I’m having extremely sporadic online access this week, so I’m posting several ALA tips at once. I might not be able to get online again before next week, which is kind of driving me crazy.
The ideal way to attend a conference like this is when a publisher sponsors you. But even if you’re going on your own, check into doing a signing or two.
By the time I decided to go to ALA, it was too late to set up a signing with Clarion, who published my poetry collection STAMPEDE. As a trade publisher, they had long before arranged their signings and author events.
But I also told Capstone, an educational publisher for whom I’ve written tons of books, that I would be at ALA and was available for stuff. Since educational publishers don’t typically send authors to conferences, they are more eager, I think, to take advantage of having authors there to sign. They set up two signings for me and arranged an exhibits badge for me. And at each signing, they GAVE away 150 copies of one of my books. At most signings, the publishers discount books, but few give them away. It was wonderful! Instead of my sitting there awkwardly for an hour wishing someone—anyone—would come buy a book, I had 50 minutes each time of solid signing and chatting with librarians. I had lines!
How fun to see a line of people waiting to say hi and get a signed book. Even though Capstone ate the cost of those books, they got great publicity. And so did I. I got my name in front of people who had never heard of me. I got to really connect for a few moments with each person. I could ask where he was a librarian or describe the whole series if she was enthusiastic about the title I was signing. I could commiserate over library funding or take pictures with people. I could talk up Capstone and their generosity in giving away books. And it allowed me to connect more with Capstone itself, a company that is one of my major writing clients. It was really a win-win situation for everybody.
Also, if one publisher sends you and pays your way, be sure to still contact your other publishers and ask about signings. Many authors have multiple signings at various publishers’ booths, and that’s completely accepted.
And once you have your signing schedule, put that info on a card you can hand out. It’s pretty easy to print out labels with your signing times and booth numbers and slap the labels on the back of your business cards.
Finally, smile. Relax. Look people in the eyes. Signings can be a terrific highlight of your conference.