For Authors of Indie Presses #2: Book Store Reading Reality

Life has been so utterly cuckoo I am just now getting the second post out of a series I started two weeks ago. I initially thought of this as tips for Indie Authors and Authors of Indie presses, but really, I should just call it REALITY CHECK.

The series was inspired by my own reality check as an author, as well as an excellent interview I heard by Cory Doctorow

This post is a continuation of the last one on making public appearances.

#2 Bookstore Reading Reality

Many debut authors dream of that successful bookstore reading: a packed house, a line of people out the door waiting to get their books signed. Even I was prone to such fantasies.

You may be surprised to learn that for a debut author (especially an indie author or author of a small press), bookstore readings are really not the best way to go. Not even close. Especially in a town where you don’t have many friends or much family.

empty chairs

Think about it… how many times have you gone to a bookstore reading by an author you aren’t familiar with? You may have heard new and unfamiliar authors read at conventions and festivals or at readings where they were featured with other authors you knew, but generally, one doesn’t drive across town to a bookstore for an unknown author. The author may be brilliant, but people just have too many other things vying for their attention.

You will realize this after your first bookstore reading with 5 people in the audience (and one is your publisher/mother/spouse/best friend).

Don’t despair. Once after a reading of low attendance, one of the bookstore workers told me the first time he ever hosted Chuck Palahniuk, only one person showed up.

The best way, I think, to get an audience, is for you to find an audience that already exists. For instance, if you can do school assemblies, you have a built in audience. There are also book clubs who like author guests and regular reading series that pair open mics with featured readers. Readings at conventions and festivals can still be iffy if you are unknown, so see if you can read within an event that features several authors. That way you all increase your audience.

If you insist on having a bookstore reading, here are a few tips to make it go better:

**stick with smaller, indie bookstores
(unless your chain store is very community oriented)
**find out from the store what nights have generally brought in more people
**pick a store close to where lots of your friends and family live
**use some kind of e-invite or facebook event page to invite folks
**DO YOUR OWN MARKETING (don’t expect the bookstore to take care of this)
**if your book is special interest, contact that community to let them know
**do OTHER events around the community so people will know who you are

The best bookstore reading I did was a packed house at Ms. Figs after I had done two school assemblies in the area. The kids got excited and brought their family and friends.

Even authors with large publishers and multiple books sometimes have trouble getting audiences at bookstore readings. I think it’s best to find the audience rather than have the audience find you.

4 Comments

  1. Jack Remick
    Mar 21, 2013

    Danika: your wisdom abounds and astonishes. This is good information for all readers…and writers…take chance, take the risk, go hear a writer you’ve never heard of read.

    • Danika Dinsmore
      Mar 21, 2013

      Be the “stranger” you’d want to attend your own reading. :-) You may discover a new voice.

  2. Natalie Aguirre
    Mar 21, 2013

    That’s great advice, Danika. I worry about doing a book signing even if I’m traditionally published and am thinking how I could market to get some people to come.

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