You know what you’re after when you plan to do a book signing, but what makes it successful? For most writers, especially if you are new or self-published, the signing is successful when you show up, your books are there, and you manage to sell even one book. It doesn’t sound like a lot, and may even feel like a waste of time, but the point is that you have made public contact and opened the market for your book.
Making more than one sale and more than a single contact takes planning on your part. Don’t forget that as an author, you will have “celebrity” status and an amazing opportunity to build your audience, so plan for your success by using the tips in this article.
Your “ground work” will begin at least two months in advance of your actual promotion. Begin calling bookstores, libraries, and civic groups if you want to be included in their calendars. This will give them enough lead time to get your name and book into their in-store flyers and post it on their websites.
- Write a press release. Most stores will forward their own, but there is nothing wrong with personal contact, and your list may be different from that of the store.
- For a large bookstore chain, ask to speak with the Community Relations Coordinator. For small individually owned stores, ask to speak with the owner.
- Ask if the store has a book club or other group that you might arrange to be the featured speaker for.
- When arranging the signing, ask if there is a recommended list of media or community contacts – some stores don’t have them, but if they do, add them to your contact list and forward your press release long with a personal invitation.
- Build enthusiasm for your signing. Share the information with friends and family. Forward the information to local libraries, introduce it on your website, blog, online groups, and chats (especially with other authors).
Once you are satisfied that you have done all of the preparation, head for the nearest copy or print shop.
- Have your book cover(s) blown up to poster size. You will want this in color and it doesn’t have to be HUGE, about 11” x 17” will be perfect. Have the copy laminated and mounted on poster or core board. Either have a stand attached, or buy an easel. Some stores will create their own poster for your signing, others will not. Don’t be caught off guard.
- Have your book cover printed as a postcard announcing your signing. Get AT LEAST 100 copies. Plan to send these cards to everyone you can think of, including business associates and media reps.
- Get at least a thousand, colorful, professionally done bookmarks. Your bookmarks should include your book title, the isbn, your name, and your website contact info. These bookmarks will be included with ALL correspondence, and given away to everyone you speak to at your signing, and of course, with all books.
- “Autographed Copy” or “Local Author” stickers are not mandatory, but they do add a nice touch to the books you are signing. You won’t have to buy them often as one order will most likely last for several books over several signings.
About a month in advance of your signing, check with local radio and television stations to find out if there is a chance of being interviewed on local shows. This will be free publicity for your book and your signing – if you can get it. If not, don’t take it personally. Move on.
Also take this opportunity to confirm your signing date and time. People forget things and you don’t want to show up and find that no one has prepared for your visit (including you!).
On the day of your signing, you should be ready to meet the people who will become your readers. Planning ahead never hurts, so:
- Attire – think “business casual” and opt for clean, comfortable, and attractive. Jeans are best left at home, and nothing too racy or controversial should be included (like buttons expressing your political views, unless it is tied DIRECTLY to your book).
- Plan to arrive early, and with small tokens of thanks for the store owner and staff. Tiny boxes of chocolates, flowers, etc. will do fine.
- Remember that YOU are YOUR responsibility. Bring a bottle of water, go to the bathroom BEFORE sitting down, turn your cell phone off (or at least set it to vibrate), bring a sweater or jacket – in short, take care of yourself. High maintenance writers are not often invited back.
Once you are at your signing location, you are going to need to set up an attractive display of your work and yourself. When you set up your table:
- You may not need it, but pack a plastic tablecloth from the Dollar Store in your bag – just in case your table is bare or worn.
- Have plenty of books, bookmarks, business cards, copies of your backlist, note pad, and working pens (take a lot, you know how they can “walk” away!).
- Have a guest register on hand for people to add their names, addresses, and email addresses to (you can do this on your computer). This will help you to build your mailing list for future events.
- Put out a small dish of individually wrapped candies – chocolate works very well. Candy will attract people who might have otherwise passed you, to your table. While they are unwrapping and savoring the candy, they will usually check out your poster and talk to you.
- Have something to give away. If you’re on a tight budget, put everything into a single basket and have a drawing.
To attract attention to your presence in the store, be creative. Some of the things that should be at the top of your creativity list should be:
- Write your own brief announcement for the store intercom.
- Ask the store manager to display your book at the register – you never know if it will become an instant impulse buy or not.
- Don’t just sit at the table they have for you – stand up and interact with customers instead of waiting for them to come to you.
At the end of your signing, offer to sign copies of your book and a few (about 25) of your postcards and/or brochures for the store so that they can be handed out with purchases and be made available to customers who missed the signing.
And finally, always remember what your mother said about good manners:
- Don’t complain. Always be gracious, even if you don’t sell any books. Just because people are not buying on the day and at the time that you are signing does not mean that they won’t come back later, or head to your website to buy the book.
- Send a written thank you note to the person who booked the signing. They will remember you, and you will likely be invited to sign there again.