Selling My Books: Bobbie Coelho’s Top Tip for Book Promotion

Every Writers’ Wednesday, a successful self-published author shares a favourite book promotion tip here on Debbie Young’s Off The Shelf blog

Photo of Bobbie Coelho at book signing table

Getting ready to meet new readers

I first met the poet Bobbie Coelho at a SilverWood Books Open Day and was pleased to be invited to read and review her latest book, Reflecting the Light.

I was interested to learn that one of Bobbie’s reasons for publishing her poetry was to benefit the charity Parkinson’s UK, because she’d taken up poetry to help her come to terms with her own diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease.

Bobbie’s poetry is very personal and touching, and her books look beautiful, with stunning cover photography of flowers exuding optimism and hope. I’m delighted to welcome Bobbie to the blog today to share her top tip for book promotion. 

Debbie Young: What’s your favourite book promotion tip? It doesn’t need to be the one that sells the most books – it could just be the one you most enjoy.

Bobbie Coelho: My favourite way of promoting my books has always been to talk about them to groups of people, to read some of them, and explain the thinking behind them. This is especially true now,since neither Waterstones or W H Smith will stock my book because they lose money on local authors.

Debbie Young: How do you do it? Please give brief instructions!

Cover of Finding the Light by Bobbie CoelhoBobbie Coelho:  I gauge the audience and pick poems that I think they will like and a couple of challenging ones. I am very passionate about them. Most people have been impressed by the covers of my two books.

Debbie Young: Why do you particularly enjoy this activity?

Bobbie Coelho: I like meeting people and listening to their stories too. My books are different in that they are being published for charity, in this case, Parkinson’s UK. I particularly like speaking to non-Parkinson’s groups because I can promote understanding of the condition.

Debbie Young: Which part of the book promotion process do you like least?

Bobbie Coelho: I really hate it when I ask if someone will consider putting a review on Amazon or the Silverwood site. They say yes, but don’t do it. If they don’t want to do it – be honest!

Debbie Young: Can you name one promotional activity that you’d like to try that you haven’t tried yet – or tried but not yet perfected?

Bobbie Coelho: I haven’t given books away yet as a promotional gesture, perhaps I will try that.

Debbie Young: Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers now? e.g. news of your next book or event.

cover of Reflecting the Light by Bobbie CoelhoBobbie Coelho: Reflecting the Light will be my last book. It has had mixed reviews, most people liking it. some not. Whatever, I am very proud of the book and I found it a good way to raise money for Parkinson’s. Some of my poems make you think and lots of people need to be reminded that it is always later than you think, so don’t put off telling the ones you love how much you care – and life is to be enjoyed.

Debbie Young: What a lovely positive note to end this interview – thank you very much, Bobbie.

For more information about Bobbie Coelho and her poetry, visit her page on the SilverWood Books online shop.Her books are available from SilverWood, Amazon and other online retailers.



Selling My Books: Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn’s Top Tip for Book Promotion

Every Writers’ Wednesday, a successful self-published author shares a favourite book promotion tip here on Debbie Young’s Off The Shelf blog

Photo of Lindsay and Debbie seated at a table chatting

Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn chats to Debbie Young on the SilverWood Books stand at the London Book Fair 2014 (photo by fellow author Joanne Phillips)

Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn is the author I must thank for inspiring this series of guest posts in the first place. I blogged a couple of months ago about her “Why I Write” series, in which she’d kindly included me (read that post here). 

I was pleased to be invited also to her most recent book launch, where Lindsay, an experienced teacher of English and creative writing, was clearly in her element. She entertained a packed hall of potential readers who between them bought nearly every copy of her books on sale there, including her previous novel.

It was therefore no surprise when she revealed that her favourite way to promote her books focuses on connecting with the readers in many different settings, as my interview with her reveals.

Debbie Young: What’s your favourite book promotion tip? It doesn’t need to be the one that sells the most books – it could just be the one you most enjoy.

Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn: My favourite book promotion tip is to find ways to engage directly with readers. This can be visiting book groups, talks at libraries, and I was once commissioned to write a short story for a particular reading group!

Debbie Young: How do you do it? Please give brief instructions!

Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn: The talks in libraries have come about by various means. I’ll try to keep it brief and give a few examples. When I published Unravelling, I approached a library close to the college where I teach creative writing, (as I knew that would ensure at least a few people attended!), to ask if I could give a talk on it. I met an incredibly supportive librarian, who set up a brilliant event. About thirty people came; they asked lots of interesting questions, and I sold lots of books.

Cover of The Piano Player's Son by Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn

Lindsay’s second novel

When my second novel The Piano Player’s Son came out last year, I went to my local library to tell them about it, and they invited me to give a talk on 23rd April as part of their World Book Night celebrations. I was also invited to another library on 25th.

Recently, I was invited to take part in Warwickshire Libraries’ ‘Fantastic Fun with Words Fortnight’. I spoke at two separate libraries – on both occasions, several book groups had been invited – about my books and being a writer. Both were lovely evenings with wine, cake and, again, some great questions. Not only was I able to sell books, I was also paid to do those events!

As well as talks, I enjoy visiting book groups who have read one of my novels. This is a more intimate opportunity for readers to question you about your characters and their motivations. It’s especially rewarding when a particular character’s actions generates debate. At a group I went to recently, one of the members said ‘I’m talking about them as if they’re real people.’ I couldn’t resist replying ‘They are, aren’t they?’

Debbie Young: Why do you particularly enjoy this activity?

Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn: First, after spending so much time alone with my characters and their stories, it’s wonderful to meet readers who know those characters, have shared in their lives, and have opinions about their actions. Second, by engaging with readers, I’m promoting myself as a writer. As well as discussing individual books, readers are always interested in the writing process: Where do you get your ideas? Do you write every day? Do you have to wait for inspiration? The best promotion for books is word of mouth, and if readers feel they have shared in your creative process, they are more likely to become your advocates.

Debbie Young: Which book(s) have you used it for and when?

Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn: As I’ve outlined in question 2, I’ve used it for both my novels. It’s probably most effective in the first year or so after publication, but when I discuss my most recent novel The Piano Player’s Son, I inevitably also talk about Unravelling which was published nearly four years ago.

Debbie Young: If you were doing it again for another book tomorrow, would you do it any differently?

Cover of Unravelling by Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn

Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn’s debut novel

Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn: I’m always open to suggestions for improving promotional activities – I don’t feel marketing is one of my strengths – but, hoping not to sound too complacent, I feel these activities have been successful.

Debbie Young: Which part of the book promotion process do you like least?

Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn: I’m not a very good sales person. The thought of cold calling fills me with horror, so I don’t like anything that smacks of ‘selling’. In a crowded world, where so many seem to be shouting ‘Look at me’, ‘Buy me’, ‘Listen to me’, ‘Watch me’, my inclination is to hide away and write. But my books deserve better – there’s no point bringing them into this world and then abandoning them to their fate. So, I’ll keep trying to champion them.

Debbie Young: Can you name one promotional activity that you’d like to try that you haven’t tried yet – or tried but not yet perfected?

Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn: So far, I’ve resisted Twitter. Everyone says it’s great for writers. Last year, I even went on a day course on how to use it, but when I see all those tweets, my brain freezes over. I don’t think I can face it.

But something I haven’t tried and would like to do is Pinterest. As I live in a world of words, I’m attracted to the visual aspect of it. I think it would be interesting and fun – two words I definitely wouldn’t apply to Twitter!

Debbie Young: Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers now? e.g. news of your next book or event.

Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn: After a difficult time with my next book (where I reluctantly had to come to terms with the fact that I had two narratives jammed into one), I’m now excited to be moving forward. The story I’ve decided to tackle first once again involves family relationships – like my two previous novels. It’s about the clash between personal ambition and family responsibility: in the current culture of self-fulfillment at all costs, and the prevailing wisdom that if you want something enough, you will achieve it, the story involves the fallout if the drive towards one’s own goal is pursued to an extreme. The provisional title of the novel is Phoenix.

Thank you so much, Debbie, for inviting me to share my experiences of promoting my work on your blog. I’ve enjoyed answering your questions and remembering how rewarding the events I’ve described were. The positive side of promotion!

Debbie Young: Thank you for taking part, Lindsay, and I’ll look forward to the launch of Phoenix!

I’ve reviewed both of Lindsay’s novels on my author website – click the title to hop to the review:

To find out more about Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn and to read her always interesting and inspiring blog, visit her website:


Selling My Books: Isabel Burt’s Top Tip for Book Promotion

Every Writers’ Wednesday, a successful self-published author shares his or her favourite book promotion tip here.

Headshot of Isabel Burt

The author Isabel Burt

I met Isabel Burt through our mutual friends at author services provider SilverWood Books, and it’s been my pleasure to have helped her with some aspects of her book promotion.

Like her fellow SilverWood author Edward Hancox, interviewed here last week, Isabel is focusing on bookshops for her top tip, but this time on a single branch of a chain store in Milton Keynes, where she recently held a book signing event to mark her launch. Her experience shows that contrary to popular belief, the door of the big chains is open to self-published authors with the right approach.  

Debbie Young: What’s your favourite book promotion tip? It doesn’t need to be the one that sells the most books – it could be the one you enjoy most.

Isabel Burt: As a new author, the thing I have most enjoyed so far, in terms of promotion, was my first book signing at Waterstones, in Milton Keynes. It took a level of calm persistence to persuade a store to take an entirely unknown, debut children’s fantasy novel, but I am so glad I succeeded. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and talking with the young readers and their parents about Toxics, and other novels they are currently reading. I think I learnt more than them, on the day! My tip, therefore, would be not to ignore the valuable and enriching experience of getting out and about – it is not about profit, but of other incalculable benefits.

Debbie Young: How do you do it? Please give brief instructions!

Isabel Burt: How did I begin, with absolutely no experience? First I read your wonderful book, Sell Your Books!, and then having thrown it down, thinking I could never do any of those things, I left my writing cocoon, and began. I approached all local bookshops, either in person or by phone. It was pre-Christmas so this was a terrible time to begin, but there was no choice. I followed up by sending them further information, and then further calls or visits. Within a couple of months I had my book on the shelves at three stores, four libraries, and my first book signing!

Debbie Young: Why do you particularly enjoy this activity?

Isabel Burt: Why I choose this as my favourite, new promotional activity, is that I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and talking with the young readers and their parents about Toxics, and other novels they are currently reading. I think I learnt more than them, on the day!

Isabel signing books instore

Signing books at Waterstones, Milton Keynes

Debbie Young: Which book(s) have you used it for and when?

Isabel Burt: I chose to do book signings, for Toxics, because it is my first novel, and needs to be publicised within my local community, as well as through online social media. For the sequel, Oceans, I will not hesitate to continue building on any foundations with bookstores, as the whole booksigning event brought a feeling of resolution and reality to the experience of writing and publishing a novel.

Debbie Young: If you were doing it again for another book tomorrow, would you do it any differently?

Isabel Burt: How I might do things differently next time would be to promote the event further in advance. I only turned my attention to the first event about 10 days beforehand. I contacted my local radio station, and a local newspaper, but I see I could have made even better use of these two friendly and supportive avenues. The next store has asked for my posters as soon as possible, which surprised me, but had me realising that I should work further in advance, myself.

Debbie Young:Which part of the book promotion process do you like least?

Isabel Burt: I know I am not alone in this, but I least like having to address the demands of social media, with respect to promotion as an author. I accept this is important and invaluable, and I do enjoy making new friends in the author community during the process, but I find it hard to find discipline and direction, sometimes, in this arena, in spite of the wonderful articles that exist to help authors do so!

Cover of Toxics by Isabel Burt

Having a beautiful book cover helps persuade store managers to host book signing events

Debbie Young: Can you name one promotional activity that you’d like to try that you haven’t tried yet – or tried but not yet perfected?

Isabel Burt: I know what I would like to now try, is teaching Creative Writing. alongside continuing to write regularly. Whilst not being a strictly promotional activity, I feel sure this will still quietly enhance my promotional activities, and build a strong foundation for me as a writer.

Debbie Young:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers now? e.g. news of your next book or event.

Isabel Burt: Sales and promotion are so important, but the energy that keeps me going, is simply my love of writing – most particularly for young readers. My own childhood was spent with a book glued to my nose from the moment I had finally mastered the hieroglyphs on the page. It still gives me a thrill to imagine I have taken a young reader away to the land of my story, if only for a few hours! I hope to finish the sequel, Oceans, this coming winter of 2014, which continues the story of Felicity and Reuben in their primitive, mystical Old World.

I will be in Waterstones, Market Harborough, Northamptonshire, on Saturday May 24th, signing copies of TOXICS, with great pleasure!

Find out more about Isabel Burt and her writing on her website:


How to Sell More Self-Published Books: Seize Handselling Opportunities

Author M C Beaton at a library event

Another happy customer: international bestseller M C Beaton handsells a book to my mum in the local library!

It’s all too easy, in this age of internet bookselling, to focus only on your online sales figures, allowing  allow handselling opportunities to pass you by. But if you look out for them, you’ll be surprised at how many of these there are.

What’s more, readers who buy from you in person may be more likely to:

  • tell their friends about their purchase
  • appreciate your book more because they’ve met you in person
  • be better ambassadors for you than readers who you’ve never met

Although handsold copies may be a tiny proportion of your total sales, they will help you build your success and your fan-base, so make the most of the opportunities to sell YOUR books!

What is Handselling, anyway?

By handselling, I mean books sold directly by the author to the purchaster at any face-to-face encounter e.g.

  • at a formal event such as a book launch or book signing
  • at a stall you’ve set up at your local literature festival or community fete
  • at just about anywhere you happen to be – on a bus, at a party, in the office, in a shop

If you think selling a book by hand sounds difficult, bear in mind the example of my dear late friend Lyn. She actually sold her house while at the hairdresser’s to a lady she’d never met before. Yes, not a book, but her HOUSE, worth hundreds of thousands of pounds. Simply by chatting to a stranger. She’d only gone in for a haircut, but she got chatting with the lady in the next chair, and the conversation turned to houses. Realising that this lady was looking for exactly the kind of house that she was trying to sell, Lyn sealed the deal. If she could handsell a house, can handselling books really be that difficult?

Finding Opportunities for Handselling Books

Handselling her books, with  a beautiful smile

Artemis Cooper, handselling her books (no extra charge for a friendly smile)

Formal events provide the most natural handselling opportunities. I’ve written before about the sales potential of a well-managed book talk:

There are many unstructured handselling opportunities, if you keep your eye open for them. Last November, when I was distributing posters for our PTA’s Christmas Fair, the proprietor of a nearby craft centre asked me what I did for a living, and I told her I was a writer. When I told her about my newly-launched handbook for authors, Sell Your Books!, I didn’t expect it to be of interest to someone in her line of business, but she revealed that she had an aunt who was writing a book. I suggested that my book would be the perfect Christmas present, especially if I signed it. Ker-ching! I fetched a copy from the car. (I also sold three copies at the PTA Christmas Fair itself.)

I  always carry at least two copies of my book in my car – one a well-thumbed display copy and the other, untouched by human hand, for selling at the cover price (and at a better margin than I earn online). I have been known to make a sale in a car park, feeling (unjustifiably!) like a dodgy trader in counterfeit watches.

Great Examples of Handsold Books

I thought I was good at opportunistic sales, but my efforts were put in the shade last week by reports from some authors I was chatting to on SilverWood Books’ excellent Facebook forum. Although this is a private forum, a benefit available only to authors who currently use the company’s assisted publishing services, I have their permission, and SilverWood’s, to share here their impressive examples of handselling.

Cover of The Assassin's Mark by David Ebsworth

Tempting the postmistress

Historical novelist David Ebsworth reports:

“Posting off my latest orders at the Post Office this morning, the nice lady behind the counter finally plucked up courage to ask me what sort of books I’m writing. Turns out she’s a historical fiction fanatic and she promptly bought my “carry around” copy of my latest novel, The Assassin’s Mark.”

When she’s finished that one, I bet he’ll sell her a copy of his previous novel, The Jacobite’s Apprentice.

Novelist Sandy Osborne is a well-known and recognised local figure due to the extensive local media coverage of her first novel, Girl Cop, launched in the local Waterstones in January. At that event, she broke the branch’s record for most books sold by an indie author, and continues to capitalise on her local following by carrying fliers wherever she goes.

“I hand people the flier and tell them with a big smile that I’ve got a copy of the book in the car if they’re interested!” she advises. “I’ve sold copies to my holiday rep and the beautician who does my eyebrow shape!”

Cover ofThe Adventures of Eric Seagull by Caz Greenham

Just what the pharmacist ordered

Caz Greenham is making great headway selling the first in her planned series of children’s books, set in the seaside resort of Brixham, Devon. Not content with securing pre-publication orders from Brixham’s hotels and tourist attractions, she is also building up a considerable following in her home town of Bristol. Offering free talks to nearby schools has provided her with obvious opportunities to handsell copies to children and parents. Less obviously, she has also sold three copies to the lady behind the counter in her local  bank!

Of course, it’s not always convenient to carry physical copies of the book around, particularly if yours is a heavy book, a large format, or only available as an e-book. In that case, carry a business card or bookmark bearing the book’s details.

Caz Greenham had this technique sussed very early on: “”I sold my first book, via Amazon, to the pharmacist at Asda. After introducing my book with chit-chat and a SilverWood bookmark, he flipped open his phone, went to the Amazon page, and hey ho – he ordered The Advenures of Eric Seagull for his little boy!”

The Etiquette of Handselling

Effective handselling really follows the same rules of etiquette as promoting your book via social media. It is NOT the done thing to shriek “Buy my book! It’s wonderful!” to everyone you meet, but to engage people in pleasant, natural conversation. If the opportunity then arises to drop your book into the discussion, do so. If the person you’re talking to makes buying signals, e.g.  asks what your book’s about or how much it costs, tell them what they want to know, without applying any pressure or showing £ or $ signs in your eyes.

Then, if you have a copy to hand, that’s the time to produce it. Allow them to hold it and to flick through it – it’s known in the trade as “puppy-dog selling“. As with puppies, once readers have picked up books, they start to bond with them and are much more likely to buy. (My salesman husband once persuaded me to adopt a kitten, against my better judgement, by passing it across for me to hold. Inevitably, the kitten came home with us.) Feel free to ask the enquirer, in a casual tone, whether they’d like to buy the copy now, and offer to sign it as an extra incentive. That could be the deal clincher that makes them buy now, rather than waiting till they’re next online or in a bookshop (where they may be distracted from your book by other matters and may forget all about their intention to purchase).

If you don’t have a copy of your book to hand, have other sales aids ready instead:

  • a bookmark with an attractive image of your book’s cover, with ISBN, price and blurb
  • your business card showing your author website and Amazon page
  • a postcard of the book’s front cover – likely to be put on the kitchen noticeboard or kept for correspondence

I’ve even been handed a promotional pen with the name and details of a book on it. This probably wasn’t a cost-effective tactic, probably costing as much as the author’s margin on the book, but hey, I’ve remembered the book’s title two years on! Giving me the branded pen was a testament not only to that author’s determination to sell his book, but also to the persuasiveness of online firms such as Vistaprint, from whom it’s very easy to order suitable promotional materials at reasonable cost. Beware, they can be addictive! Been there, got the t-shirt… literally!

If the discussion ends without a sale, don’t be downhearted – at least you’ve tried. The person you’ve been speaking to will probably still be impressed that they’ve met a real live author  and will probably tell their friends about your encounter. Even in these heady days of self-publishing, many people are in awe of anyone who’s written a book. This means your meeting will have raised your profile and got people talking about your book, making future sales more likely – and that’s still a great result!

Where’s the most unusual place in which you’ve handsold a copy of your book? Do tell!

If you found this post helpful, you might also like:

A Case Study of a Succssful Book Launch with Girl Cop author Sandy Osborne

How to Build A Great Relationship with your Local Bookshop

Why You Should Sell the Author As Well As the Book


Improve Your Own Book Promotion Events By Attending Other Authors’ Launches

Debbie Young with author Sarah Lefanu

With writer Sarah Lefanu (right) at my own book launch last October

To help you get the best results from your own book launches and book promotion events, it’s a good idea to attend as many as you can of other authors’ public appearances. Even those working in a completely different genre from yours will be able to give you ideas of effective ways to present and promote your book. You may also pick up tips on what not to do!

Finding Author Events Near You

Attending author events  need not be costly or difficult. Although some literary festival ticket prices can be pricey, there are plenty of free talks if you know where to look. Your local bookshop and public library are great places to start. Special interest groups in your community, such as history societies or hobby groups, also often invite writers in to speak to their members, because they are assumed to be experts in their field.

I’ve been to some super local book promotion events and learned a lot from some brilliant writers whom otherwise I’d never have met:

Sarah Duncan, Romantic Novelist

Sarah Duncan, best-selling romantic novelist

(Photo: from her website)

Best-selling romantic novelist and creative writing teacher Sarah Duncan gave an inspiring talk in Chipping Sodbury Public Library, just as I was starting to research my book promotion handbook for authors, Sell Your Books! Having met her in person gave me the introduction I needed to contact her later in the process for further information. I’d only read one of her books before the event, but I quickly worked my way through the rest of them as a result of her talk. Don’t forget, good book talks sell books!

John Hegley in action

John Hegley,  Poet

The outwardly anarchic, inwardly genius performance poet John Hegley gave two talks at another nearby public library in Yate. One was for adults, the other was a children’s poetry workshop, and I attended the first one by myself, the second with my nine-year-old daughter. At each event, the poet unwittingly provided me with a masterclass in how to work a room – he had us all enthralled. Although his performance is supremely assured, I wonder whether there’s less confidence inside, because he hadn’t brought a single copy of any of his books to sign or sell. The closest he came to being commercial was to sell photocopied signed copies of his latest poem in typescript, with all the money going to charity. (He gave copies to the children for free.) Touched by his generosity and modesty, I probably ended up buying more of his books online the minute I got home than I would have done from a stall at his talk. (Or maybe that was his strategy!)

Artemis Cooper, Biographer of Patrick Leigh Fermor

Artemis Cooper, biographer of travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor, at a booksigning event in Gloucestershire

Artemis Cooper at her recent book talk in Gloucestershire (photo by me!)

The most recent local author event I attended was by Artemis Cooper about her new biography of travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor. This was organised by the nearby Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, whose proprietor has an uncanny knack for booking talks by writers just before their books are chosen by BBC Radio 4 to be Book Of The Week, as this one was last autumn. This was a more unusual venue – what’s known as the “Three-In-One” parish church in Horsley, Gloucestershire – not named after the Holy Trinity as I first assumed, but after its triple role as village church, village school hall and bookable public venue, hence the religious setting in the photos.

From Artemis Cooper, I gained a reminder of the power of personal warmth and charm at what can be impersonal events. She was kind, courteous, respectful to all who attended, making us each feel that she was there only for us. Not surprisingly, she sold many signed copies of her books to just about every member of the audience, a lot of them even before she had given her talk. Actually, starting to sell books before the talk was a very smart idea: it gave people two opportunities and more time to be sold to! The timing was also ideal for making multiple sales per guest: it was in the run-up to Christmas, so people were snapping up signed copies to give as gifts.

Artemis Cooper giving her book talk

Careful use of slides provided atmosphere without distracting from her speech (photo by me)

One aspect of her talk that surprised me was that she read it, word for word, from a script. Even a top authority on a subject like her is not always confident about talking off the top of their head. It is a particularly tricky thing to do if you’re restricted to a specific length of time, as she was (she had a train to catch back to London). I’ve seen Michael Palin several times at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, speaking brilliantly off the cuff about his latest book, but each time he’s overrun and had to talk very fast for the last ten minutes in order to reach his conclusion! Even for the most practised authors, it’s a tricky art.

My daughter's handwriting, inspired by Artemis Cooper's signature

What my daughter gained from Artemis Cooper’s book talk: a new respect for beautiful handwriting!

Another great joy of Artemis Cooper’s talk was to watch her mastery of the mechanics of book signing. She has beautiful handwriting and uses a carefully chosen pen to provide the necessary flourish. I had to take my nine-year-old daughter with me to the event, for lack of a babysitter, and I’d come with a bag of things to keep her amused during the talk. In the event, she spent the whole hour sitting practicising her handwriting, so inspired was she by watching Artemis Cooper at work! She also appreciated the excellent cake  and fancy squash provided by the Yellow-Lighted Bookshop – themselves past masters in the art of winning the hearts and minds of the book-buying public!

I’ll add more examples on this theme in the New Year, including the tale of one children’s author’s public appearance involving the unlikely components of an Oxfam shop and a town crier, and the imminent visit of bestselling author M C Beaton of Hamish Macbeth and Agatha Raisin fame to our wonderful library at Yate. Never underestimate your local library!

What have YOU learned from other authors’ book talks? Do feel free to share your experience via the Comments section below!

Make sure you don’t miss a single book promotion tip in 2013 by following this blog (for free!) by email – just press the “Follow” button and do what it tells you to. And for more information about by handbook of essential book promotion advice, click Sell Your Books!

The Power of the Signed Copy

Frontispiece of a signed copy of "Monkey Puzzle" by Julia Donaldson & Axel SchefflerA simple, easy and free way for you to add value to copies of your books is to offer to sign them. Readers and book-buyers everywhere value signed copies more highly, whether they are buying a book for themselves or as a gift for someone else.

Therefore it makes sense to take every opportunity you can to add value to your books by signing them, whether it’s by organising a booksigning event at a bookshop or  event or by providing a stack of pre-signed ones to your local stockist.

Offering to sign a copy can persuade a dithering shopper to buy your book. It can also encourage multiple purchases, with shoppers buying a copy for themselves and more copies for friends and relations, especially in the run-up to Christmas.

You don’t even need to be in the presence of the potential customer to offer this service. If you sell your books directly from your website, add a line on your orders page offering a personal signature for no extra cost. If you’re selling via a bookshop remote from you but local to the customer, you could offer to send a bookplate to go in their copy (much cheaper to post than an actual book).

Make It Personal

Best of all is to add a personal dedication in the presence of the purchaser. My small daughter and I were charmed recently at the Bath Children’s Literature Festival where we witnessed Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler doing a slick double act of booksigning after they’d given a public talk. Not only did they add a personal dedication to the name requested – Axel even added an extra illustration (the butterfly at the bottom of the page pictured above).

Their team of publicists ran a smooth operation. As we waited in the queue for the signing table, an assistant worked the line with a pad of post-it notes, asking us to spell the name of the person to whom our books should be dedicated. They wrote the specified name on the post-it and stuck it in the front of the book, where Julia and Axel would see it straight away. This enabled them to get the spelling right every time, avoiding wasting any books, and also bypassed the need for them to preface every conversation with “And who is this for please?” Instead, they got to chat with their fans about more interesting things, to the delight of us all. Despite having queued for some time to get their books signed, I’m sure that all their customers went home very happy indeed – and very well-disposed to buying more of Donaldson & Scheffler’s books and attending more of their public events. Result!

If this hugely popular author and illustrator can go to this much trouble, it’s really worth your while to try to do so too!

Coming soon: a new post on how to set up booksigning events in Waterstones and other bookshops. Follow this blog to make sure you don’t miss out! More top tips on book promotion are available in my new book promotion handbook for authors, Sell Your Books!

Children's Laureate Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

A masterclass in booksigning from Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler