It’s no secret I enjoy a few reality television series here and there. One I used to watch frequently was America’s Next Top Model (ANTM). What can I say? I liked it for the creative aspect. Watching the photo shoots come together and the end results were the best part of the show.
But the competition was more than just making pretty pictures. The whole idea of the show was to give these young girls a taste of what it would be like once they got out into the modeling industry. Success for models is getting booked and getting top designers to use them in their campaigns or shows.
You, as a new author, are no different than the models. You’ve rescued your manuscript from the sock drawer and boldly pushed forward to get it published. Whether you’ve self-published or have taken the traditional route of being signed through a publishing house, your publicity and marketing all depends on you. Just like the models, you have to pound the pavement and make the world know you’re out there.
Once the competitors on ANTM have built up a small portfolio of several photos, their next challenge is the Go-See. Each model is given one day where they have a time limit to “go see” four top designers in whatever city they’re in. The winner is the one who makes it to the most go-sees in the allotted time and who books the most jobs with each designer.
Authors with new releases can do the same thing. Maybe you’ve already gotten yourself on Amazon or listed in the Ingram Catalog, or have your book on Barnes & Noble. That’s great. Congratulations. First step accomplished.
But it’s not enough. You’re next step is to establish some real life connections and come out from behind the monitor.
Best Foot Forward
Where do you start? With a plan, of course. Doing your Go-Sees is no different than embarking on a job search. Before you set foot out the door, you’ll need to be prepared.
Research: The first step starts with mapping out the bookstores in your area. Go on the internet and do a search. For franchises, it’s as simple as going to their sites and putting in your location in the Store Locator. Make notes on who the manager is for that store, where it is and what their hours are.
Collateral: If you’re ready to start marketing and your book is already for sale on the web, this means you should have an actual proof of your novel in your hands already. Bringing a copy of your book to show the managers is very helpful. In addition to the book, you’ll want to have a little something to leave with them.
You could always order extra copies of your book to give away, but that’s a lot of books to haul around. It’s also expensive. You could leave a business card, too. Better yet, invest in some over sized postcards. For ours, we put the Loyalties cover on the front, and then a small blurb about each of the characters on the back. We also had our contact information on there and the ISBN. The idea is to avoid writing down your information on a scrap of paper that will get lost. A brightly colored, 5×7 postcard isn’t easily misplaced and they’re much easier for you to carry around.
Book Site: A simple website for your book helps keep your readers in the loop with the progress of the book, where to buy and where you’ll be making appearances.
The Pitch: You already know what your book is about, but can you tell that quickly in a few sentences to a total stranger without stumbling over your own words? How about introducing yourself without getting all tongue-tied? I can tell you, the moment you walk into a bookstore as an author, you’ll feel different. You’ll look at all the books on the shelves and begin to see yourself as An Author. You may even have this sly little smile on your face as you envision your book sitting there between the likes of Robert Jordan and Anne McCafferty.
That’s no dream. It can and will be a reality.
Practice your pitch in front of the mirror, or write out a short script to memorize and then practice it until it becomes second nature. You want to be relaxed and confident. Smile and make eye contact. This is no different from going on a job interview, be the professional you are.
What To Expect
For the most part, I’ve found the managers of the major book franchises are very helpful, enthusiastic and friendly. You’ll be surprised how many are happy to welcome a local author into their store.
When you first go into the store, always ask for the manager. If they’re not available, get their name and a number to follow up later and leave one of your postcards with the store. Also get the name of the person you’re speaking to and jot it down.
If the manager is there, introduce yourself, tell them you’re a local author and would like to see your book in their store. Depending on the store policy, the manager may or may not be able to order a few.
It seems that policy varies from store to store. For B&N specifically I’ve gotten several different answers. Most of the managers I visited told me they can order POD (Print On Demand) in small numbers, like three or five. This way it’s not such a big risk of losing money from ordering a large amount. If your book is already listed on the B&N site, even better.
Other stores have flat out said they can’t order POD. Don’t be afraid to try negotiating. Negotiation may not always get your book into the store, but a little friendly chit-chat could get you scheduled for a book signing, or at the very least, remembered.
Once you’ve hit all the stores you’ve set out to see and made your notes and written down your contacts, remember to send a thank you follow-up after you get home. Send them links to your book site and any other additional contact information the manager may need in the future. And above all, give them a sincere thank you for taking time to meet with you.