Anatomy of a Signing Tour

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Misty, David, Faith, and John at the BooKnack in Rock Hill, SC, during Faith and David’s signing.

I have just returned from what I billed as the Summer 2013 Thieves’ Quarry Signing Tour, which is a somewhat overblown and pompous way of saying that I spent the week doing signings across a small section of the Southeast.  It was a great week — fun, exciting, exhausting, and ultimately, I think, pretty successful.

I signed in a variety of bookstores.  Three were independents: Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia; The BooKnack in Faith and Misty’s home town of Rock Hill, South Carolina; and Malaprops Bookstore in Asheville, North Carolina.  Another specialized in used books — Oakley’s Gently Used Books, on the pedestrian mall in Charlottesville, Virginia.  And one was a Books-A-Million in Gastonia, North Carolina, just outside of Charlotte.

Each had something to recommend it.  The three indies were marvelous places to shop for books (and to sign).  The owners obviously love books and have a deep respect for authors.  Their businesses have survived against all odds because of this passion for the written word, because of a dedicated and equally passionate clientele, and because the stores offer something that mall booksellers and large online businesses can’t replicate:  they hand-sell books.  They know their readers, they know their product, and they specialize in matching one to the other.

Chris Oakley at Oakley’s Gently Used Books is much the same, but she has concentrated on building a stock of used and collectible books.  Her store is small (though it has recently expanded) and it specializes in genre fiction.  Like the owners of the other Indies I’ve mentioned, Chris is a bibliophile and is incredibly knowledgeable; she has simply taken a slightly different approach to running her business.

Finally, we have the Books-A-Million.  It is easy to dismiss this as just another giant box store.  But the fact is that Sonya, who manages the store, and who approached Faith and me about doing a signing, is every bit as in love with books as the other folks I worked with on my tour.  Yes, the store is bigger, it is filled with toys and games and other items that seem to have little to do with selling books.  But Faith and I had a fun signing at the store, in large part because Sonya and her staff were enthusiastic, fun, and ultimately very professional.

Naturally, with only a week to travel and five events planned, I couldn’t cover as much territory as I would have liked.  (I do plan to do more signings this fall, so if I haven’t reached your neck of the woods yet, there is still a chance that I will.)  But a writer can never reach every fan, or even a majority of fans.  In a way, that’s not the point.  Without meaning to sound crass, the truth is that a signing tour like mine is designed to be more about self-promotion than the number of fans reached or books sold.  It has to be, because again, our reach is so limited.  So I might have signed in a small geographic area, but I Tweeted and Facebooked and blogged about the tour all week long.  And as long as I was “talking” about it online, people were thinking about Thieves’ Quarry and Thieftaker.  The tour was very much like my blog tour, of which this post is a part, and which is still ongoing: it was about creating buzz for the books, and I think it did that.

Signings can be disasters.  I’ve written before about the horrors of a mall-bookstore signing:  sitting alone for two hours selling not a single book, as people walk by avoiding eye contact, and store staff come by, offering food and drinks out of pity.  I had no disasters on this tour.  On the contrary — I sold a good number of books at each store.  I got to meet fans who were familiar with the Thieftaker stories and wanted to talk to me about plots or characters, or who just wanted to thank me for writing the books.  As an author I can tell you that never grows old.  I also converted some folks into new fans, which is always fun.  I did two signings with Faith, and got to spend time with Misty and John as well — a great dinner in Rock Hill on Thursday, and a hilarious breakfast with Misty and Faith on Friday morning.  I stayed with friends along the way, rekindling old friendships that have nothing to do with writing.  I stayed two nights with Faith and her husband Rod, including one late night of guitar playing that I won’t soon forget.

I missed my family, of course.  I lived out of a suitcase, logged over 1,600 miles in the car.  I missed my daughter’s championship swim meet, something I truly regret.  But this is part of being a professional author.  For much of my year I get to sit in my office and write.  But I have to promote, too.  I have to meet fans and sign books, because it’s good for business, and also because it’s good for my writer’s-soul.  

And I can tell you that I am already looking forward to the Summer 2014 A Plunder of Souls Signing Tour.

David B. Coe
http://www.DavidBCoe.com
http://www.dbjackson-author.com
http://magicalwords.net

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13 comments to Anatomy of a Signing Tour

  • [...] Thieves’ Quarry Blog Tour to offer a sort of post mortem on my trip. You can find the post, “Anatomy of a Signing Tour,” at http://magicalwords.net, the group blog on the business and craft of writing fantasy that I [...]

  • I’m glad your tour went well! I just finished reading Thieves’ Quarry this morning and enjoyed it very much. I’m definitely looking forward to more of Ethan’s adventures. He’s such an interesting character to read about.

  • Sounds like your Summer Signing Tour was both productive and fun, which is almost always my goal for anything work-related. It’s hard to achieve though, so congratulations on your success! My copy of Thieves Quarry is sitting on my shelf, waiting for me to have time to read it. Definitely will get to it this week. Also, I love the title of the next book!

  • Thanks so much, Gypsy. Glad you enjoyed it!

    SiSi, thanks. Yes, it was a good trip. Hope you have fun reading TQ when you get to it!

  • And when David says breakfast was hilarious, he is SO not exaggerating! I’m sure a few people wandered by us wondering what on earth Panera had put into our drinks!

  • Razziecat

    Sounds like you had a great time! I would loved to drop by but alas, I’m nowhere near the Carolinas (although it feels like it today, with temps in the 90s up here) I’ve almost finished Thieves’ Quarry and damn! This one rocks! Not that the first one didn’t, but you raised the bar with the second one. I’ll be posting a review on Amazon when I’m done ;)

  • Yep. It was fun! And productive in ways that can / will affect careers and friendships and networking.

    David was a good sport. Why? Because my kitchen was being remodeled during his stay. It was noisy, people were in and out, and we (okay, I) had a bitch-session with a contractor. (David ran and hid during that one, may I point out. :) ) But signings and travel are always more fun with friends involved, and David is a lovely house guest and a fun writer to sign with. And the guitar session was fabulous!

  • Vyton

    Sounds like great fun and productive.

  • quillet

    Glad your tour went well. Sounds like you had fun. And long live independent bookstores! In fact, long live bookstores, period.

    Like Gypsy, I’ve finished Thieves’ Quarry — more than a week ago in my case, cuz I didn’t just read it, I devoured it! And I agree with Razzie, it’s even better than book 1, because of … and because of that twist when … and then the … Ahem, spoilers removed. So read it, everyone, read it!! ;)

  • Misty, no kidding. That was seriously fun.

    Razz, I appreciate the kind words. I’m very excited about this book, precisely because I think it’s the best work I’ve ever done. Glad you liked it, and thanks in advance for the review.

    Faith, thank you. You were wonderful hosts. Can’t wait to visit again.

    Vyton, thanks. It was.

    Quillet, amen to that. And thank you so much for the kind words. Please, feel free to review it on Amazon!

  • Sounds like you had a lot of fun! I like the idea of coordinating all of that … the other authors to sign with, the blog tour, the Twitter and Facebook push. You put in a lot of work, but that sounds like it’ll have a lot of ripple effects. (My copy finally arrived. Looking forward to reading it!)

  • Interesting that you did a signing at a used book store. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone doing that before. How did you hook up with themin the first place? Did they order/stock your book or did you have to bring them in yourself?

    It was great seeing you in Greensboro; thanks for stopping for lunch. Next time remember to hit the B&N here (assuming it’s still open; these days you never know…).

  • Sounds like the good vastly outweighed the bad. Just reading about all your hard work, though, makes me exhausted!