Michael Haskins

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

An unusual book signing - Colonial Bank, Ft. Lauderdale

I just finished three book signings in less than four weeks and I learned a lot about the buying public, readers, and how the current economic crisis is affecting book sales.

But first, let me tell you about meeting Patti Stegal, (see photo) the daughter of my friend Sue Harrison. Patti was in town from Illinois, where she’s a teacher. Sue bought her a copy of “Chasin’ the Wind” when it first came out, as a gift and after reading it, Patti wrote to tell me how she enjoyed the book and hoped we could meet on her next visit to Key West. Well, that was a couple of weeks ago and we met at the Hog’s Breath and talked about the book and its sequel.

It was fun meeting Patti and I want to thank her for her interest in my book and taking the time to discuss it with me.

Oct. 29th, I drove to Ft. Lauderdale, where my friend Joe LiVolsi is a VP in the private banking department of Colonial Bank. He called me about six or eight weeks before and said the bank was having a branch anniversary party with a Key West theme, and asked if I would attend and sign my book, if they bought copies.

It took me all of a nanosecond to say yes!
(Antonio “Tony” Coley, left, president & CEO of commercial banking for Colonial Bank’s South Florida region; Eris H. Sandler, president & CEO of retail banking for Colonial Bank’s South Florida region; Michael; Pam Stolarz, vice president/branch sales manager for Colonial Bank’s Bayview office; and Joe “you know him, you love him” LiVolsi, private banking manager for Colonial Bank’s South Florida region).

I showed up a little after 5 p.m. and the Colonial Bank branch was closed and preparing for the celebration. They had a room set aside for me and when I looked in, I saw three stacks of my books on a table. Wow! I’d never seen that many copies of it in one place before.

By 6 p.m., bank customers began to join the festivities. There was food and drinks and Amy Rice, the VP for marketing, met me and introduced me to bank officials and customers. I thought this would be an hour where, like in the bookstores, I would sit and sign books. Wrong.

For more than two hours, I met and talked with people about writing, Key West, my book, and living in Florida. This was an opportunity worth killing for (at least in fiction) because more than 70 people receive copies of my books, courtesy of the bank, and that’s 70 people I probably wouldn’t have reached otherwise. And, if I am lucky, that’s 70 people who will buy my sequel, when it comes out. (And maybe Amy and Joe will invite me back to sign the sequel!)

The average sale at book signings, I am told and personal experience has proven correct, is 10 copies. Of course, in my two signings in Key West – 80 copies at KW Island Books & 50 copies at the Hog’s Breath Saloon – I exceed that, but in all my other singings I’ve sold less or a copy or two more than 10.

So, getting more than 70 copies of “Chasin’ the Wind” to people was exciting and there were some in Key West who wondered if traveling more than 150 miles to sign at a bank was a good idea. No, it wasn’t a good idea, it was a GREAT idea! Who would’ve thunk it, a bank as a venue for a writer.

If I learned anything from this signing, it is to accept all opportunities to sign your book, no matter where it is. For a writer with his first book out, talking at libraries, civic groups, and banks can only benefit you. I have postcards with the book’s cover on it, and on the backside there’s my photo, and blurbs about the book. I always pass these out wherever I am signing or talking. In Key West there are a lot of fundraisers for worthy groups and one of the things sponsors do is ask for donations to its silent auction. I always donate a book. Getting a copy of the book in people’s hands is the name of the game. Writers go to signings to sell books, but never make the costs back, so what they are really doing is working on name recognition and setting the sale for the next book.

Another aspect of the Colonial Bank signing that benefited me is also worth mentioning. Prior to this signing, I agreed to be part of the author showcase at the Parkland Library (Parkland, Florida) and to sign at the Murder on the Beach (http://www.murderonthebeach.com/) & Mystery Writers of America combined booth at the Miami Book Fair. Joanne Sinchuk, who runs the bookstore, let me know that she only had three copies of my book, since the publisher told her it was out of stock.

That was news to me. I contacted Five Star and was told “Chasin’ the Wind” had sold out of its first printing and they would know within a week or two if there would be a second printing. So, there I was with two signings and no books!

Well, Amy and Joe had told me they ordered 100 copies for the bank signing. I got in touch with them right away and offered to buy back any books that would be left over.

For a while, during the signing, I looked at the line and thought maybe there wouldn’t be any books left. It turned out that what could’ve been bad news, not selling all the books, turned into good news, because there were about 23 copies of “Chasin’ the Wind” left at the end of the event and now I had copies for the two other signings.

I will post about the Parkland Library and Miami Book Fair signings, and how the economy affected both, next time.

FYI, the sequel to “Chasin’ the Wind,” “Free Range Institution” is at the publisher. I should know in six weeks if they will publish it.

What unusual locations have you signed at? Or, I will take suggestions on other locations that might work for a book signing. Please, let me hear from you.

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