- You have to learn to sell to a small audience before you can sell to a larger one.
Sometimes social media can give a false perception of success, whereas we think we have to constantly be working and grinding and that we have to have a lot of people support us. The truth is that we really just need a few committed individuals to build with to lay the foundation for where we ultimately want to be. If ten dedicated readers bought a book at $10 and left an Amazon review, that’s already ten reviews and $100. This is just an example and it may not seem like much to start but over time that number of dedicated people will grow. Don’t look to other people to determine what success is for you. Start off giving your best to the few people who are already there to support you.
- Don’t underestimate the power of your worth. People will travel for you and go through great lengths to meet you, hear you speak or buy your book.
I was worried that I had chosen a bad time for the morning signing. I knew that not everyone had that day off work and that the noon time slot meant many were still going to be at work. Tyler Perry’s Acrimony also released that same night and I don’t think myself more important than Mr. Perry in peoples list of priorities (they’ll choose him over me lol) However, the traffic turned out to be decent and a few people had traveled to buy a book in person. They came from Florida, North Carolina, and Gwinnett County Georgia.
- It doesn’t matter how much you plan, things do not always go as planned. (and that’s OK)
When things go opposite of your wishes, don’t stress. That’s the plan itself and one day, you will be grateful things didn’t go as you intended. I was late for my own signing but I arrived at just the right time. The original time turned out to be too early for most people anyway but I had not taken into account lunchtime! The one, two o’clock time slot was perfect far as traffic flow.
- Genuine kindness goes a long way.
When I explained to people that support was not just financial and that they can take a business card if they didn’t want to buy a book, many of them changed their minds and bought a book. I wasn’t being deceptive, I actually meant what I said and was grateful for the people who did just take cards. If they couldn’t afford a book or maybe they were a passerby who didn’t know me and wasn’t sure, they could just visit me on the web. The fact that I had accepted this as a form of support (just as we do online), people were willing to go the extra mile for me just as my kindness had done for them.
- Use what you got.
Another concern of mine was that I didn’t get the chance to get my poster, my colorful table coverings, and other author swag but I just focused on what I did have and put my energy into that. I didn’t have a card reader but I was at a bookstore, we can just use the register for change. I didn’t have author swag but I did have business cards which was the most important thing. I didn’t have a poster but I did have my voice, I can just speak. I shouted and got silly and communicated with the people. I made them laugh so they stopped at my table. I got up and walked around. Sometimes I was inside the store and sometimes I was outside talking to people who passed by. It’s not about what you don’t have, it’s about what you do have that matters most.
- Be yourself
I learned you don’t have to have a million strategies in place; you just have to be yourself. I think one of the greatest deceptions of being online is that things are actually a lot less stressful in real life. I thought I was going to be shy and worried about what to say and how to say it and how I was going to sound but none of that mattered. When it was time, I spoke and I didn’t need to have a long list of “author strategies for a book signing.” Just open your mouth and talk. Let the words come from the heart. Just be yourself.
- Embrace the growth.
My life since my last big signing event (2016) has changed dramatically. I am no longer a member of the same organizations and no longer communicate with the same people. I was saddened by the reality of that change and how only a select few of some of the people I considered family was still there to support me. However, when I got the chance to sit down and look at the pictures, it occurred to me that I have an almost entirely new group of readers! Of course, there are still my most faithful readers who will always be there and I am immensely grateful for their friendship and dedication. They are the core and the foundation. When I saw all the new faces, however, it helped me to appreciate them too and to notice my growth. Life is not about preaching to the choir all the time; it is also about bringing new people in and building with them.
- Keep writing.
I intended to sell some Stella books. I didn’t have to buy any because I still have some in stock. The reality, however, is that the final installment of The Stella Trilogy released two years ago so most people were interested in my new material (Renaissance and I am Soul). This showed me the importance of staying consistent with my writing and always having something fresh in store for my readers. Again, to sell to large audiences is to first sell to a small one and one way to take care of your readers is to consistently produce. There will always be room for older works but this weekend motivated me to write more. Whether it’s novels, poetry, short stories or blog posts! I want to give my best to those who support me.
9. Black men are supportive.
There was a surprisingly large number of Black men who supported me! They came in droves and some of them even traveled. It was humbling. When this group of men surrounded me for the picture, I felt power and powerful. And even though I didn’t know them personally, I felt protected in a way. I could feel the energy. I also thought maybe as women we can be more supportive of each other in this same way. Let’s root for one another and support one another without preconceived notions. Let’s fix each other’s crowns without telling the world it even needed fixing. Let us crown each other the way these men crowned me.
10. Relationships sell books.
Finally, I learned that relationships sell books. Some of the people who traveled to see me did so because they had already known me over the years for my work both in publishing and in ministry. I had known some of them for several years and others I was just meeting for the first time, but they knew me because they are familiar with my work. I love to blog and I enjoy keeping up with an email list for this very reason: it helps to build relationships and to cultivate bonds. It makes live events that much better because you get to meet the people you’ve been building with over the course of time but never met. You get to put a face behind the name and verbally communicate in ways far more powerful than texting will do and that is priceless.