In Person Appearances

by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

We’ve posted a lot about online publicity and marketing efforts and how you can utilize blog tours, twitter and Facebook updates to help promote your latest novel. It used to be that authors would be sent on book tours involving in-person book signings and talks but now most of that has been superceded (and sadly, there aren’t that many bricks-and-mortar bookstores left to tour!). 


I’ve been wondering, given all the recent changes in publishing, what kind of in-person events are really worth it nowadays. While I still think there is no substitute for meeting readers face-to-face to talk about your book, getting a decent return on these events (factoring in author time and investment) can be hard to achieve (especially in these lean times). 


Fan-based and author conferences are probably still a worthwhile investment as they provide both networking opportunities as well as reader exposure but apart from Bouchercon, choosing the right conference to attend can be tricky. When my first two books came out I went to Bouchercon, Malice Domestic, the San Francisco Writer’s Conference, Mayhem in the Midlands and the Historical Novel Society Conference. It was hard to assess the actual impact of these (though I do I credit the SF writer’s conference for propelling me to the SF Chronicle bestseller list). I’ve also given readings at other local events, attended book festivals and been on library panels. All in all I think these helped provide some exposure but I’m not sure any of them were all that beneficial in terms of sales. 


Now the online opportunities for marketing and promotion are significantly greater, I would have to carefully consider what in-person events to make for my next book. Following my return to Australia, this assessment is even more complicated given the travel times and costs involved.


So I’d like to know, how do you weigh up your options when it comes to in-person events? Given the online opportunities, are you even considering book signings at bookstores? Which conferences, festivals or other events do you think are worthwhile in the new, digital era of publishing?

8 thoughts on “In Person Appearances

  1. It takes a long time for conference exposure to lead to book sales. As such, I question the wisdom of judging a conference by its sales capability. Truth be told, I sell far more books (directly, anyway) at a luncheon for a ladies’ group or a meeting of the Optimists’ Club than I do at any conference.

    Unless you’re in the rare atmosphere of the featured author at a conference, the resident bookseller brings in only a few copies of every author’s books. On top of that, I think there’s a kind of panel-exhaustion that blurs the good panel performers with the not-so-good ones in the minds of the attendees.

    In a perfect world, I’ll get an opportunity to conduct a solo class, as I will be doing at Sleuthfest in Orlando on March 1. When that happens, I can normally sell out whatever the booksellers brought. Otherwise, I’m lucky to sell a few.

    Thus, my recommendation on conferences is this: Don’t look at it as an opportunity to sell books real time. Look at it as an opportunity to bond with fellow fans of the genre, whether they be authors or readers. Buy a few drinks, and accept a few bought by others. Just be . . . yourself.

    My go-to conferences are Bouchercon (because it’s essentially the industry’s Big Show), ThrillerFest (because it’s the absolute best show of the suspense-circuit) and Magna Cum Murder (because I so like the people there). Then I do others as targets of opportunity.

    Did I mention that I’ll be at SleuthFest March 1-4?

    John Gilstrap
    http://www.johngilstrap.com

  2. Great post, Helen. And great advice, John. I’ve got my first round of book signings in a couple of months for my debut novel. Seeing it as a chance to disappoint the book shop in terms of sales, it’s great to read the signing should be much more an opportunity to build relationships.

    All part of the adventure, eh 🙂

    Warmest regards,

    Ian

  3. My thought — actually cribbed from a couple of different authors — is that such tours, appearances, etc. are more of an opportunity to build a relationship with the bookseller than to sell and sign books, per se. One interesting point: Atria is sending four authors — M.J. Rose, Liza Marlund, John Connolly, and William Kent Krueger — on a twelve city bus tour in April. And it looks to be a pretty nice bus. Nice to see that somebody still believes in author appearances.

  4. Clare, I agree with Joe H. that appearances are more benefitial in building author/bookseller ties than author/read. Long after the author has moved on, the bookseller can still hand-sell their books. Personal appearances are tough for my co-author and I since we live at opposite ends of a very large state. So, for starters, any personal event costs twice as much since we both have to pay to get there. We used to do a lot of signings years ago when we lived in the same city. But those days are long gone.

  5. I would just do whatever appearances you enjoy and look forward to doing, rather than think of it as a “must do.” Appearing at conferences helps raise one’s visibility in the industry; never underestimate the value of personal connections.

  6. John’s comment is a good post all by itself. A reader and collector’s perspective.

    I am a bit of an autograph hound, so I love personal appearances especially when the writer is personable and approachable. I tend to stick to my genre and prefer the writers who taught the class or headed the panel.

    When I go to a conference, I have a certain budget I have to stick to, but I will buy books there to support the show, the seller and the writer (I do tradeshows for my business, it’s not a museum or petting zoo, folks!).

    That budget is usually about 3 books. However, I will note others and check them out on online when I get home, so there is a long tail. Also, once I’ve met the writer and like them, their name and books stick with me and I’m more likely to check out their backlist.

    I really hope personal appearances continue!

    Terri

  7. I hope they do too! And I certainly wasn’t trying to leave the impression that I judge personal appearances solely in terms of sales:) How do you think publishers are approaching the issue of author appearances – how do they assess ROI? I suspect they are leaving it up to authors to organize but I wonder how authors now assess which appearances are worth their time and effort. I just always did whatever I could within the budget I had, and hoped for the best!

Comments are closed.

In Person Appearances

by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

We’ve posted a lot about online publicity and marketing efforts and how you can utilize blog tours, twitter and Facebook updates to help promote your latest novel. It used to be that authors would be sent on book tours involving in-person book signings and talks but now most of that has been superceded (and sadly, there aren’t that many bricks-and-mortar bookstores left to tour!). 


I’ve been wondering, given all the recent changes in publishing, what kind of in-person events are really worth it nowadays. While I still think there is no substitute for meeting readers face-to-face to talk about your book, getting a decent return on these events (factoring in author time and investment) can be hard to achieve (especially in these lean times). 


Fan-based and author conferences are probably still a worthwhile investment as they provide both networking opportunities as well as reader exposure but apart from Bouchercon, choosing the right conference to attend can be tricky. When my first two books came out I went to Bouchercon, Malice Domestic, the San Francisco Writer’s Conference, Mayhem in the Midlands and the Historical Novel Society Conference. It was hard to assess the actual impact of these (though I do I credit the SF writer’s conference for propelling me to the SF Chronicle bestseller list). I’ve also given readings at other local events, attended book festivals and been on library panels. All in all I think these helped provide some exposure but I’m not sure any of them were all that beneficial in terms of sales. 


Now the online opportunities for marketing and promotion are significantly greater, I would have to carefully consider what in-person events to make for my next book. Following my return to Australia, this assessment is even more complicated given the travel times and costs involved.


So I’d like to know, how do you weigh up your options when it comes to in-person events? Given the online opportunities, are you even considering book signings at bookstores? Which conferences, festivals or other events do you think are worthwhile in the new, digital era of publishing?