Whitney Spotts has been a member of Schuler Books marketing department for 10 years. Whitney is currently Author Tours Coordinator for all three locations and has worked with such authors as Caroline Kennedy, Mitch Albom, Khaled Hosseini, and David Sedaris. She earned a B.A. in English from MSU and an M.A. from Goldsmiths University in London, England. She is the owner of Spotts Light Photography and on weekends she sings in the ’80s band “Starfarm.”
Can you tell us a little bit about your job at Schuler?
I manage the author events for three Schuler locations, so every day is a little different! I spend an inordinate amount of time on email, corresponding with publisher contacts, local media, and authors, but the best part is obviously hosting the authors. I've met so many interesting people, and been exposed to so many different subjects than the normal person. There's always something to enjoy or learn from.
What has been the most memorable event you’ve been a part of?
My favorite events have been the times I've worked with David Sedaris - he is always hysterical and you never know what will happen (like unexpected raunchy jokes over the intercom). On one particular tour, David was collecting and telling jokes from all of his fans. There was one woman loudly complaining about how long the signing was taking, and in a quiet lull, everyone, including David, loudly heard her say "He has to tell every person some goddamn joke."
You could hear a pin drop and David sweetly cocked his head and said, "Well, I guess I'll have to sign your book next." The woman turned purple and slowly walked up to the table, just mortified. He grabbed her book, smiled and said, "You wanna hear a joke?" It was the best thing I'd ever seen.
What makes a successful book signing/event?
Honestly, it's a very unpredictable beast - sometimes I'm certain an event is going to be amazing, and it totally tanks, and other times I will be so pleasantly surprised by the response. The thing I say to smaller and/or local authors is that you're not just competing against other events happening that night - you're competing against everything else people might choose to spend their time doing.
In particular with bookstore events, most readers might pick one event to attend a month, and 95% of the time, that's going to be a nationally touring author they are excited about seeing. So you really can't rely on the bookstore to provide the turnout because the people who make up an audience for a smaller or local author are those people that the authors have reached out to and invited. Local author events are only as successful as the author helps us make them.
Tell us about one of your creative projects.
I have a wandering attention span, so it depends on the day. I am the singer for an '80s band called Starfarm on the weekends and occasionally work on original music. I am also a photographer (www.SpottsLight.com) and I've been jotting down notes and basically pondering a plot for a novel for almost five years now. Maybe one day.
Many authors say they’re introverts and have trouble with public speaking. What advice or tips can you share about how they can market their books when they feel so uncomfortable with the process?
I totally get this. Some authors are very comfortable talking to their fans, but many are not. Writing is a solitary experience, so sharing it with other people in person can feel very intimidating. My suggestion is definitely to PRACTICE giving the presentation.
People want to hear about the book, and how you came to write it. Why this particular book? Why is it important for them to read it? You're basically trying to convince someone that your work is worth their time, so think about what it is that hooks people into your story. If you do decide to do a reading, keep it short. 5 minutes, 10 at the tops. People have a shorter attention span than you think.
Are there any books or websites you highly recommend for a newbie who wants to start a marketing plan?
We actually put together a few suggested titles and web articles for Local Authors at the Schuler Books website here: http://www.schulerbooks.com/local-author-night-application
We get SO many applications for local author events that we can no longer accommodate them all, so preference is given to authors who have done their research, and have given a marketing plan some thought.
How does marketing differ for indie authors vs. traditionally published authors?
Indie authors have to be their own publicists, and that is where most authors get stuck. Promoting a book will take up at least half of your time, and that is the one advantage of going with traditional publishers - they have people who are trained to do that for you. But some authors are awesome at self-promotion. You MUST have a website and social media presence. You MUST have a blog, and you have to work at networking with authors and readers. The internet is a wonderland for connecting authors and readers, but it definitely takes a learning curve to figure out how best to reach it, plus, it's always changing, so it's something you must stay very current on.