by Gail L. Jenner
Unfortunately, this year's first signing arranged at the Roseburg, Oregon, Costco for the Christmas season had to be cancelled because of deep snow and ice. Interstate 5 was closed and I ended up getting stuck in Ashland, Oregon, overnight. I immediately called both Costco and Arcadia to update them.....then eagerly suggested I return the next week or whenever (as it turned out, the next week was again hit hard by ice and deep, cold temps). I didn't want to let any time lapse before getting a commitment from both Arcadia and Costco!
A week later, when I finally arrived at Costco in Roseburg -- after a slip-slippery trip north over three mountain passes -- the very busy Costco manager met me, assuring me that he was impressed by my perseverance. He also noted that a couple of authors they'd lined up had refused to make the trip in winter again. For me it was a roundtrip of about 7 hours (in good weather), but it didn't matter! Knowing that Costco purchases at least 75 books if they're arranging a signing, I had to go. Last year I was fortunate to do the Roseburg Costco signing with Diane Gardner (WWW member and awesome author!). Not only did she allow me to stay the night with her and her husband, but we spent a wonderful afternoon together signing books (unfortunately this year she had to miss the signing). Fortunately, I sold almost 30 books in this year's 3 hour signing AND also signed all remaining books Costco had ordered.
One of the lessons every author needs to learn is that books to be sold, IF autographed, are "as good as sold" for the author. Don't let any of them go unsigned!
All of this suggests that any author hoping to arrange a successful signing, whether small or large, must:
1. Be willing to go wherever she's asked!
2. Be available and assertive in making contact and maintaining communication, not "waiting" for others to contact her.
3. Arrive on time and with energy and enthusiasm.....I even brought additional posters and marketing postcards, etc., with me this year, which the Costco manager appreciated (esp. since my original signing had been postponed and not as much "in-store" publicity was available).
4. Encourage whatever publicity agents she's attached to to seek out more opportunities...assuring her that she can/will promote the signing through news items, radio interviews, and social media outlets.
One last lesson that I took to heart THIS year was this:
• Be assertive with the patrons. Costco is an enormous store and many people do not approach an author, thinking that she is possibly one of those store sales people!
• So put up your own sign: MEET THE AUTHOR!
• Stand (don't sit) behind the table Costco provides. I enthusiastically greeted people passing by....sometimes asking, "Have you heard of the State of Jefferson" (because the "issue" of the State of Jefferson has been in the news lately, many people stopped and smiled, sometimes asking their own questions)?
• Provide postcards/collateral with every book sold and place it for easy access on the table. I put up small easels where I could prop my books, too, since people in Costco often move quickly up and down the aisles. Making the books visible from many angles is important.
• Connect with the manager and be sure and thank him/her for all help. And send notes or emails to thank those publicity people who helped arrange your signing. They do not get enough credit for the work they do.
All in all, I am tremendously grateful to Arcadia and its sales/publicity departments for their continued support. A publicist has a tough job to do and appreciates the enthusiastic support an author can give her/him.
Though I can't guarantee a Costco signing, I do believe signings (however limited) are important. The author is any book's best and principal sales tool, so we need to cultivate a visible and enthusiastic persona. With each signing I have gained more confidence and enthusiasm, even though I'd rather be tucked away in my upstairs office -- overlooking my garden and the ranch -- working on my newest piece of writing!