Yesterday, I held my first book signing. My local library was kind enough to let me set up a table and meet with folks wanting to hear about the process of traditionally publishing The Choice.

I had some hesitation of doing an event like this. First, many libraries already warned of low turn-outs for author events and pushed back on the idea. Second, what would I talk about? I really didn’t want to read from my story as the basis of my event. I decided to talk about the publishing process itself and talk about my story as it fit with the conversation.

Summarizing the publishing process that I endured was easy as I’ve lived it for the last three years for my book. I have plenty of experience with PowerPoint through the work that I do in my career. I looked back at the timeline and added a diagram of the time it took from inception of idea to the release date of my story. I also had summary of queries from logs I kept so I could provide some counts and various statistics of responses I received.

Practicing my presentation a few times, I had it down pretty well. I didn’t want to spend too long talking as I wanted to sell some books too! I made sure to stop by the library and review where I’d be speaking beforehand so I’d be comfortable with my surroundings. I also took note of what supplies I’d need, such as a folding table. Ahead of my event, I had ordered a poster size version of my cover art from Vistaprint as well as some bookmarks. Finally, I made sure to bring one-dollar bills, change, and a card reader I could plug into my phone so I could accept credit cards. At the end of my talking, I added easily that I have books for sale if anyone has interest as well as a signup sheet for recording e-mail addresses. I was pretty confident I had all I needed; my main concern was the presentation itself and hoping I’d have an audience.

As it turned out, I had some help with wrangling people to come to my signing and I had a nice size audience. The library staff were extremely friendly and the topic of the publishing process was something they were happy to have someone speak about. My major issue turned out to be something I had not considered – isn’t that always the case? People wanted to write checks, and James Alexander is my pen-name. It wasn’t until after someone wrote me a check under my pen-name did I realize I’d have a hard time cashing it so I provided my real name! That will be something I’ll have solved for the next event.

A piece of advice I read about previously and turned out to be the best advice I heard was to make sure someone is available to help by accepting payments. There was a rush at the end of my event where people wanted to talk to me, and others wanted to purchase copies of my story. I had a friend who took over the collection of money and providing books so all I had to do was worry about talking with the audience and signing books.

Key items to bring to bring with you to a book signing:

  • A folding table (an extra table is always a good thing to have!)
  • Your books
  • Pens
  • Bookmarks
  • Candy to hand out or cookies – everyone loves treats!
  • A poster and other marketing items
  • Pamphlets
  • Book holders
  • A friend for helping

I hope this may help anyone thinking of holding a book signing for the first time. Mine turned to be a fun and engaging event that I’d repeat.

As a new author, I jumped head first into self-publishing with my first two works. As far as mistakes go, I tend to think that I made every one that seasoned authors warn new authors about, and like many, I didn’t realize how challenging marketing would be.

Here are two versions of my marketing history:

Scenario 1: I wrote a book, posted it to Amazon, and expected my work to speak for itself. After all, I put a ton of effort into writing, and editing. That idea quickly vanished and I found myself searching high and low for ways to market my material.

Scenario 2: I wrote a book, found a publisher, and expected help with events and getting the word out from my new business partner. I had a publisher! Again, the idea quickly vanished and, again, I found myself in a marketing quandary.

So what is a new author to do? There is no silver bullet for this beast. I’ve tried google ads, Facebook ads, Twitter ads, lots of ads. Whenever I’m tempted to write an ad, I have to put the situation into perspective. How many times have I clicked on an ad and actually bought a product? For me, the answer is: close to never. I don’t believe ads work to sell books. I do believe that ads help build a following.

Strategic Advertising

Instead of targeting an ad to buy a book, I’ve been targeting to build an audience. I primarily use Facebook to build my platform. Periodically, I place $5.00 to $10.00 ads with the goal of gaining followers. The more followers I gain, the more I can reach them with free posts to my Facebook page. Are people more likely to buy from someone they don’t know through a random ad on Google, or are they more apt to buy from an author they have chosen to follow?

Rather than spend money on marketing, I now look for creative ways to reach my targeted audience. At first, I was thinking too big. Ads people can buy are a massive audience, and people seeing the ads are inundated with competing advertisements. I’ve shifted my efforts to reach people closer to home. I’m targeting my effort by honing in on people that are interested in my work, rather than casting a small net in a large ocean, hoping to get a fish or two.

Advertisement Alternatives

I’m looking to libraries, and looking to hold events. I can talk all day about my publishing endeavors, and it’s a chance for me to connect with people while showcasing my work. Instead of spending money on ads, I’m spending on marketing materials such as pens, coasters, and bookmarks, all with images of my book and my website address printed on them. I use these for incentives to help promote my work.

Instead of spending time on advertisements, I now spend my time researching ways to get my book out to bloggers and review sites. The more reviews I can get for my work, the more my writing will be visible to others searching Amazon for their next read.

As an author striving to get my material out to the world, I am faced with countless sites offering services for marketing and promotion. I tend to believe that it’s not the authors making money, but rather the companies and individuals offering services to the authors who hope that by paying another party, their work will get noticed. My advice to other new authors out there: don’t fall into that trap! Find ways to reach your audience that won’t cost a large sum of money. I have yet to read about a pay service that will guarantee sales.

It used to be that publishers took care of marketing, but I believe that to be less so now. More and more, authors need to handle their own marketing, and much of that marketing is about connecting to readers and building a foundation for future works.

A version of this post originally ran on the Hometown Authors site on July 31, 2018.

Self-publishing is quite a journey. As hard as I tried to make sure everything was in order when publishing my story to Amazon, I succumbed to stupid mistakes – one of which applied to the formatting of my story.

I really wanted my story to stand out and look pretty on whatever electronic reader was being used. I love how the drop cap format looks at the beginning of chapters and tried countless ways to apply it to my book in the Kindle format.

For those of you that may not know what the drop cap is, here is a paragraph from my story, “Beautiful People” (Yep, it’s my latest story that isn’t even out yet – so here’s a sneak peak – but you will have to squint!), with the drop cap format:

Drop Cap Example

So yes, I spent hours trying to figure out how to implement the drop cap. I could do it in Word, but it wouldn’t transfer to the Kindle format. I tried everything. First, using the drop cap function in Word – no luck, then I tried forcing the format by making the font bigger for the first letter – looked horrible, finally I went through every chapter of my book and pasted an image in of the first letter and wrapped the text around the image. OK, yes, tedious. But I wanted my book to look a certain way. The next step was to import the story and check to see if the format transferred. Guess what? It did!

At this point, you are probably wondering where my big mistake was? I’m getting to it. It’s a good one.

I scanned my story for 50 pages or so and it all looked great. Pleased, I patted myself on the back and took myself out for a coffee.

It was about a week or so later that I was notified by a reader that the very last chapter of the book had a bunch of random formatting. After the last sentence of the book, it had random chapter headings such as, Chapter 20 Chapter 30 Chapter 10 – these were all listed in random order. Evidently the import didn’t like some of the chapter and drop cap images and moved them to the end of the book. I’m sure it left some wondering what my intent was or if there was an issue with their download. So if you are one of those with my uniquely formatted book, yes, you have all the content. Please consider it a one of a kind. I do have a planned sequel to “Conduit: The Beginning”, so I like to think that the random chapter lingo at the end of the book can signify the chapters in the future books to the series!

So what have I learned from all of this?

1) Check every page with every fresh import for your story, even if it’s small change.
2) Use a tool such as MOBIPOCKET eBook Creator

To my second point, I dabbled with the MOBIPOCKET eBook Creator to fix the format of my book. It will import a Word file with special formatting and convert it to a .mobi file which is easy for the Kindle import and it appears that it will accept a lot of special formatting without much hassle. From this point on, I will always be using this tool. You can grab a free copy here:


Now some may be wondering why I’m sharing my stupid mistake with everyone. It’s my hope that others can learn from my error. E-publishing is a new world for all and though it is easy to post a book out on Amazon, there are plenty of pitfalls that need to be avoided as well.

Good luck if you are in the process of getting a book out there and I hope I have helped in some way!