"I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma." ~Eartha Kitt
OK, so the best thing you can do from any experience, I think, is learn. I've been to a half-dozen author appearances/signings in the last 8 months, and including yesterday's at the Hobart Book Expo, this is what I think:
1. I've figured out how to put together a decent display. Take a look:
This includes a sign with my info (made by a friend in the sign business), blow-ups of my book covers (mounted and laminated at Staples for $18 each), my books (display copy sitting in a $3 picture frame/plate holder from AC Moore), bookmarks and business cards (both made at Vista Print), book prices, and a clipboard with a sign-up sheet for my electronic newsletter.
By the way, yesterday I only sold 4 books... it was quite a low turn out (some of the authors there didn't sell any) and I probably wouldn't do this event again.
2. Stand by your table rather than sit (even though I'm sitting in the picture) - it's easier to talk to potential customers if you're standing.
3. Realize you can gain something by talking to fellow authors as well. I exchanged business cards with everyone there, and had a long conversation about small presses...with a man who turned out to be the owner of a small press in Ohio. You never know who you're talking to!
4. Charge prices in $5.00 increments if possible - OK, I read this somewhere, but it makes sense. You can make change more easily, and people might be more likely to purchase a book in the first place, if it costs $15.00 rather than $19.95 + tax. And by the way, I noticed that about half the writers there yesterday were self-published, and their books were quite expensive!
5. Keep writing books. Again, the self-published authors I spoke to were there with THE ONE BOOK they had written. And I think that's fine - if you have a book that's burning to be published, and that's your one baby, fine. But if you want to be successful, become a name that people will remember and seek out and want to follow, then you have to keep writing. Not one of the self-published authors (and some of the ones published with small presses fell into this category as well) had written a second book. Gotta do it. It's one of the biggest parts of your marketing strategy, in my opinion.
And that's all today, folks, on the subject of What I Learned From This Public Appearance...