I’ve attended many book signings in my life, and for the most part they’re all pretty much the same. The author sets up a table at a book store, lays out a few books, waits for people to stop by the table to ask about the book, maybe reads a few pages and hopes someone eventually buys a book. It can be a lonely experience sitting there smiling as patrons walk past your table in search of the music section or the magazine section or the latest calendar featuring kittens or teddy bears. It’s a lot of work to set up a book signing, and you want the results to be the most profitable for your investment of time and money. So how can you, as an author, make your book signings successful?
A successful book signing goes beyond ordering enough books, having a competent book seller, publicizing it and signing books. Some of the most successful book signings I’ve planned and/or attended have included several unique elements. Perhaps not all at the same time, but some combination of these or other unique approaches have aided many a self-published author in selling dozens of books and gaining a loyal following of readers as the result of a book signing.
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2. Consider the LOCATION. I know that selecting a book store for your book signing seems like the most logical thing to do, but I often advise my clients against having book signings at book stores. Why? Because there’s too much competition with other books. Patrons are not coming into the book store that day to purchase your book, so actually, you’re a distraction or maybe a temptation. You’re like the gum rack at the check-out stand at the grocery store. If someone decides to purchase your book after they’ve bought what they really came there for, it’ll be a last-minute decision. But most likely, they’ll just pass you by because that’s not what they came there for.
Another reason to think twice about book store book signings is that book store employees are often not very helpful to authors, especially self-published authors, who want to do book signings because the book stores don’t expect many sales. If, however, you are extremely well known in the area, are considered a celebrity or have a highly publicized (and might I add controversial) story, then perhaps your book store signing will succeed. Otherwise, select a unique location.
Is yours a children’s book? Hold a book signing at a toy store. Have you written a guide to a better marriage? Set up shop at a bridal show. Is your book about travel? Get a table at the annual boat and RV show. Do you get the idea?
Another thing to consider is having private book events. Find business or meet-up groups -- entrepreneurs, travel, parenting, newlyweds, girls night out, single dads, book or reading groups, etc. -- and ask to do a private book reading. Offer discounts if the group purchases a certain number of books.
3. Think THEME. Create a theme around your book signing and tie it to the title or content of your book. If your masterpiece is about cooking, decorate your table with cookware, dress in a chef’s apron and hold a knife in your hand (okay, maybe a wooden spoon would be best). Better yet, give away novelty ink pens shaped like a spatula to anyone who purchases a book. It might sound silly, but it’ll capture a lot of attention if you're set up at a large venue.
Is your book content about time management? There should be lots of clocks around your book signing display (maybe one that chimes to attract attention). Invite guests to complete an information post card, drop it in your clock-shaped bucket and draw a name each time the chimes sound (every 15 minutes or so). Winners must be present to win. But before you draw the winner, you give your 10-minute spiel about your book and even read a page. Draw one name and that person wins a pocket planner, your CD about time management and an ink pen, all engraved with your website. Do not give away your book. After all, that’s what you’ve come there to sell!
4. Get some HELP. By all means, do not try to conduct a book signing all by yourself. There’s nothing worse than watching an author struggle to set up her table, greet guests, read from her book, sign books, manage payments and break down the display all alone. Invite a friend, family member or even pay a competent assistant to help with all the logistics of your book signing. Develop a strategy for managing the signing of books and keeping track of sales if you have to manage that yourself.
5. Finally, have FUN. Overall, book signings should be fun. This is a way to get you and your book some attention and to make sales. It’s about visibility and exposure for all of your hard work. So, you must have a positive attitude and high energy to make the experience fun for you and for others.