See the Author? Be the Author repost from Killer Nashville

See the Author? BE the Author
By D. Alan Lewis

* This article was originally posted on the Killer Nashville blog.  My thanks to Tom Wood who asked me to write a ‘How To’ article for the website.


At a recent book signing/selling event, a gentleman approached my table and struck up a conversation. There were several authors including myself at the event, all of us lumped together in a section of the room with our wares on display. Each had a small table with a variety of books, running the gamut of genres.

The man walked down the row, looking but not stopping until he stepped up to the last table, mine. He started picking up bookmarks and cards, asking questions, and finally made a purchase. As I handed him his change, I mentioned a book by one of the other authors but he only shrugged, smiled, and informed me that my books were the only ones he’d consider purchasing.
Intrigued, I asked why only my books. His answer was simple but powerful.

“Because you look like a real author. You present your books and market them like a real author.” He went on to point out the bookmarks, cards, and other promotional items, and then added, “The other folks here didn’t think enough of their books to even bother.”

At a loss, I looked at the other author’s displays and caught on to what he meant. An absence of basic marketing merchandise became very clear. Some of the authors didn’t have bookmarks, or even business cards. No one else had signage of any type. While I’d spent money early on in my book-selling adventures to purchase display racks and stands, no one else had.  After my first book went to print, I began paying attention to other authors and how they did things. I looked not only at what they were doing but also at the authors themselves.

So, here are a few basic tips that I’ve learned to promote sales at events.
Look professional: No matter where you are selling books, dress well for the occasion. I’m not saying you need a suit and tie, but shorts and a t-shirt shouldn’t be the go-to wardrobe choice.

Business cards: Seriously, invest some money in professionally printed cards. Homemade cards printed on your home computer will look like what they are, homemade and cheap. There are many sources online for inexpensive but good-looking cards. But do something different with your cards that’ll get people’s attention.
In my case, I write mainly science fiction and fantasy stories. I found a website (Zazzle) which has hundreds of styles. Instead of one box of cards, I purchased three. Zazzle offered several styles of sci-fi art that are on the card’s background, so I picked out three distinctly different images. It amazed me how folks will approach the table and look at the three different cards and comment on which one has the best art. If the customer likes the card, they’ll keep looking at, ingraining your name in their head along with the picture.

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Bookmarks: Like business cards, there are many online sources for bookmarks. In my case, I found an inexpensive printer that makes double-sided bookmarks. Instead of using both sides to promote one book, I placed ads for different books on each side. This way, the person is exposed to more of my works after they leave the table.


Signs and banners: These can be an issue for some folks because of the expense. There is also an issue at times as to whether you’ll have space at an event for big, freestanding banners. The best advice is to start with what you can afford and go from there.

Tall banners are great for projecting your name and books titles across a room. If well designed, a good banner will generate interest and curiosity in you and your works. If your books are lying flat on a table, then a tabletop banners or signs are a great way to get passersby to notice the book covers.


Racks and stands: Too many authors feel that simply laying their books flat on a table will get them noticed. This is simply not true. Flat books are only seen by folks walking directly in front of your table. Inexpensive bookstands or wire racks will increase the visibility of your books from a distance and draw folks in to take a closer look.

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While these are just a handful of suggestions, they are the most basic and usually, the most overlooked. Next time you’re at a book event, look around, see which authors grab your attention, and ask yourself what made you look.