Mary E. Davis

Author & Professional Ghost Writer

“AHA!” AUTHORS HELPING AUTHORS: What’s in it for ME if I do a Book Signing?

      You’ve worked countless hours – maybe even years – to write your book! Should you now have to also sit through the monotonous, wearisome exercise of a book signing in order to sell your masterpiece?

     The answer is simply: YES!  But the truth of the matter is that you shouldn’t expect to rack-up impressive sales during your three-hour ‘detention period’ at the book signing.  A book signing is yet another vehicle in the branding of your title and of your name, as the author.

     Most authors truly HATE to do book signings, preferring instead to be closeted away, ensconced behind their keyboard and working on their next offering to the world. Some authors even steadfastly REFUSE to do signings, leaving the burden of ‘book sales’ to their publisher. And while that may work for some authors, the rest of us have to include book signings in our overall marketing plan in order to establish our band and churn the sales machine.

     Rather than dreading the signings, the most successful authors know how to make the most of their time and some are even excited by the opportunity to get in front of the masses and talk about ‘the birth of their new baby!’ (Let’s be honest, isn’t that what it’s like? Don’t you want to send announcements, sharing the name of your new title, the date it was ‘born,’ and the fact that it ‘weighed-in’ at an impressive 256 pages?)

     Consider your next book signing to be akin to a good old-fashioned ‘Sip ‘n See’ where people will stop by, visit and chat with you about your ‘baby.’ And here’s where you come in as the ‘host’ of this affair!

     Once you’ve scheduled a date for your book signing, the clock starts ticking. Don’t sit around waiting for the date to roll around. Make the most of your time! Get the word out about your upcoming signing. Never assume that the bookstore or venue will doany more than hang signs or post notices about the signing. YOU must be proactive to drive traffic to your own signing.

     Have invitations professionally printed. Make the wording ‘personal’ and include a photo of your book’s cover on the invitations. It’s just another step in branding and recognition of your title. Mail or deliver the invitations a week prior to your signing. TIP: Mailing them any earlier makes it likely that people may forget the date and mailing them any later makes it likely that people already have plans for that date. 

     Who should you invite? Simply answer: Everyone you know! This means friends; family; neighbors; parents of your children’s friends; your banker; your CPA; your hairstylist; church members; co-workers and especially all those people whose ‘at home’ crystal, housewares, and cosmetics parties you’ve dutifully attended in the past!

     Go through your address book and the list of contacts on your computer and send invitations to everyone in your own circle of influence. When you think you’ve exhausted all of your contacts, leave a box of the extra invitations in your car. This way, as you run into people, you’ll be able to personally hand-deliver an invitation to your kids’ teachers; your doctor or dentist; the parents at your son’s baseball practice; the parents of your daughter’s gymnastics teammates; your butcher; the pharmacist you see every month; etc. You’ll be surprised at all the people you come in contact with in your daily life whose names you may not have listed in your address book! While all of these people may not attend your signing, you’ve still introduced your title to them and there’s a good chance they’ll repeat it to their spouse, co-workers, etc. It’s another small part of the process in branding!

     Some authors worry about what to DO at the book signing, wondering if they’ll feel uncomfortable or awkward surrounded by strangers. The good thing is that you WILL know some of the people there, thanks to your invitations.

     Rather than simply having a stack of your books on a cold, flat table, remember that you are the HOST of this event. (Your BOOK is the honored guest!) Weeks before the signing, plan the ‘decor and refreshments’ for your event. The book signing is an excellent opportunity to showcase your current book AND any upcoming titles you have in the works. Consider having a three-foot posterboard created with your book title on it. It’s not a huge expense and you’ll be able to use it again. Display it on an easel near your signing table. TIP: If you have a traditional publisher, your publicist will likely provide posters for your signing.

     One thing that many authors don’t consider is the fact that people may want to get in touch after the book signing. A book signing can be a terrific networking opporunity for an author! Be prepared for this possibility by having businesscards or postcards printed with your email address and the link to your web page.  TIP: Think long and hard before printing your phone number on these cards! You can always WRITE your number on one and hand it to someone IF you feel comfortable when speaking to people, but once your number is public, there’s no going back!

     Some authors overthink book signings, uncomfortable that they won’t have enough to talk about with total strangers. Again, remember that you are the host and you want to proudly ‘share the birth of your new baby’ with the world! Have some refreshments for your ‘guests.’ Not only will you be considered gracious, but refreshments encourage people to linger a bit longer. This may be as simple as lemonade, punch or coffee. If you offer your ‘guests’ coffee, disposable cups allow them to grab a cup and walk away from you. BUT, if you provide small ceramic demitasse cups, the guests will have to linger and chat with you until they’ve finished their coffee. (Yes, this is added expense and additional work, but you can purchase these little cups at a restaurant supply store by the dozen and you can use them again and again.)          TIP: Remember to have a container to hold the used cups when your guests finish their coffee so you don’t have a stack of dirty cups on your table!)

     Enlist the help of a friend to assist at your signing. You must stay at or near your signing table, but your friend can walk around the bookstore or venue, inviting people to stop by and visit with you — and enjoy your refreshments. Your friend will also be able to assist in ‘housekeeping’ at your signing table if you’re busy talking with people and signing books.      TIP: Have your friend wear a T-shirt with a photo of your book printed on the front.

     Some authors like to have freebies and give-aways at their signings. This can get expensive, but there are a few options for this. First, you can do a drawing and have just ONE give-away item, such as a restaurant gift certificate. All you need is a fishbowl and a small pad of paper and a pen. Invite people to sign-up for your drawing. At the end of your signing, have someone select a ‘winner’ and if the winner is present, deliver their prize to them. If they’re not present, phone them and make arrangements to get their prize to them.

     There are some authors who take it a step further and even provide small favors for their ‘guests’ at their signings. If you choose to do this, try to select a favor that is aligned with your book’s theme.  For instance, if you’ve written a Christmas story, you can have small ornaments as favors. Using a pen with silver or gold ink, you can write the name of your book’s title on a ribbon tied to the top of each ornament. If you’ve done a book on gardening, you might have tiny flowerpots with a seed packet in each and your book’s title on each pot. Some authors like to have bookmarks printed with their book’s title and have them laminated. This is inexpensive and people will keep it in their books. TIP: Print your web address on the bookmarks inviting readers to leave a review of your book.

     Talk with the bookstore or venue and find out how they plan to promote your signing. Make arrangements to have the signing advertised in your local newspaper, even if the notice is just a free listing under the local calendar of events. Consider putting the word out by advertising the signing in your church bulletin on the Sunday prior to your signing. If you have a homeowner’s association, notify your neighbors with flyers. If you belong to a gym, ask about posting a notice on the community board. Send out an email blast to everyone in your list of contacts. TIP: Keep printed flyers with you at all times and ask to post them as you go about your daily routine of picking-up your kids at school, buying groceries, picking-up your dry cleaning, getting coffee at the local coffee shop, etc.

     On the day of your signing, arrive early to the venue to set-up. Take the time to introduce yourself to all the staff at the venue. If you’ve brought refreshments, invite the staff to visit your signing table and enjoy a refreshment also. TIP: People may forget what you’ve SAID and people may forget what you’ve DONE, but no one forgets how you made them FEEL! If you are a gracious ‘host,’ people will remember you favorably!

     As people begin to stop by your signing table, introduce yourself, shaking hands with each of them. TIP: People make a connection when skin contacts skin and eye contact is made!

     While you’re at the signing to talk about your new  book, remember the golden rule of conversation. What topic is always the favorite of everyone? ‘THEMSELVES!’ This is your biggest challenge of the day. You must be prepared to engage people in conversation while ‘fitting in’ your book’s storyline. If you’re prepared, this is not as difficult as it seems. You wrote your book, so you know it, inside and out. If your book is a romance, you might open with, “So, are you married, Jan?” If she says ‘yes,’ you can ask how long she’s been married and then add something like, “My book is a romance about a couple that fell in love during the war and….”  Even if Jan replied, “No, I’m not married,” you can still follow-up with, “Well, married or not, everyone loves a good romance! My book is about a couple that fell in love during the war…”  TIP: Place your book in the person’s hands if possible. Studies show that people have a connection with a product when they FEEL it in their hands, making them more likely to make a purchase.

     Take the time to be friendly and genuine with people of all ages and from all walks of life. People are judged and remembered by how they make others feel. If they feel like you’re truly invested in speaking with them, you ‘ll leave them with a favorable impression of you AND your title. When you finish speaking with someone, you can hand them your card, saying, “Please drop me a note and let me know how you liked the story!” This makes one final ‘connection’ encouraging people to read your book so they can follow-up with you. Even IF they haven’t purchased your book at that moment, the card may remind them to buy it later or even recommend it to a friend. TIP: Handing people a card makes them feel that you value their opinion, making them more likely to follow-up with a book review — and in order to a review, they must buy your book!

     If you go to a book signing expecting to sell 500 copies on that day, you’ll be very disappointed at the end of the day. You must adjust your mindset and realize that a book signing is merely a vehicle in the overall branding process. Marketing professionals will agree that it takes several ‘touches’ before a consumer makes a purchase or commits a brand to memory. The book signing is just another step in the process!  


     * Please leave us a comment below and share your own tips! *My Pictures


4 comments on ““AHA!” AUTHORS HELPING AUTHORS: What’s in it for ME if I do a Book Signing?

  1. Lloyd Russell
    June 26, 2013

    Mary, I would like to post your link on my blog – Can you send it to me? Thanks.

  2. Brillliant! What a fantastic Blog…
    I’ll be forwarding this link to all my authors at the Pop-Up Indie Bookshop to help with their next signings on our July 13th ‘pop-up’….
    Daisy White

  3. R. Lynn
    July 15, 2013

    I’ve never done a book signing before, but you’ve prepared me for when that day ever comes around, thanks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on June 26, 2013 by .
%d bloggers like this: