J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, and Amy Tan sit at tables to sign books while people line up out the door and down the block. These super stars barely have time to take a drink of water for the crush of fans waiting to talk to them.
Now you’re an author, too, and you’ve lined up book signing events. You’ve got your books all displayed. Pen at the ready. Readers will be just as eager to line up for your book, right?
Enter the reality. Book signings are a great way to get your name out there, to meet readers who may become loyal followers, and to sell books. They can also be tedious, even spirit crushing. So tedious, in fact, that you might be tempted to read a book, file your nails, or eat lunch to fill the time. But don’t do it. A successful book signing requires work on the author’s part.
Here are some things I’ve learned from other authors and from doing dozens of signings myself. These won’t guarantee success, but they will help your book signing events come closer to your dreams.
Promote the event yourself. You can’t count on the host to do it all for you. Post on all your social media sites that you’ll be signing books and invite your friends to come. Email everyone who may not use social media. Friendly faces are helpful even if they’ve already bought.
Location, location, location. Arrive early to get the lay of the land and thank your host for the opportunity. If it’s possible, get your table moved closer to the door. You want to be in the highest traffic spot possible. Ask to have a few of your books positioned next to the cash register to encourage impulse buys.
Set up your display. Have a stack of books but also have a stand to hold one book so the cover is clearly visible. Prepare an 8×10 sign that includes the cover of your book, a pithy review comment or two, and the sale price.
Have something for everyone. A bookmark touting your book and your contact info is great. People like bookmarks and even if they don’t buy your book on the spot, the bookmark will be a useful reminder of your book and how to get it.
Sell yourself. Stand beside your table (instead of sitting behind it), make eye contact, smile, greet people. People who may have walked on by may be drawn in by your friendly greeting. Tell them you’re an author that xyz location has invited to chat with their guests. Ask them if they have a moment so you can tell them about your book.
Sell your book. Be ready to explain your book in 30 seconds or less. Here’s where your log line comes in. Put a book in their hands. It’s harder to say, no, when they’re already holding the book. Ask questions to engage them in a conversation and find out their reading interests. Tell them you’d be happy to sign a copy for them. When they buy, ask how they’d like the book inscribed. Be sure to ask them to spell their name for you. You’d be surprised how many ways there are to spell Carol!
Thank them. If they buy, thank them. If they don’t buy, thank them. Make sure everyone you meet leaves your table happy they met a real, live author. And get a bookmark into their hands.
Backroom Details. It took me a few signings (and a little lost money) to learn these tips. 1) Be sure you and the store agree on how sales will be handled. Will the store ring up the sale? Before you sign the book? Or will you handle the money? 2) Keep track of book numbers. Know how many books you came with and how many you have left. Even bookstores can’t always tell how many of your books rang through their register and you’ll settle up before you leave. And of course, thank the store owner for the opportunity.
These tips work as well if you’re on your own at a signing or if you’re in the company of a dozen other authors, at bookstores, restaurants, libraries.
Have I thought of everything? Probably not. If you have other tips, or book signing stories to share, don’t hesitate to leave a note. And, happy book signings!