Doing the Konrath

Joe Konrath recently blogged about his book tour…and his amazing efforts to sign stock at as many bookstores as he possibly could (I think he tallied over 100 stores). His friend and mine Barry Eisler has been guest blogging at MJ Rose’s site about the importance of authors hitting the road and doing whatever they can to support their books.

So, following the lead of my esteemed and tireless colleagues, I did some drop-in stock signings this week for DIAGNOSIS MURDER: THE PAST TENSE at B&N, Borders, Waldenbooks and B. Dalton  (I have a bunch of scheduled signings/events starting next month).  Here’s my talley so far: 16 stores, 207 books signed, 16 booksellers’ hands shaken.  Out of a 50,000 copy first printing, those signings are hardly going to make an impact on my sales figures, but I figure it couldn’t hurt. I’ll hit more stores this week and next.

14 thoughts on “Doing the Konrath”

  1. Let us know how it goes. I’m still not sure how effective signings are in general. I know there were rumors floating a few months back that if the books were signed they couldn’t be returned, but that was debunked by employees of the major chains. I suppose if you’re meeting the buyers that can’t hurt. Good luck!

  2. Yes, but if a writer cost-benefit analyzed the time he/she spent doing all that flesh-pressing against time writing a new book instead, which would be the smarter investment at the end of a year? Going on the road takes you out of the rhythm of writing. It is often difficult to get that rhythm back. I’m somewhat skeptical that book signings do much more than splash water on your ego. It’s like Amazon numbers–yeah, your book went up to 1200. Congratulations, you sold 22 books. Over at Walmart, you sold 3,300 books. Regarding book tours/signings, I think it’s likely that the convention wisdom is magical thinking. Be prolific. That’s a better use of time. Let your agent sort out the rest. And maybe hire a publicist.

  3. Unfortunately, Gary, in today’s world of publishing that’s the worst advice a writer could possibly get. The writing is only part of the job — and not even always the most important part — but the selling is part of the job, too.
    Any author who just writes and then sits back and hopes that others will do the work or that the books will somehow sell themselves is likely to be scratching their heads in a year or two and wondering why they didn’t get a new book contract.
    Writers must actively promote, both themselves and their books, if they hope to have any success in this business. If they don’t, they’ll fail. It doesn’t get any more basic than that.
    As for the advice to “be prolific”… ask Ed Gorman what publishers think of authors who are prolific. (Hint: it’s about as positive as having herpes.)

  4. I followed JA Konrath’s book tour and his signing efforts. I think it was a good experiment. I worked for a book store for a time and autographed books often grabbed new reader interest.

  5. Thanks, David. God, that’s depressing. In my mind, there is nothing more antithetical to the writing process than a book tour. I know many very shy artists and I’ve read that writers like Anne Seybold (LOVELY BONES) and etc. are quite shy. They’re artists not salespeople.

  6. Nice work, Lee. You can’t think about time/cost effectiveness, because that doesn’t take into account the intangibles.
    Intangibles are things like meeting a bookseller who really likes you, reads your book, and sells 500 copies over the next few years (it’s happened to me).
    Intangibles are things like running into the district manager of the region while signing stock, introducing yourself, and getting in the chain newsletter (it’s happened to me.)
    Intangibles are things like your publisher taking notice, and giving you more money and more promo dollars (it’s happened to me.) Or meeting a radio host, or some fans who get really excited when they see you, or booksellers who already know you (all of which have happened to me.)
    If you rely on the 60 cents you make for each copy sold, it isn’t even worth the gas, let alone the time and effort.
    But you’re building a brand, establishing some name recognition, recruiting a sales team, improving your sell-through, and disturbing the universe rather than sitting on your duff and crossing your fingers.
    Kudos to you. And 207 copies signed is damn impressive—your distributor and sales reps are doing a good job getting your books itno the stores.

  7. Regardless of the promotional effort 50,000 copies in print is a damn good backup for whatever you do. Lee’s books are in every bookstore I go into. That’s the real key.

  8. In reply to Gary, I think it’s important that you train yourself to write anytime, anywhere, and don’t allow yourself to lose the rhythm in the first place.
    Coming from a screenwriting background (part of that in the animation ghetto), I’ve had to learn to write even when I’m physically and mentally exhausted. So I’ll be doing as much writing as I possibly can when I go on tour for the first book.
    If that proves to be impossible, I’ve learned there’s no better way to regain that broken rhythm than to sit down and get to work the moment I get back home.
    Since the sale of my book, the thing I’m learning quickly is that publishers truly appreciate a writer who is gung-ho about promotion. I told my editor I’d be promoting my ass off for this book and he certainly wasn’t unhappy with the idea.

  9. There are so many choices out there, it’s almost impossible to find new books by new authors. You know one way I do it? Watch who’s signing at bookstores. And when their book sounds interesting, I go and get it. And I tend to read authors who will be back for a second book so I know if I want to keep my autographed collection going.
    This is how I have found some of my absolute favorite authors who now get read as soon as a new book comes out. Or in Lee’s case, as soon as he finally has a signing for his new book. 🙂 (Yes, Sloan and Co. are calling me loud and clear. I don’t know if I can wait a month to get the book!)

  10. “There are so many choices out there, it’s almost impossible to find new books by new authors.”
    I find them in the new releases section and in the new author program at BN. It’s only hard if the new author isn’t widely published.

  11. The new releases section of the bookstore contains only a tiny portion of the new books that get published. There is such an onslaught of titles released each month (just from the major NY publishers) that it’s no wonder that many readers feel lost. That’s why it’s essential for authors to do whatever they can to get their names out there.

  12. There are thousands of books published every month by the major commercial presses. (Forget about the small press stuff.) Any given bookstore only stocks a fraction of those new titles.
    I’ve got a shelf here with a couple hundred mystery novels on it that were published in the last two months — if you were to go down to the local B&N they’d probably have ten percent of them at most. (These are books from St. Martin’s, Time Warner, S&S, HarperCollins, Penguin, etc.) Same is true of every genre.
    The supply so dwarfs the demand that a book that sells even half of the copies printed is considered a success.

  13. Well, if that’s the case those are the ones who didn’t, and won’t, make it. Pity really, but I find it hard to believe they are published by big publishers who paid the authors an advance and won’t be stocked. In makes no economic sense and frankly David I just don’t believe it.


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