By Laura Drake
I’ll say it right up front – I’m a promo-ho. Hey, successful authorship nowadays all about discoverability and I’m not afraid to fall on my face to get my name out there.
I wrote and sold a contemporary romance series, Sweet on a Cowboy, set in the world of Professional Bull riding to Grand Central (Hachette). It was a serendipitous match, since GC is very marketing oriented.
I’ve been a huge fan of the sport for years, and connected with a large network of PBR fans even before I wrote the books. They were my ‘peeps’, and I knew I could sell books if could reach them. But Twitter and Facebook will only take you so far.
The long season of Bull Riding culminates in week-long finals in Las Vegas every year. and in conjunction, there is a “PBR Fan Zone” and Marketplace, set up in the parking lot of the Mandalay Bay Resort. Fans flock there to pick up all things PBR.
I thought, why not sell books and sign there? So, with the support of Grand Central and Barnes and Noble , that’s what I did.
Now, I know that unless you’re JK Rowling, or Stephen King, book signings are dead. In fact, I spoke with a B&N employee who told me they had John Freaking GRISHAM come sign in their store, and you know how many people showed up?
But I’d hoped this would be different. After all, I wasn’t asking people to come to me – fans would be walking by me all day!
I’ll share with you the good, the bad, and what I learned from this experience.
- I chose another contemporary western author to share a table with me – the amazing Melissa Cutler. This was good on many levels:
- Melissa’s books are steamy; mine tend to be sweeter – there was something for everyone!
- Melissa is an extrovert, and possibly a bigger promo ho than I – we worked the crowd!
- I had someone to share the expense of the booth.
- We discussed writing, the market, and even brainstormed in the few lulls we had.
- I made a great new friend
- I sold a lot more books than at a traditional book signing, though less than I’d hoped. I was surprised to find that fully half the readers I talked to only read books on an e-reader!
- Great Swag pays off. I had refrigerator magnets that any female bull riding fan would love, with my website on it. Those who read only eBooks had a reminder to download my book when they got home, and hopefully it’ll serve as advertisement to their friends in their home!
- I met a ton of people, shook hands, told them who I am, and what I write. Even if they didn’t buy my book right then, they may recognize my name later.
- People were excited to meet the actual author of the books on sale, and to have their books autographed.
- I attended the most amazing finals ever – and I got to write off the tickets!
- Being ‘on’ all day is hard. Even when I got over the nerves, I fell into bed every night, exhausted.
- I was stuck at the booth all day – no lunch breaks, no chance to visit the rest of the Fan Zone and catch the fun stuff. I was WORKING!
- I’m still recovering from the last foot surgery, and standing most of the day was a real challenge.
- This was a huge commitment – 5 days, 8 hours a day.
Book signings CAN still work, if you’re creative, and can find the correct venue, and are willing to work hard.
I’m glad I did it. Would I do it again? Ask me after I recover!
Laura's next book in her Sweet on a Cowboy series, Nothing Sweeter, is due out in January, and available for preorder here.
It was reviewed by Publishers Weekly!
“The second entry in Drake’s Sweet on a Cowboy series (after The Sweet Spot) is another character-driven contemporary western with more heart than heat. Rancher Max Jameson, stunned by the unexpected death of his father, is determined to keep the family spread in Steamboat Springs, Colo., despite pressure to sell to a greedy neighbor. His brother, Wyatt, tries to help out, though the sibling relationship is strained due to Max’s discomfort with the fact that Wyatt is gay.
Bree Tanner is scarred physically and mentally after being wrongfully convicted of and imprisoned for her ex-boss’s shady financial dealings; now exonerated and free, she decides to start over by helping to raise rodeo bulls on the Jameson ranch.
Max’s tough exterior masks relatable fear, his relationship with Wyatt is handled gracefully, and Bree’s genuine shame about her past makes her sympathetic. While Max and Bree’s romantic relationship is secondary to their internal and interpersonal struggles, complex characters and some fun full-riding scenes balance out the seriousness.”