Monday 7 August 2017

The Trials Of An Indie Author: Signings & Conventions


It's been all over my pages, and social media, I'm going to The Darker Side Of Fiction 2017 event in October. It's my first signing event, and I am beyond excited but also nervous as all hell. I've been a writer for over sixteen years and a published author for almost twelve. My authorversary is actually on Thursday! Yet back when I first started there wasn't as much social media presence and there certainly weren't as many opportunities for indie authors to take part in big signing events. How far the world has come. So as I wrote last week about the social media (found here) that comes with being an author, today I thought I would do a piece about signings and conventions. What to expect, and how to get yourself on their lists, as well as maybe arrange your own local signings on top.

One of the first things you need to do is work on making connections, something I've talked about in a previous piece, (found here) and it's these connections that will help you broaden your scope and allow you to reach out to the people who run the conventions and signings. Be warned that a lot of the time the signings are being prepared very far in advance, so it might not be for a few years. On top of that, there are loads of other authors who'll be looking for a spot same as you. It might be that you don't get picked that first time, but you should keep trying. Sometimes it's the back collection of books you have, sometimes it's your visibility in the book world (both indie and traditional) and sometimes it's just that you're not a right fit for the convention itself. Some of those will change with time - you'll release more books, and you'll get more visibility and you might also find a different convention that is perfect for you and your books. My point is that don't lose heart if you don't get chosen at the first try. Keep a lookout for sign up forms and keep trying.

When I saw the form for Darker, I was pretty much a newbie to the whole convention thing, and I still am. I had no idea the amount of work that would be involved before I even got to the event. I'm not just under nine weeks from the big day and it's been a year long task to get all my books ready, my SWAG ready, banner, and hotel and all of that that goes with it. It's gonna take time, and while in some ways you can prepare in advanced - i.e getting the copies of your books and designing and ordering SWAG and a banner - some of it can't be done too far in advance so be ready for that. I started preparing myself way back in July of last year once I'd been announced and was sure that I was going. That was a full eighteen months before the convention itself and it's only now that I'm pretty much sure I have everything and am ready to go.

If, like me, you're working on a budget, having the time to do things in small doses makes life easier all round. I've been getting my books in batches and setting it out so I order every other month and stuff like that. My SWAG initally, was all ready, but then as I learned more about what kind of things other authors were doing, I realised I needed to up my SWAG game. On top of that, I've only recently found out about blogger packs. And if you've never done a signing or a convention, you may not know these things. I'm lucky in that the Hourglass hosts are amazing and have set up an Author only group so I was able to ask questions, and I think it's pretty much standard. Don't be afraid to ask if you're not sure. Even if the other authors have all done this before, everyone does things differently and someone will have an idea of what you need.

So let me break down what I have learned for you so that if you're doing a signing for the first time, you know somewhat what you can do. Blogger packs are basically for the bloggers who are attending the event, there's usually a list somewhere. What you want to include is information about your books, a business card and some SWAG that's pretty much unique to them that may allow them to keep or to do their own giveaway after the event. I've included badges, postcards, bookmarks, a business card and a pen, all of which are linked to me and my books. I've also got a small number of VIP packs which contain the same, and the only way to get the badges is to buy a VIP pack, though I do have pens on their own and magnets that are completely separate to the packs. I will also be offering bookmarks and postcards to all who want them and have a special fingerprint card that I'll be doing for whoever wants them.

Next thing you want to remember is that there's a limit to how many books you can have with you. I went with twenty of each book and I don't expect to sell all of them. That said, pre-order forms are an amazing way to have some idea of who wants what and gives the attendee a chance to pay with paypal. That way all they have to do is turn up, me sign the book and they're on their way. I also have a cash float and plan to allow people to pay over the paypal app if that's easier for them. The majority of this can be done in advance and the organisers will probably host your pre-order form on the event website.

You will also want a banner and some items to make you stand out, to add to your display. My banner was a bit of a nightmare for me to get it done, but now that it is finally here, it looks amazing. I did it in advance so that if there were any problems, I wouldn't be caught short. My display will have things that I've picked up from here and there, like police tape and hand cuffs and a little ghost pop vinyl. You have to remember that you'll have limited space and that you want to be able to appeal to people walking by, but also have room to sign and chat with the readers.

So that's the basics of the actual event itself, and the build up to it. But what about finding how to sign up in the first place? I mentioned connections, but what do they bring you? Well, Facebook groups are a huge resource for an author. I found the sign up to Darker through one such group, I've also since signed up and am on the standby list for another event. I've filled in a few forms for future events as well. And because I'm in those groups, I'm able to work out in advance what kind of events I'm looking to do. Being that I'm in the UK, a lot of my events will be in the UK. I don't travel long distance that well and while I would love to do a signing in the US or somewhere in Europe, I don't yet have the visibility or funds to do so. That may be in the plans for later in my career.

How about local signings? I've reached out to my local library a couple of times about doing a signing with them. A lot of my books are set either in the town I live in and is therefore mentioned by name, or the towns are based on my home town without actually naming it. I know of other authors who do signings all over the country and in their local area so I know it's possible to do. I've not yet managed to arrange one, but reading out to the library or a school or something like that, is a good tool to try. As I write YA, it makes sense for me to reach my target audience, which includes schools, but further on from that, you can arrange to do talks with students about just being an author and the level of work that goes into that. My advice is basically to keep trying and moving forward. Sometimes you'll get told no, but other times you might find a door that opens and you're suddenly in the thick of plans and dates and conventions a plenty!

Good luck and I hope to see some of you at Darker2017!

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