAR in which I have a story.

I hope you’ll stop in and check these out, plus keep an eye on The Doylestown Bookshop’s events page for great upcoming author signings and fun.

And if you aren’t in the Doylestown, PA area, chances are pretty solid that you do have a bookstore near you. Make a point of visiting and supporting your area bookseller, and remember that you can order any of my novels through any bookstore!  Just ask them.

And check out my Appearances page to see where I’ll be next.  It’s always great to meet readers face to face.

Happy reads,

Marie

Find me on facebook!

Five YA Authors Walk into a Bookstore…

Sounds like the setup for a bad joke, but this was actually the start of a red-hot afternoon last Sunday, when I moderated a panel talk with some of my fellow YA paranormal authors: New York Times bestsellers Andrea Cremer and Beth Revis, and sizzling debut authors Marie Lu and Jessica Spotswood. It was part of Penguin’s “Breathless Reads” Tour hosted by the wonderful independent bookstore The Doylestown Bookshop.

The store had a fine crowd of fans on hand, as I introduced myself and my fellow authors.  And let me intro us all to you folks now as well…

From left to right, there’s, well, me, Marie Lamba (Hi everyone!), Beth Revis, Jessica Spotswood, Marie Lu and Andrea Cremer.

And here’s more info about us…

Marie Lamba: I’m author of YA novels, including the newly published paranormal YA novel Drawn, and I’m an Associate Literary Agent at Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency in New York City.  Drawn is about a teen artist who draws then meets and falls for a medieval ghost with a sketchy past. It’s been praised as “beautiful and endearing…I didn’t want to see it end” (The Cozy Reader), “Mysterious and enchanting…a breath of fresh air…a page turner with a unique twist” (TwilightMOMS), and a “lushly romantic ghost story…captivating and haunting,” (paranormal author Cyn Balog).

Beth Revis: Beth is the New York times bestselling author of the Across the Universe series, futuristic space-travel novels that feature Amy, who awakens light years away from home on an air ship and must face battling a tyrannical civilization. Her second book in the series, A Million Suns, has The Los Angeles Times saying, “Oftentimes, the second book in a series struggles to live up to the expectations set in its kickoff, but not here.”  Awesome!

Jessica Spotswood: Jessica is the debut author of Born Wicked, which had Entertainment Weekly so excited they actually told readers to “mark your calendars for the release.” An historical fantasy, it’s the first book in a series that features Cate Cahill and her dangerous destiny as
a witch. Sounds bewitching alright.

Marie Lu: Marie is the debut author of Legend, a futuristic dystopian thriller set in a dark future where North America has split into two warring nations. It features two characters, each from a different nation, and each as different as you can get, and when murder makes their paths cross, it’s, well, Legend. The Wall Street Journal calls it a “new contender” in the race to “conjure the next Harry Potter.” Talk about high praise!

Andrea Cremer: Andrea is the New York Times bestselling author of the Nightshade series. The first two books, Nightshade and Wolfsbane introduced readers to Calla and her conflicted future as the mate of a sexy alpha wolf…When she saves a beautiful human boy out for a hike, everything is thrown into question. Bloodrose is the stunning conclusion to the series, which Romantic Times Magazine calls “sexy and intoxicating.” Hot stuff!

Okay, with the intros out of the way, I got right down to business, tossing away the question sheet provided by the tour (sorry Penguin), and asking things folks really like to know.  Like: Can you tell us something about you that most people don’t know?

Andrea told us she has 3 tattoos, showing us the one on her wrist and the back of her neck, and saying that her third was inaccessible to show because it was on her ankle.

We learned that Beth is the “evil one,” and Andrea said that if any of them disappeared while on tour, authorities should immediately question Beth.  Beth responded with a wicked glimmer in her eye…  But it was all in good fun, right?  Seriously though, they all seemed like good friends, honest officer.

We also discovered that Beth has one thumb much shorter than the other, and Jessica demonstrated her freakishly fascinating double jointed arms.

I know that Marie Lu also shared something unusual, but honestly after that double jointed arm thingee I blanked out!  Marie did say that she always thought it’d be cool if half the country was underwater, which led her to her idea for Legend...

Next I moved on to the lightning round of questions (also NOT on the suggested question list…again, sorry Penguin!).  I asked them to vote on these either/ors: Cats or dogs?  50/50 split. (I’m dogs, myself.) Ice cream or chocolate? 50/50 again. (Chocolate for me, all the way.) Heels or flats? 50/50. (Flats for me…) Smart Car or SUV? 100% for Smart Car (yeah environment!)  Country music or rock? 100% rock (me too!).

And here was the clincher: Twilight or Harry Potter?  Remember, this is a bunch of paranormal/fantasy YA authors here.  I was fascinated that they were wholeheartedly 100% for Harry Potter.  Have to say I’m with them on that.  Not that I don’t like a bit of Twilight now and then, but Harry Potter? That’s deep and amazing stuff.

With that info taken care of, I next told the authors I would now ask REALLY personal questions, and, well, this is what it looked like as they ran away from me:

Kidding!  If you missed the event, I’m pretty sure the Doylestown Bookshop has extra signed copies of all of our books on hand, so stop in for your copies.

And look for my appearance at the Doylestown Bookshop on Friday, March 2nd from 6-9 pm when I officially launch the paperback of Drawn. My book launch party is part of the town’s First Friday celebrations, and should be a blast! The link for that event is here.

Hope to see you then.

Happy reads,

Marie

LIAR LIAR Book Launch

(Cross-posted at the Liars Club Philly site.)

It’s the truth. The Liars Club is launching their new short story anthology Liar Liar at Between Books, 2703 Philadelphia Pike in Claymont, DE, on Saturday, October 29th from 2-4 p.m. Visitors to the launch, which is free and open to the public, will be able to grab one of the first copies of Liar Liar and have it signed by the many authors featured in this book. Best of all, part of all proceeds from this book go directly toward causes advancing literacy. No lie.

Liar Liar features a bold collection of stories, each centered on a lie. Included in the collection is my own short story “What I Did…”  With an introduction by blockbuster novelist Sandra Brown, and stories that range in tone from the hilarious to the bizarre and even the frightening, Liar Liar is the perfect book to entertain you during those long fall and winter evenings.

At the Between Books event, I’ll be there along with many other Liars including award-winning fantasy author Gregory Frost (Shadowbridge and Lord Tophet )thriller novelist Jon McGoran (aka D.H. Dublin, Freezer Burn, Body Trace), urban novelist Solomon Jones (The Gravedigger’s Ball, The Last Confession), fantasy/scifi and media tie-in author Keith DeCandido (his many titles include Dragon Precinct and Unicorn Precinct), crime novelist Dennis Tafoya (Dope ThiefWolves of Fairmount Park), historical author Keith Strunk (Prallsville Mills and Stockton), novelist Kelly Simmons (Standing Still, The Bird House), mystery author Merry Jones (Summer Session, The Borrowed and Blue Murders) and short story author and social media marketing expert Don Lafferty.

“We’re thrilled to be holding our launch at Between Books,” says author Gregory Frost. “This is a premiere bookstore that not only offers general books, but also specializes in sci fi, fantasy and horror. Plus the store holds incredible events. It’s a book-lover’s paradise.”

For more information, or to reserve a copy of Liar Liar before the event, call Between Books at 302-798-3378.

Book Launch Party – Update! Prizes added to event!!!

Okay, this is so very cool.  Not only will there be a book launch party for my new summery young adult novel Over My Head at Doylestown Bookshop on August 5th from 7-9 pm. And not only will it be occurring during the town’s First Friday celebration. Now there will also be drawings for you to win free stuff from extremely amazing places that are featured in the novel!

Just show up, say hi, and you can put your name in to win.  Prizes include a $25 gift certificate from Twenty East Vintage Jewelers, certificates for free pizzas from Nat’s Pizza, movie passes to the County Theater, and tickets for the Mercer Museum and for the Michener Art Museum.  Also, since Fanny Chapman Swimming Pool plays such a big part in my book, if you happen to wear any Fanny Chapman gear to the book launch, you’ll get two chances to enter the drawing.  Expect more items to be added to this drawing as the date nears!

Hope you can come!

Book Launch Party August 5th – Dive in!

Join me as I launch my newest title Over My Head out into the world! We’ll be throwing a huge book launch party on Friday, August 5th at the wonderful independent Doylestown Bookshop in Doylestown, PA from 7-9 p.m. The party is free and open to everyone.

Books will be signed. Snacks will be nibbled. I’m planning on having giveaways from the many local shops that are featured in the novel (more details about these in a later post).  And, if the stars align, I’m also hoping to have some lifeguards from Fanny Chapman Swimming Pool on hand to add to the beach party feel of things!

For those of you who don’t know, in Over My Head the main character Sang, a senior at CB West High, falls for a 20-year-old lifeguard from the Fanny pool.  And she doesn’t know if he’s the love of her life or a player out to break her heart. So, yeah, lifeguards with whistles at the party. That’s part of the plan. Hopefully without the heartbreak!

Should be a great time. Especially since it’s part of the town’s First Friday celebration. That means there is going to be tons of free entertainment along the streets of the town. It’s like all of Doylestown will be celebrating 🙂

Ah, there’s something about a book launch. It’s different than any other signing an author does, because for the very first time you are signing a brand new novel for readers. This is the first time I get to see people’s reaction to the cover, and I get to watch their expressions as they flip through the pages. It’s unnerving in a way, but mostly wonderful and exciting. For the first time, I get to see someone actually holding my book. I get to go to bed that night knowing that people will be reading my words and that the story that was stuck in my head for so long will come alive in a reader’s head now too. SHIVERS!

So come see me and be a part of this celebration. For more info, or if you would like to reserve a copy of Over My Head in advance, you can call the bookshop at 215-230-7610.

Here’s to making a huge SPLASH!