Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How to Get the Most From Your Book Signings

Summer is here and it's a great time for authors to do book signings. For those of you getting ready to appear at bookstores for the first time, here are some helpful hints for making the most out of your signing experience:

1) If the bookstore is near you, stop by a week ahead of time and see what kind of promotion the staff is doing for your book. If they don't have anything up, offer to give them posters, bookmarks, magnets, etc., to use in the store.

2) Talk to your friends and family and try to get as many people as you can to attend your signing. Even if they've purchased the book before or attended other signings, ask them to come and help draw people in the store over to the area where you're reading. Send email announcements to everyone in your address book prior to signings and ask your workmates, students, clients, etc., to attend. Mention that you're doing a signing everywhere you go -- at work, in the grocery store, at the bank, etc. Make up simple announcement flyers and leave them everywhere you can (at the library, on bulletin boards, at coffee shops, etc.).

3) Presign a number of the books you're bringing to help long lines move faster. After your signing, see if you can get the store to keep the presigned copies. You can make or order stickers that say "Signed Copy" for the spine of the book -- these will help the books move quickly on the shelves.

4) A few days prior to the signing, advertise your event on local websites that have calendar listings. Many local newspapers and weekly tabloids have event notice forms you can fill out online for free. Some have longer lead times, so start checking the websites early. You can also put a notice in the events section on Craigslist and on other free networking sites.

5) The morning of your signing, call and ask for the manager (if you're one of my clients, the names are on your reading schedule). Make sure the manager knows what time your signing will be held and has everything ready for you, including table, chairs, microphone, electrical outlet (if necessary), etc. Also, find out if your books are there; if they're not, bring at least 20 copies with you.

6) Get to your signing early and make sure tables and chairs are set up and your books are out. I've been to a number of signings where my clients have gotten there and nothing is ready, so be prepared for that. Be sure to place one of your promotional posters on the table with your books, so patrons passing by will see the cover art and, hopefully, stop to hear you speak.

7) Always have extra copies with you, in case you have a big crowd. Bring plenty of pens and don't forget to bring your business cards, so those who buy your books can get in touch with you later or find info on your website.

8) Be personable and friendly to everyone who walks by. Wait until there is a good crowd gathered before starting and, if there's no microphone, make sure you project your voice so those in the back can hear you (practice this at home in front of the mirror). Talk about what inspired you to write the book, what the story is about, what motivates the characters, and what you love about the book. Read a few pages, preferably something that has some action or conflict. Don't read too long -- less is more with public speaking. Those in the audience will often have questions, so be sure to allow for some after you finish. And don't forget to chat with readers while you're signing -- the more impressed the reader is with you and the book, the better chance s/he will tell others about it and help create the buzz you're looking for.

9) After the signing, thank the store manager and other staff who helped you set up. See if they'll stock any leftover copies and don't be shy about asking them to order more copies from your publisher.

10) Bring your digital camera and have someone take pictures of you while you're signing. After the signing, post the photos on your website and blogsite and write about the experience, the readers you met there, the helpful staff, etc. Be positive about the experience (even if it didn't meet your expectations) and encourage everyone to come out for your next signing.