Sunday, March 29, 2009

Book Signings - Not for Sissies

Ken Burger has written a book and now he's trying to sell it. As book lovers and folks who read a way above average number of books every year, we are the people with whom he wants to "make eye contact." This is what it is like for a relatively unknown author, the writer you see sitting at a table behind a stack of books when you enter your local bookstore:

Welcome to your book signing.

For the next two hours you try to make eye contact with strangers who don't want to make eye contact. You're friendly. You smile.

You say, "Hello, I wrote a book. This is what you do when you write a book. You stand around bookstores and bother people."

Most stop and listen because they're polite. You figure if they're near a bookstore they might want to buy a book.

But you could be wrong. What do you know? You're just a guy standing by a sign in the mall without a bunny suit.

Here's what you need to know about writing a book: It's 25 percent writing, 75 percent marketing. And you're in charge of marketing.

I wrote a book, "Swallow Savannah." It's a pretty good book, and I'm thrilled it was published and people seem to like it.

But book signings aren't for sissies. Leave your ego at home. You're not Pat Conroy. When people do come by your table, you have 4.6 seconds to tell them who you are and what your book is about.

A South Carolina story, you say. A riveting tale about the powerful forces of civil rights and the Cold War coming to bear on a small, rural Southern town.

If you don't hook them quickly, their kids drag them off to the toy section. Unless they're ravenous readers. God made a certain number of these people. They're like sharks. They eat three, four, five books a week.
The entire column is located at the Post and Courier website.

If you want to make "eye contact" with Ken, you can use the link, below, to take a look at his book (it will take a bit longer than the 4.6 seconds Ken usually gets from bookstore customers).

By the way, Ken lives and works in "Pat Conroy country" and Conroy has had kind things to say about the book. I'll be looking for this one.


  1. Yuch. I can't write a novel, though I'd like to. If I could write one, I couldn't market it-- nor would I want to. The scene he describes is not up my alley AT ALL.

  2. I hear you, John. I'm not nearly outgoing enough to feel comfortable with selling myself in public that way. I wonder if most writers ever get comfortable with that kind of marketing.