For the novelist,writing is easy, marketing is hard
by Kevin Rushworth
If you have ever walked into a Chapters, Indigo or small bookstore, you might have seen a local author doing a book signing. Yes, I know, they might talk to you. Weird. They might try to sell you a copy of their book, which they have been writing for months or even years. How rude of them. If you didn’t notice, I’m being sarcastic. For one second, put on an imagination hat and picture this scene. At the front of the store — so you can’t miss him — a local author is seated at a table groaning with copies of his carefully arranged books. Excitement is written all over his face and in his smile as he greets people walking into the bookstore.
As a young author who self-published his first fantasy book four years ago through Lord Beaverbrook High School’s publishing company, Tiberius Publishing, I found myself doing numerous book signings at local Chapters stores. Let me tell you: it’s hard. But it’s also fun to see actual fantasy genre fans show interest in a book that I had been writing for eons. For my first book signing at Shawnessy Chapters, I was incredibly excited. I wore my best shirt. After spending four hours at the store, I sold 12 copies of Gaarn, and I was ecstatic. At this point, you might be thinking that it doesn’t sound all too hard. But, as a first-time author, I didn’t draw people into the bookstore simply by sitting at the front of the store. There were no screaming girls wrenching each other’s hair over my book or clawing at each other to get their copies signed.
Nope, it was just me sitting at a table. I did get one sexually provocative letter in the mail later, but I’m still unsure if it was a hoax or a groupie. During my first book signing, I learned people browse books the same way regardless of me sitting behind a pile of my own books with a pen in hand. Most people really were interested in my book and I sold a surprising number of copies out of my first print run of 100. On the other hand, there were some people who would pick up my book, ask who wrote it, thumb through it, lift their eyebrows and walk away wordlessly.
I understand that fantasy is not for everyone; there are wizards, beards, goblins, magic, swords, damsels and adventure, but it’s hurtful to see such disregard after doing so much work. Next time you find yourself at a local author’s book signing, ask them about the book and congratulate them on a job well done. You don’t have to like the book, nor do you have to buy it, just acknowledge the work done. If you’re wondering about how many I sold, the number is close to 200 — and not all of them went to my family members. For me, book signings are still a great way to get my name out there as a local author, but it shouldn’t be the only way to go about marketing a first novel. For this reason, I started a Twitter page (@ThornTales), a Facebook fan page and a blog all around my writing.
The thought is, when I get enough name recognition, people will actually make the trip down to buy and have their copy of my next book signed. Soon girls might be screaming my name and wrenching others’ hair to get their copies signed, but for now, I’m on Twitter and sitting behind tables. Writing the book is the easy part, while marketing on the other hand is a whole different story.