I always get asked this question by other indie authors . . . How do you find book stores and festivals open to do book signings? Well, a lot of it is just online searches, phone calls, and persistence. The events don’t come to you, you go to them. Sometimes it pays off with phenomenally great book sales and networking contacts, other times it’s a slap in the face as you get rejected. It’s a gamble that many independent authors like me have to go through.
First and foremost, start local! Hit your local area book stores, new and used books, discount booksellers, whomever you can find. Local stores love to promote their local authors so they will be amicable to letting you set up a table. Sometimes, they will take a cut, while others do it free and clear. Barnes and Noble do a lot to support local authors with book signings in store. Just find out who their event coordinator is and you can email them to inquire about an event. And if you have a hometown different from where you live, try there too. I’m originally from Phillipsburg, NJ, and I will doing a book signing at the Moravian Book Shop in Bethlehem, PA, on Saturday, June 3. It’s one of the closest book shops to my hometown and they have always supported me.
Next, find events within your genre! I am a steampunk and fantasy writer, so I trend toward steampunk festivals, renaissance fairs and comic-cons. A simple Google search will find you a compendium of festivals looking for vendors. The key is getting into the mix early. Some of these events have a juried selection for vendors, so getting in your application early helps. Also remember that travel may play a part in your selection. I try to stay within the Northern Virginia area, which is why I was able to get into the Tell-Tale Steampunk Festival in Baltimore, MD, the Ocean Renaissance Festival in Ocean City, MD, and Awesome-Con in Washington, DC. It’s not that far to travel and, in some cases, it’s a one day trip with no need for a hotel.
Now, last year I drove all the way up to Waltham, MA, for the Watch City Steampunk Festival, and I will admit it was a long drive for a great festival. I didn’t sell as many books to cover the cost of travel, hotel, food, etc., but it was an awesome event. There are plenty of festival and conventions like this that will require long travel on your part. It’s up to you as to whether or not it’s worth the trip.
Don’t forget to search for book festivals specifically! Although they can be far and few in-between from the regular fests and cons, there are plenty out there to support your indie authors. In Northern Virginia alone, there is the Imaginarium Book Festival in Washington, DC, the Gaithersburg Book Festival in Gaithersburg, MD, the Fredericksburg Independent Book Festival in Fredericksburg, MD, and the Williamsburg Book Festival in Williamsburg, VA. Now these events are often juried, meaning you have to send them your latest book to see if you fit into their event. I’ve been selected and not picked for some of these events, so be prepared. Sometimes, they have too many good authors to pick and choose from.
Last but not least, look outside the box! Don’t focus on book festivals, comic-con’s or other book-related events. Try anything and everything from craft fairs to music festivals. They all have vendors and having an author there is something different for that audience. Two years ago, I got turned on to 2nd Sundays Williamsburg in Williamsburg, VA. It’s a monthly arts and music festival held March-December in Colonial Williamsburg. I have my own spot and I set up there all the time. It’s a regular event for me where readers of my books (in the Hampton Roads area) can always find me to see what’s coming out next. Between my regulars and tourists, I have a steady stream of readers stop by my booth.
So, it is up to you to find that sweet spot of festivals, fairs, conventions, and book stores to sell you and your books to new readers. There is always someone looking for a new author or series to latch onto. It could be you, but you have to work for it. These things don’t just fall into your lap.
And be sure to check out my Events page to see where I’ll be in the coming months. My schedule is changing and updating on a regular basis, so STAY TUNED!
Mark Piggott is an award-winning independent author of several fantasy/steampunk novels and short stories. A 23-year U.S. Navy veteran, his stories will take you from the shores of eternal Avalon to a dystopian steampunk future and other worlds.
The Forever Avalon fantasy book series—including Forever Avalon, The Dark Tides, and The Outlander War—is available online at Amazon and other booksellers. His fantasy steampunk novel, The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart, is available through Lulu and other booksellers.
Cross over The River of Souls in a fantasy novella and the steampunk historical fiction, Corsair and the Sky Pirates from Curious Corvid Publishing. The Last Magus: Dragonfire and Steel and The Prometheus Engine: Book Four of the Forever Avalon Series, are coming soon. Stay tuned for more new fantastic stories from the imagination of Mark Piggott.