Aside from being an introvert, I am also Disabled. In particular, I’ve got two main disabilities. One is Cerebral Palsy. I’d consider this a secondary disability, but it does impact my speech. My primary disability is my blindness.
Combined, these two conditions can make author publicity extremely difficult for me. In particular, when it comes time to do author events and author book signings.
I’ve learned that I’m just simply not comfortable in extensive, in person, book signings and book events. For one thing, when a stammerer is talking endlessly for even a few minutes, that drains energy faster than a metaphor debate. It takes almost all of my spoons to speak to people, including verbally extensive question and answer sessions to boot. I try to save my verbal energy for things like Zoom meetings, testifying in court for my expert witness work, or podcast interviews, but when it comes time to promote my books, I’ve been expected to just try and do book signings and book events like everyone else.
With the release of Artificial Divide, COVID-19 prevented large gatherings, essentially. I was happy about this because it gave me a chance to pitch some alternative marketing approaches that would be beneficial to keeping my energy and avoid burning out on book events while still giving readers an opportunity to take part.
I worked out multiple writing classes with the Chicago Public Library to give back to the community in various ways. I wanted to help other local marginalized authors while getting the word out about Artificial Divide.
A book signing technique with indie bookstores was a game changer for me in a good way. Typically, authors hold real time events at local bookstores, including live book signings. Because of the pandemic, I had to get creative. In the end, this new method of book signing, called, stock signing, is perfect for my disabilities and keeping spoons.
Stock signing is pretty straightforward. Authors first contact their local bookstore. In my case, I had multiple bookstores I wanted to try and build a relationship with, so I contacted all of my local bookstores within a two-mile radius of me. Authors pitch their book and ask if they have copies that they can stop by and sign on a day and time that’s convenient for the bookstore.
If the bookstore has copies, great. If they don’t, pitch your book to them, especially if it’s distributed by Ingram. This was exceptionally easy to do via email.
In the case of Artificial Divide, many local bookstores already bought copies. This made scheduling to come in and sign them far easier.
After scheduling dates and times, go to the bookstore, sign a few, or more, copies, and then leave the store, making sure you know where the bookseller places special signed copies of books. Direct readers to that bookstore.
This does two things. It puts the pressure off me because I’m not interacting with a whole crowd. It also gives me a chance to browse some audio books and get to know the bookstore manager better in person than a phone call or email. Phone calls take a lot out of me. Email is perfect for me, but technology can glitch.
I’ve had stores propose a consignment partnership with me. Even though I’ve done this before because that’s the only way many indie bookstores would buy the book, I’m just not very good at keeping up my own orders and inventory and stock. A lot of my smaller publishers didn’t do consignment deals directly so I had to have books shipped to me and then bring them to the store. This could be very problematic for other Disabled authors. In some cases, the publisher was willing to ship them directly to the indie bookstore of choice but that isn’t always possible. Because of my own travel limitations and other challenges, I typically don’t do consignment deals.
A consignment deal is where the author and bookstore work out an agreement where the author would sell directly to the bookstore and split profits. Usually, the split will be a 60/40 percent split with the bulk of the split going to the bookstore. Due to my various disabilities, however, a consignment deal isn’t always possible because of the bookstore policy or financial reasons. For example, what if a book doesn’t sell. I’d have to pick them up. I’d also need to pay a consignment fee in some cases, and I’d rather avoid fees, even if it’s a small fee like $25.
I’d need to order books on behalf of the bookstore. I’d also be responsible for any lost or damaged books, and I’d rather take a very hands-off approach when selling books. I’d rather someone else handle everything. Sure, I could get more money doing a consignment deal, but that’s a lot of responsibility I simply don’t want.
Signing stock in indie bookstores gives me a chance to direct customers to a bookstore and give them some publicity in addition to sales. It also allows me to develop one on one relationships with the various employees in the store. They, in turn, are enthusiastic about supporting me and will aid me in promotion. I’ve even been asked to be a guest speaker at some local events inside bookstores where I’ve done stock signings because I’ve developed a long-lasting relationship with the bookstore manager.
Stock signing could be an effective marketing strategy for Disabled authors that, like me, simply just don’t do well in crowds or large gatherings. There are many benefits involved for everybody, including your readers. They have a location they can reserve signed copies and they can arrange pickup times with the bookstore rather than with you directly.
If you find events exhausting or unworkable, stock signing is an excellent compromise for a lot of benefits to gain in return.