Thursday, April 26, 2012

To market, to market

Remember the nursery rhyme “To market, to market, to buy a fat pig. Home again, home again, jiggity jig.” When it comes to marketing books, I harken back to this saying.

In order to exchange money for a desired item, one has to go to the market. Afterwards, it’s time to go home and rejoice. Interpolating, all authors have to do is get their books to a market.

Sounds easy, right? Just get out there and sell those printed books. But where? And how?

Many authors hold booksignings to market their work. While it’s traditional to hold signings in bookstores, there are other options. For instance, if your book is about horses, you might sell books at horse events. If your book has a quilting hook, you might do something at a quilt show or quilt shop.

I’ve held signings in ice cream stores for a summer release, in a seashell gift shop for a beach mystery, and at a golf course for a story where the victim was found on a golf course. I’ve also given talks at local clubs such as Rotary Club, D.A.R., and the historical society. I’ve launched books and authors programs for various vendors and library cultural events such as the Big Read. I even held one signing at a real estate Open House. At each event, I made sure to have my books for sale.

Why not just hold the signings in a bookstore? Believe it or not, that’s not an option for everyone these days. We have a satellite kiosk of a nearby indie bookstore in our county located inside an upscale flea market venue, but that’s it for bookstore in our area. I’ve signed at an independent store just south of us, but the big box bookstore in the same town wasn’t interested because I wasn’t pubbed by one of the Big Six.

Having to be creative about signings has helped me to enjoy the events I create. Have you ever sat at a signing in a bookstore and had folks walk by who won’t look you in the eye? Or had people refuse to take a free bookmark because they say they don’t read? (This happened in a large bookstore in Jacksonville!) Why put yourself through such torment? I’d much rather have a festive atmosphere, complete with a talk or a reading, gifts, refreshments, and a discussion time with fans.

 It isn’t enough to schedule a signing; you have to tell people about your event. Getting press releases to the paper is easy; getting them to run them is out of your hands. Write the best, most interesting press release ever, and send it off a couple of weeks before your event. Some newspapers have online calendars where you can enter your event in an online database, which is helpful in the event your press release doesn’t get picked up.

 The newspaper story will help attract new fans and will serve as a reminder for established fans. Send out a direct mailing to folks on your mailing list regarding the signing. Be sure and use your social media networks to spread the word as well. Encourage fans to bring a friend.
I can’t imagine having too many people at a signing. Wouldn’t that be a lovely problem to have? I would certainly do a jig all the way home in that instance!

Maggie Toussaint

Formerly an aquatic toxicologist contracted to the U.S. Army and currently a freelance reporter, Southern author Maggie Toussaint loves writing mysteries. She’s published four romantic suspenses and four mysteries, with Death, Island Style and Murder in the Buff her most recent releases. Her debut release, House of Lies, won Best Romantic Suspense in the 2007 National Readers Choice Awards. She’s currently a board member for Southeastern Mystery Writers of America. Visit her at,, and  


  1. Great idea, Maggie!

    I have people hounding me to do readings in Cupcake bakeries. Hmm. Since they already have the book, perhaps they have ulterior motives...


  2. This is so true, Maggie. I have better luck signing at the hotels were my books are set, at libraries, schools, retail shops, etc. And I've become quite the expert at writing press releases.

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  4. Maggie, I agree about the festival/special interest atmosphere; I write a tarot-based paranormal cozy and have much better responses at metaphysical bookstores and at tarot reading faires, than regular bookstore venues. Great've inspired me to get more creative with my own signings. Going to check out your mysteries:)

  5. Hi Pamela, Kathleen, and Eloise,

    Thanks for your comments. I think creativity in signing locations makes it fun for everyone. Bookstores are nice, but you shouldn't restrict yourself to one venue. Think outside the box. I like to come up with inexpensive doorprizes for some of the signing guests. I just have folks put their names in a hat and we have a drawing at certain intervals and the only qualification is that you must be present to win.

    At my last signing, I gave away seashells with my webiste addy inked on them with permanent marker. The key is to keep them hooked for more books! The more fun they think you and your books are, the more likely they are to pick up your next book.

    Again, thanks for your lovely remarks. I always appreciate comments on blogs. I know how busy everyone is these days.


  6. Thanks for the advice Maggie. I've recently released a Murder mystery and am trying to navigate the muddy waters of promotion. Any advice is helpful.

  7. I've been trying to rack my brain on how to market my YA paranormal mystery (witches and ghosts) and your seashell with website inked on them gave me an idea. I will be doing a pretty big book festival in about 3 weeks and will try to come up with an idea for giveaways for that particular book. My state stories - everything is state related - but I've slacked off on promoting them as much as I did, mostly because I've not put any new books out in a year in that series. Thanks for sharing some new and fun ideas that actually sparked another idea for me to market my YA paranormal mystery, which I've been told is written like a Nancy Drew mystery. E :)

    Elysabeth Eldering
    Author of Finally Homea, a YA paranormal mystery
    "The Proposal" (a 2nd place winning April Fools day story), a humorous romance ebook
    "The Tulip Kiss" (a 1st place winning story), a paranormal romance ebook
    "Bride-and-Seek" (a Petigru Review selected story), a paranormal romance ebook

  8. Good ideas, Maggie! I'm hoping to get some opportunities at places in the Lake District, as two of my novels are set there. Am building up my contacts there and am just waiting for 2nd one to come out next month.

  9. Wow GREAT advice! I am getting to the point where I might be able to start doing these types of events -- takes organization which I haven't quite achieved yet. Seems like it was easier to set goals, be productive, set up and attend events when I had a full-time day job LOL! Alas, I know that is not true. My life was disrupted in 2009 and it takes time and baby steps to get it back into some semblance of order and I'm happy to say I'm getting there!

    Thanks for this post - I'm going to bookmark it for future reference.

    Good luck & God's Blessing on ALL!

  10. Too many people at a book signing? It would be a wonderful dream to run out of books!

    Morgan Mandel

  11. Morgan is right. There can never be too many people at a booksigining. What do you find the optimum length of the event to be, Maggie? Or anyone else? How many hours is too many, how many hours is too few? Thanks!

  12. Good post, Maggie. When my new mystery, NO WAKE ZONE, comes out, I'm doing a book signing at the Iowa Great Lakes Maritime Museum in Arnolds Park, Iowa, with profits going to the museum, which plays a role in the mystery. While the event won't be a money maker for me, I'm hoping I'll connect with a lot of new folks and gain from word-of-mouth advertising.

  13. Terrific post, Maggie, and by the way, I LOVED Death, Island Style! My first cozy is being released next spring, and I'm struggling to think of creative venues for a book signing. My main character is a title searcher, and most title exams are done via the internet these days. This post has inspired me, though, to think outside that blasted box!

  14. Okay, you do not look like a dweeb now. You have lots of comments. Your advice is always sound, and I especially like the "festive atomosphere" idea instead of holding out book marks, etc. Personally, I hate book signings! But I have done one and survived and sold a nice number of books.
    I'll be in a five-author/five states book signing in October--where? Oh, no, not in Texas. In Kentucky!

  15. I have done a few booksignings. Fun but so stressful. I asked my beauty salon and the closest Starbucks. They refused. I'm glad I don't have to do it with ebooks. Yet I always order a few printed books for the older friends who don't read ebooks. You're very creative Maggie with your signing places.

  16. I find it very stressful as well. These are great suggestions, Maggie. I'm sure they will help many writers.

  17. Taking a break from Malice Domestic to check the comments. First, thanks to all my friends, new and old for stopping by. It is so heartwarming to have folks leave a comment so you don't feel like you're shouting down an empty well.

    Good luck with your murder mystery, James. The world is always ripe for an entrepreneur.

    Elysabeth, I'm sure your next signing will be truly creative!

    Hi Jenny, Thanks for the compliment. Some ideas are good, some bomb out, but you never know until you try something. My motto is that I'll try any promotional idea once to see if it works.

    Good luck with your new release, Paula.

    Hi Pamela, I'm sure you're glueing yourself back together stronger than ever. You will be a marketing force to reckon with!

    Hi Morgan and Liana, Thanks for the comments. Liana, I'm only good for 3 to 4 hours tops. I prefer two hours for a signing.

    Hi Linda, I'm wishing you all the best for No Wake Zone! That's so nice about the museum.

    Hi Linda R, I'll bet a title searcher can uncover lots of deadly secrets - what fun!

    Hi Celia and Mona - thanks, friends, for stopping by! I hope my imagination holds out for another few years.

    Hi Jacqueline, Signings are stressful no matter how you frame them. The secret is to take a deep breath and remember it will be over soon!

    Thanks, everyone. Keep the comments coming!


  18. Great post. Getting into the community is really a great way to get noticed. A friend of mine, Alice Zogg, is doing a signing at the local YMCA in in the Los Angeles area. I get to moderate for her and will ask if I can do a signing when my book comes out in July. I have also done senior citizens groups. Some will buy the books and not just want to be entertained. They ask great questions, too.

  19. Hi GB, I think doing something with the Y is a great idea. Senior citizen groups are great too. I spoke at a senior center and thought it might be a treat to bring a snack, but the staff said there were too many people with dietary restrictions. So I brought ink pens instead. They loved the ink pens and there were some sales. Clearly a win-win situation for all. Thanks for your comment! Maggie

  20. I'm late to the party, as usual. :-) Some of my best signings have been at Revolutionary War sites when I was dressed in period clothing and had at least two redcoats assisting me.

  21. Hi Suzanne,

    That sounds like a lot of fun! Thanks for adding to this fun discussion of places to sign books.

    Enjoyed having you drop by for a visit, Maggie.

  22. Hey Maggie,

    I just returned from our local Sisters in Crime meeting (okay not just this minute but within the last couple of hours) and found out that you will be our guest speaker sometime in the near future. Yay! us - lol. Looking forward to meeting you either net month or in August. E :)

    Elysabeth Eldering
    Author of Finally Home, a YA paranormal mystery
    "The Proposal" (a 2nd place winning April Fools Day story), a humorous romance ebook
    "The Tulip Kiss" (a 1st place winning fast and frigid story), a paranormal romance ebook
    "Bride-and-Seek" (a Petigru Review anthology selected story), a paranormal romance ebook