Whether you want to or not, giving presentations sells books. How effective depends on your approach. Preparing well ahead of time, getting involved with your audience, bringing props and food, helps sales and turns out to be fun, too!
For my first book, my knees shook, my voice shook, and I practiced and practiced. Jane Kirkpatrick told about her experiences on the WWW listserv, saying we should remember our presentations were about the BOOK, and each of us is the expert on our own book. Her words resonated with me, and now, whenever I am nervous, I try to remember: This is about the BOOK, not me! My first reading in 2009 was in the town where I grew up--Kellogg, Idaho—and this was the subject of my book—The Good Times Are All Gone Now: Life, Death and Rebirth in an Idaho Mining Town (University of Oklahoma Press, 2009). I knew the book and the town as only an insider could.
I sent out hundreds of postcards in advance, both for Kellogg and Seattle and other towns. I scavenged addresses from my mother and my friends. I was on Facebook, but fairly new at it, so social media did not play a large part, yet. I brought large photographs of the town and read a full half hour, taking questions afterwards. My husband recorded mining songs which we played while we were getting set up and preparing for the audience. For most venues, many people came and I had standing room only at Elliott Bay Books in Seattle.
In the fall of 2015, I again embarked on a reading tour for Moonshadows (Five Star Publishing), a mystery set in 1920s Idaho with a young female photographer. Although I did send out some postcards, I relied much more on emails of friends and acquaintances, Facebook and newsletters, as well as my website.
I began in Ketchum, Idaho, at the Community Library to a full house. My story was set almost out the front door, just short of 100 years ago. For this second tour to small towns in Idaho, eastern Washington and two bookstores in Seattle, my research into readings in the last few years suggested I plan a different presentation. To set the stage, so to speak, I researched news in the country and the world during 1920, and described the beginning of Prohibition, the passing of women’s right to vote, accomplishments of writers such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, and music. I also found tidbits about each town I visited. I brought along moonshadow photos and a Chinese robe and told its story.
Following this beginning, my husband Gerry Morrison demonstrated a large format (4x5) camera, inviting people to come up afterwards to see what my heroine Nellie Burns might have seen—upside down and backwards. I read for no more than fifteen minutes with the short prologue and a shortened first chapter. Finally, I recited Billy Collins’s poem, “Forgetfulness,” urging my audience to remember my book or remember me. Either would be just fine.
Both tours were fun and successful. A few locations in the smoke-filled northwest didn’t attract many people, but I did my best for those who came. I recommend setting up a tour and enjoying yourself! You’ll be glad you did.
My blog has a two part description of my 2015 tour: www.juliewweston.com/blog. My website has more information: www.juliewweston.com.
Julie Weston practiced law for many years in Seattle. Her book, The Good Times Are All Gone Now: Life, Death and Rebirth in an Idaho Mining Town won Honorable Mention in the 2009 Idaho Book of the Year Award. MOONSHADOWS is a finalist in the 2014-2015 May Sarton Literary Award. Her short stories and essays about Idaho, mining, skiing and flyfishing have been published in IDAHO Magazine, The Threepenny Review, River Styx and other journals. She and her husband live in Hailey, Idaho.