Book Signings, Illusion, Reality, & Ideas.
Sounds pretty exciting, right? I bet you’re just imagining that happening to you someday. And maybe someday it will. Always keep a positive outlook.
However, for 90% of authors this isn’t the case. Sorry, but it must be said.
That doesn’t mean you need to get depressed and feel like your dreams of stardom have been dashed. It just means a slight reevaluation of the situation and a more realistic expectation of what will happen.
We Indie authors have to work a bit harder for our fans.
Let’s face it, we have to work a bit harder for everything in this business. But we do it because we love it.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t still have a successful signing. Even if you don’t think you have a single fan yet, you can still have a great book signing.
First thing first. Change your idea of what a book signing is. Forget the screaming fans and lines out and around the bookstore. Let’s be realistic here.
As an Indie, a book signing is not a place for your adoring fans to come and find you. Sure, you might have a few friends stop by, your family might come to support you, but everyone else who stops by (for the most part) will be “new” to you.
If you’re at a book store, this is an opportunity to put your book in front of a potential new reader. They are there looking for a new book to read. And guess what, you just happen to have a new book!
If you’re attending a book fare, this is an opportunity to reach out to other booklovers. They are there because they love books. And you are there because you love to write them. It’s a match made in heaven.
If you’re part of a “local authors” event put on by a library or any other book-related organization, this is an opportunity to reach out to your peers, and maybe their readers as well. Everyone attending these events has a similar goal in mind to you, “sharing published work.” Writers are also readers. Share, share, share.
Any of these events are places to build fans. If your book is available in print, you should be on the lookout for places to do book signings. Check with your local library, indie and big box book stores, and even smaller venues if you can find them. (I did a book signing a a neighborhood block party. It was out of the ordinary sure, but I sold a few books. It was great.)
So, once you’ve scheduled a book signing, what do you do next? How do you handle the event?
Let’s start with the setup. You want your area to be perfect.
1 Have a nice presentation display. If you have a banner or framed book covers, even better. Make your table look nice and inviting. Bring a bowl of candy for people to munch on. Use a nice color coordinated tablecloth to make your area stand out.
2 Have plenty of books on display. Bring more books than you need.
3 Have freebies like bookmarks, postcards, business cards, etc... People like free things and if your book and information is on these free things, it will have more of an impact. People may not buy today but they might use your bookmark and later decide to give you a try.
With that said, make sure that your bookmarks and other freebies have something on them that tells where your book can be found.
4 Bring lots of markers and pens. You never want to be caught without a way to sign your book, right? Also, guard these like a hawk. I had all of my metallic sharpie markers stolen from my table when I walked away for a second to speak with the event coordinator. It’s silly what people will steal these days.
5 Bring lots of water but no snacks. Drinks are fine (non-alcoholic). You want to stay hydrated. But you don’t want a mouth full of crumbs when someone approaches your table to talk to you. Book signings are usually no more than a few hours. Eat before you get there and hold off on snacking until it’s over.
Now we move on to the next part.
1 Look your best! Dress to impress. Go out and get your hair and nails done. Splurge on a mani/pedi. It will make you feel more confident which will in turn make you look more approachable. Let’s face it, when we look good we feel good. And you will want your spirits high when you go into that book signing.
2 Bring a wing-man (or woman). Bring a friend. Not only can they help you pass the boredom during a dry spell but they can also help take pictures, watch the table during potty breaks, etc…
(That's my little munchkin. She joined me at the end of my first book signing and boy can that girl sell!)
If you’re anything like me, Introverted is my middle name, they can also be your book’s wing-man (or woman). Just like the wing-man at a bar, these friends can help talk up your book and make you seem like a superstar author.
I can tell you all day long how great my book is, and you’ll probably shrug it off. But, when another reader says it’s great, you might stop and listen.
Ok, so you’ve got your table, you’ve dressed to impress, and you’ve brought your wingman, now what? Time to sign some books, right?
Now comes the hard part. Remember what I said above? This isn’t going to be a line-out-the-door kind of event.
Now you have to work. Reach out and make some fans.
The people passing by your table probably have no clue who you are. They might stop to take a second glance at your book. I’m sure you have a spectacular cover! So how do you approach them?
“Hey buy my book!”
You may be ready to scream to the rafters about how awesome it is, but avoid the hard sell. No one likes it. It makes you seem like a used car salesman, and nobody likes them. (my apologies to any used car sales people out there.)
Approach people in the same manner you would want to be approached. Do you want someone shoving a book in your hands and telling you to buy it? Probably not.
If they’ve stopped by, they might have an interest. So approach on that point.
Greet them with a smile. Always smile.
Ask them how they’re doing. How’s their day going? Ask them what genre they read. What was the last book they read? Who is their favorite author?
People love talking about themselves. Get them talking about the book-related subjects that interest them. They will hopefully warm up a little. Through chatting with people you build rapport. You’re no longer some random name on a book cover. You’re a real person. Hey maybe even a cool person.
At this point, you might be able to make a correlation to their interest and your book. Ease into it; don’t just shove it into their faces. Toss out some info on your book, how you were inspired to write it, etc…
A lot of advice on the internet says, hand people a book to give them ownership of it. People are more willing to buy once it's in their hands. I say, take this advice with a grain of salt. Shoving a book in someone’s hands makes me go back to the car salesman analogy. “C’mon, let’s take her for a spin. You’ll love it.”
Tread carefully here. That’s all I’m saying. You can certainly pick up a copy of your book and show it to them. But don’t just shove it into their hands with the hopes they’ll buy it. Remember you’re trying to build a fan base here as well as selling books. Offer it to them and see if they'll take it. If not, maybe suggest they take a book mark or post card, something to remember you by.
Is every person who stops by your table a sale? Potentially, yes but in reality, No. Many will chat with you, maybe take a bookmark or business card, maybe a piece of candy, and walk away.
The point is you reached out to a person who didn’t know who you were, and didn’t know anything about your book. You’ve planted a seed that might eventually turn into a sale. Be sure to remind them, if they’re walking away, that you’re available on ebooks as well. I make it a point to always mention my Kindle, Nook, Sony, and Kobo availability at the end.
A successful signing is not always about selling hundreds of books, though that would be nice. It’s considered a success if you sell as little as 2 books. That’s right I said 2 books.
The real success is in reaching people. Telling people you’re out there. They may not buy today but there is a chance, if you’ve made a connection, that they’ll buy sometime down the road.
Read more tips and tricks in my handy dandy little guide.
Available exclusively on Kindle!