Tom Barry Writes

Author of "Saving Jay" & "When the Siren Calls"

How to get people to promote your book for free – even if they don’t like it

Is Vanity Fair Game?

Is Vanity Fair Game?

Are you vain and susceptible to flattery? Join the club. Just about everyone is. Our self-image would need to be seriously down the negative scale for us not to like hearing nice things about ourselves. And what is really curious about flattery is that it works on us even when we don’t believe it. We could all do with upping our game when it comes to this flattery malarkey -getting and giving compliments. I’ve yet to hear anyone complain about getting too many compliments. And while someone might (foolishly) reject a compliment (e.g. “you’re just saying that”), don’t be conned into thinking they’re not still glowing inside.

What has this got to do with promoting books for free? Well, more than might be immediately obvious. And it’s a simple “trick” i stumbled upon, when someone who didn’t love my book posted a picture of it online next to their pretty and smiling face. So hundreds and possibly thousands of people came to learn of the existence of my novel who otherwise probably wouldn’t have. And, hopefully, some of them were intrigued enough to sample it and, who knows, actually buy it.

Look Inside cover for your name and your best quality.

Look Inside for your name and your best quality.

Here’s how this strange event came to pass.  The girl with the pretty young face had won the book in a raffle and I had signed it without meeting or knowing anything about her, other than her name. But nevertheless I signed it with a cringe-worthy flattering dedication. And she was so chuffed about the dedication that she wanted everyone she knew to read it. “Look what Tom Barry is saying about me”, as if I was George Clooney or something. And although she only gave the book 3 stars, she gave me 5 stars for my audacity.

I’m going to suggest that anyone who gets their hands on a book with a flattering personal dedication is going to want other people to see it. They are much more likely to talk about it, show it around, and to leave it in conspicuous places – the coffee table maybe, if the personal dedication says nice things about the owner. And I have to admit I have few scruples in this regard; if I have met the person I’m signing the book for, in a bookstore for example, I can always find something nice to say about them (man or woman). “Stunning, fascinating, enchanting, inspirational, gifted” doesn’t even scratch the surface of what I’m capable of. And if I haven’t met them, say they won my book in a promotion, well, I just roll the dice. These are people who read fiction after all, and we all know that people who read fiction are the most brilliant, mysterious, empathetic, discerning of types, overflowing in warmth and generosity of spirit. (Have you ever heard anyone say they are mean spirited!)

(For those who liked my 20 Tips for better book signings, here’s number 21. Never ask the customer at a signing “Would you like a personalised dedication.” Just do it. If you feel that you really must ask permission, then go with “Is the dedication to you or a friend?”)

Could this back-fire? Could the person getting an obviously insincere dedication be offended? I guess so. They might think it childish or sexist or demeaning or patronising or any one of those afflictions. But on a scale of 1-100 there is a very low risk of this reaction. If you like the idea of compliments in dedications, but are wary of a negative reaction, then there’s always the low road option, a compliment so generic it will apply to everyone (or, rather we will all agree it applies to us!) “Thoughtful, interesting, sincere, caring, generous, considerate” are typical adjectives in the ‘least risk of rejection’ category. But fear not, in my experience most people are likely to react just like the young woman who posted a picture of my dedication, with a smile on their face and their tongue in their cheek. And if our dedication can make someone smile, it must be doing something right :)

(You may request your own personal signed copy of When the Siren Calls in the  comments section  below).



Top 20 Tips for better book signings

The Typical Book Signing

The Typical Book Signing

You want to have a successful book signing? I can guarantee you will have one. Every time you meet with customers and potential customers you are gaining multiple important benefits, no matter how many or how few books you sell.  Believe me, customer-facing time is golden time, savour it, learn from it, and don’t judge the success by the number of books you sell.

But as we’d all like to sell as many books as we can at every signing, let’s look at how to do that.  I’ve spent over 20 years in sales and marketing, selling to some of the biggest brand companies on the planet. I drew on that experience to create the master persuader Jay Brooke in my new novel, When the Siren Calls.  Jay knows how to appeal to the head and the heart; he knows what makes you tick, and what buttons to press so that you are seduced into giving him what he wants. And what works for Jay in the boardroom and the bedroom, also works in the bookstore. And remember, it’s ok to be proficient in Jay’s persuasive skills, what is important is the intent, and your intent is simply to have others share the pleasure of your work.

These top 20 tips are geared toward a bookstore signing, but most will apply anywhere you want to sell books.  The circumstances of each bookstore and your relationship to it will impact the levers you can pull.  So test every potential lever against two key questions:

Is this helping capture attention?

Is this encouraging the target to take action?

If the lever fails both tests, it’s probably not a lever that’s right for you.  Equally, my Top 20 is not an exhaustive list, and they are Tom Barry’s Top 20. So work from first principles, think creatively and practically about other things you might do, and test each idea out against my two questions. Pretty soon you’ll have your own top 20 list that is tailored perfectly to your strengths.

Before we get into the tips, I’m going to give you one absolute must do if you want to maximize your effectiveness – have someone with you to help.   There are many reasons for this, and one is that it’s important we capitalise on our strengths, and don’t fret over our weaknesses. There’s a good reason for all those pretty PR girls with short skirts at corporate events! Apart from increasing the selling horsepower, an energetic and enthusiastic youngster can do your ice breaking and PR for you.  “We’ve got a celebrity author in store today who I would love to introduce you to …”.  Who can possibly resist that invitation from a pretty girl or handsome lad?  (And if your helper is unlucky enough to encounter old grumps who doesn’t want to meet a celebrity author, why would you waste your time with them when you could be spending it with someone who does?) With the best will in the world, not every author can or wants to push themselves into the limelight. If you are one of those authors, then pick an extrovert helper and let them take the strain, have them pull the target into your limelight.

Ok, I’m beginning to think I’m over-delivering on the promise of this post. So here is Tom’s Top 20 Tips for a successful book signing  – in no particular order.

1. Pick a busy day (usually a weekend perhaps before a holiday.)

2. Let everyone you know, know about the book signing.

3. Get the bookstore to promote it in advance (email, twitter, poster, discounts)

4. Look the part – dress to impress, be a class act

5. Be visible; operate inside and outside the bookstore in busy malls

6. Position your book at multiple strategic locations in store

7. Trumpet or invent your local credentials for local connectivity

8. Hand out freebies, e.g. a bookmark, mints and sweets,

9. Look for icebreaker clues in customer behaviour (what shelf are they at?)

10.Engage targets with an easy, open-ended question or friendly observation

11. Be warm, welcoming and smile; let the customer buy, don’t overtly sell

12. Be conversational, not interrogative

13. Use humour, it’s the closest thing between people

14. Use flattery, and endorse the customer’s reading preferences

15.Use “if”  to plant subliminal suggestions

16. Be agreeable; don’t create a right/wrong, win/lose contest with a target

17. Be a showman/woman, offer OTT dedications “to the beautiful and elegant.”)

18. Be a dealmaker, round down the price, discount for multiple purchases

19. Have a “10 second” flyer with blurb that targets can read as they queue

20. Create a sense of scarcity for you and your product  (hide those stacks of books!)


And one for luck, bring a pen, and make it a flashy one.


Don't Copy Jeffrey's Approach

Don’t Copy Jeffrey’s Approach

The secret to a successful book signing is really your own behaviour in front of the target.  Forget those images of celebrities sitting behind a table in front of a line of people. That’s OK if you are Jeffrey Archer (who has sold nearly 300 million books).  For mere mortals that is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. We must take responsibility for engaging the customer. When you’ve captured the target’s attention, just be nice and friendly, and you will sell your books without using any of those manipulative closing techniques that belong on the used car lot.

Remember to thank everyone you speak with for their attention – whether they bought or not.  And make a further call to action by ostentatiously inserting something in the book as you pass it over. It could be a postcard or bookmark highlighting your website, it could be a discount coupon for another of your books, and my favourite, a simple thank you card saying how much you appreciate Amazon reviews!

Still hungry for more tips? Check back here for my 20 Top Power Phrases to use at bookstores to help people come to a decision in 10 seconds to buy your book; remember, people love to buy, but hate to be sold to. Or, if you’d like to be entertained while you’re being informed, check out how Jay Brooke operates in When the Siren Calls. Whether it’s in the boardroom or the bedroom, observe Jay’s words and behaviours as he seduces his hard nosed business partner, and the woman of his dreams. Here’s a video taster of Jay in action.

Thanks for popping in and please do leave a comment below to build on this post.


How to sell a book a minute at book signings

cobhamMy home for the last 20 years has been in rural Surrey, 20 miles outside London. In that time my local high street has changed enormously – from a charming main street full of independent traders and quirky tea shops to one that is little different to any high street in a small UK town. The chain stores have moved in and the independent traders are increasingly forced out by spiralling rents that only the multiples can afford. The butcher, baker, and candle-stick maker have all been replaced by a one-stop Waitrose supermarket.  At least the High Street has no Mucky D yet (except in my new novel), so when the golden arches do arrive, maybe I’m the guy to blame.

But the one beacon that survives is the local bookshop. Despite the internet, Amazon and e-readers, it is still doing a thriving trade. You get friendly service and expert advice from genuine book-lovers who are knowledgeable on the books they stock, many of which the staff have read. Advice you know you can trust, unlike a 5 Star review on Amazon !

At the moment I am a long way from Surrey, in sunny California in fact. And it was here that, last week, Coronado library hosted a local author book-signing.  I was flattered to be asked my advice on how to make it a success. My mind went to the time my local store kindly hosted my first ever book signing. I remember being unsure what to expect, but optimistically took 50 copies of my debut novel, When the Siren Calls along. Here’s what I learnt about book signing:

1. If you do it wrong, you will sell no books.

2. If you do it well, you will sell lots of books

In the first hour I sold no books. I was suited and booted sitting behind my specially set out table with my books on display, smiling and saying hello to everyone who passed by. In that first hour only one customer stopped for a chat, a pretty long one as it turned out, but did not buy a book.

Three hours later I had sold all 50 books. If I’d had a helper with me I reckon I could have sold 100 books in those 3 hours. That’s 33.3  books an hour, or a book sold ever 2 minutes.

What changed?

Simple. I got off my butt and took responsibility for engaging every customer that entered the store – apart from the ones I simply couldn’t engage because I was too busy selling books.

Now, while this was my first ever book signing, I confess I am not a novice in the psychology of selling. I know not to begin by offering help, and not by asking a question that can be answered with a yes or no. “I don’t suppose you want to buy my book” being the classic example. But the most important thing I did was taking responsibility for making the customer connection. I would say about 9 out of 10  of the customers I engaged bought my book.

But if you ARE interested in knowing more about the do’s and don’ts, then leave a comment, and I will happily send you my 20 sure fired tips for selling more books at book signings.  And if you’d like to watch a tongue in cheek video  that gives unique insight into the psychology of selling, then check out this link.

Thanks for popping in.