Book signings and readings are effective tools for marketing your work after you’ve done the hard work of creating your book.
Even if you don’t have a publicist and your book is not traditionally published, you may want to consider not only getting your books into brick and mortar places, but creating a book signing promotional event as well.
At first blush, you may not be comfortable with this idea, but consider all your options.
Word of mouth is still one of the best ways to sell a book, and connecting with your readers in person will leave the most lasting impression.
Interacting with people has you a bit unsettled? You can be creative and consider bringing a few close friends, family or other writer friends (perhaps consider creating an event together) as your tribe, if you don’t have a group like the Bethlehem Writers Group, or aren’t comfortable being alone.
How I Did My First Book Signing
I finished the illustrations for an anthology for the Bethlehem Writers Group called, Once Upon a Time, Sweet, Funny, and Strange Tales for All Ages, edited by Carol Wright and Marianne H. Donley. I have a policy no matter the money or the size of the project, I must do my best that I can at the time. It bears my name and is a part of my reputation. No one will love my work more than I.
That said, when clients are happy with your work, they sometimes go above and beyond to keep you happy. That’s exactly what happened to me. The Bethlehem Writers Group paid for my way from Maine to Pennsylvania and put me up for nearly a week so I could participate in my first book signing!
It was a long but thoroughly enjoyable bunch of bus rides to meet my host, Diane Sismour, (the author who did a great deal of organizing the signings) leaving the deep golden fall leaves of Raymond, Maine for the still buzzing, flowering beauty and a surprising hot patch in Allentown. With three signings scheduled for the week, I got to see first-hand all the preparations that go into making it all work smoothly.
Planning a Successful Book Signing
First, you need the book and people interested in it.
People can’t buy what they don’t know about. I often share parts of my work in progress to create buzz about my work and the books I help create.
Are you active on your social media accounts?
Are your friends and fans aware of your book, its details and progress?
It’s not only a good way to stay accountable, but also to build interest. If you start publicizing after your book is written, it’s better than not at all, but it is a loss of opportunity, especially with pre-orders.
Getting Bookstores to Sell Your Book
The next step is to approach bookstores and other venues in your area. Independent bookstores are great and love to support authors (and illustrators), especially if you bring much needed traffic to their store.
They’ll often carry your book if you work something out with them beforehand. At the three bookstore signings I attended, the authors (and moi) signed after purchase by the customer.
One of the stores took a number of pre-signed books, the other two preferred the copies sans signature.
Will the store buy the copies outright, or take them only on consignment? These are details you’ll need to work out ahead of time.
The first event was at Let’s Play Books, a charming book store, with the signing scheduled during story hour. There was a bit of foot traffic.
The last two signings at Moravian Book Shop and Gift Gallery, at different locations coincided one with lunchtime and the other with a spooky Halloween tour.
Take into consideration your audience and how to best bring in more customers not only for you, but your host as well. Symbiotic events with a social media push can help everyone’s visibility.
You also may get some traction if you can get the contact information for larger bookstores.
But Bookstores are not the only venue. Other venues can work great including local libraries and sidewalk sales, as well as certain other stores (a friend held a few signings at a local Mom-and-Pop store and galleries) so don’t be afraid to be creative. You may surprise yourself and others.
Book Signing Preparation Checklist
Approach your targeted place a few months in advance of the publication.
How many books does the venue need to sell to make it worth their while, if it’s a store?
Be polite and professional and realize, especially if it’s a book store or library they need to set up their calendar.
Even if the library doesn’t carry your book (that’s a different process) it doesn’t mean they won’t support a local author.
Will they provide the table and chairs?
What are the requirements for selling your book in their store – they might want a percentage of sales?
Some independent book stores will sell your book 60/40 and keep your book on the shelf for 90 days.
If they sell you can send them more, if they don’t you need to pick them up.
Politely ask for what you want and what you can do to make them happy with the results from your promotional event.
What’s your book about? Why are you an authority? How will having a signing benefit the venue? Don’t wax poetic, but you should have these answers ready when asked.
Are you having an author reading? How long would be good? Choose the passages to be read before the actual reading.
Further on the point of how it benefits the venue, it matters very much what your book is about. If it’s nonfiction, is it about your business? Could your book drive other sales of books?
Don’t be stingy, spread the love around. You may want to sell YOUR book, but the book store wants to sell books and products to customers.
It’s a good idea to scope things out and arrive in a timely fashion. There’s often glitches, so having that buffer of time helps things to flow a bit smoother. Stay cool and calm, and if something that happens that needs addressing, speak to anyone involved PRIVATELY. No one wants to help a melodramatic author who freaks out over small issues.
Have a plan for transporting your books to the venue? A dolly works wonders.
The events I attended were great, with a good representative attendance by the anthologists as well as their other books. The promotional pieces were beautiful and professionally done.
Best practices (and personal interest, to boot), you should be sharing and publicizing the event. Realize one small announcement won’t do (and neither will spamming your groups and friends, either).
Announcing across your media at different days and time intervals are much more effective and word of mouth is even better. The better attended your event, the better for all concerned. You’ll be more likely to be invited back if you work hard to promote the event, so don’t hold back on marketing!
What to Bring to Your Book Signing
- Bring pens! What’s a signing without something to write with? Avoid gel pens and others that take a time to dry—your signature can smear or transfer to another page. Put all your salient details on them, including the book, your website, and your email.
- You might consider using Square or another merchang processor as well. You don’t want to lose debit and credit card sales!
- Bring stickers if appropriate. The kids were delighted with the stickers for the children’s book, and if you can design it to have directions (where to buy the book) as well as great visuals, it may well advertise beyond just those who took the sample.
- Appropriate refreshments. This is of course optional as some places may not want to have food or drink as it could affect sales of their own offerings or be a threat to the merchandise. That said, the cupcakes that were made with a layer of crème frosting with the image of the book wasn’t only tasty at one of our events, but it was a conversation starter.
- Freebie gifts upon sale. The group I was in offered little coloring books and a set of inexpensive crayons if you bought their book at the event. It could be a gift of your free download (set up before hand) or perhaps 10% off the purchase of another of your books. This is also optional, but worth the thought. Who doesn’t appreciate a gift?
Again, you may want to consider bringing friends not only for support but also in the event you have sparse traffic with the people at the store—why wait for them to come to you?
Having a proxy walking into the space and handing out bookmarks and speaking of the event could mean a stronger attendance and sales. Remember, sales equals readers.
And finally, thank everyone involved with your book signing. It could be a simple thank you or a card, or something more extravagant if they’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty. I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t like to be appreciated!
Have you ever hosted or attended a book signing? Tell us about it in the comments below!