When I set up my table for my very first book signing, I had a simple card table with three piles of books and a favorite pen. I was in my home town, signing books at the fitness center where I work out. I had a pretty good group of friends for a fan base who thought it was cool that someone they knew had written a book. Consequently, the reality of my first book signing was pretty close to my fantasy. People lined up and I spent two busy hours signing my appreciation above my name.
|Bridgewater Book Fest 2011|
However, my next book signing, outside a book store in the mall on the Friday night before Christmas, was the total opposite of my experience the month before. I sold two books and one of them was to my son, who stopped by to support his mom (awww, love ya). You can imagine there was lots of foot traffic, but everyone seemed to have a great fascination for the ceiling just as they passed by my table stacked with books.
Depressed, I went home and when my family asked how many books I sold, I found consolation in a pint of cookie dough ice cream. With no idea what I’d done wrong I searched the loops and discussion groups to seek tips from other authors.
What I discovered was that book signings are not about signing books. They are about becoming visible, meeting people and listening to their stories. Even with more people scrolling the internet for books, the number one reason people buy a particular book is word-of-mouth. The second is that they are familiar with the author, which was the lesson I’d learned from my two books signings.
To do this I sought ways to engage these people with a fondness for ceilings and clouds (I go to craft shows and outdoor markets), so they wouldn’t feel pressured to purchase a book.
This has been a kind of evolution for me and the more I do this the more it may change, but this is what I have right now.
I always use a table cloth, even for small tables at libraries or indie book stores. I also create levels using small items underneath the table cloth to give the table some dimension and make it more visually interesting. I also have some doilies for contrast and simple stands for my books.
I’ve been told writers are more approachable if they are standing. I tend to do this a lot anyway as my folding camp chair sags in the middle and I look ridiculous trying to haul myself out of it.
The promotional items I usually have out are pens, postcards and brochures. They are tri-fold with blurbs and cover art of all my books, with my website, QR code, and places my books can be purchased. I’ve found people will usually take those after I’ve chatted with them a bit.
Candy in a bowl works well too. Lots of times kids will come along and ask if they can have a piece, and I usually say, “If it’s okay with your parents.” They come back a moment later with said parent in tow and if I have more than one kind of candy I can usually say something to mom or grandma while the kids are choosing.
My daughter’s boyfriend gave me a nice leather journal for Christmas one year and I use it as a guest book. I’ll ask people if they would like to sign, (just first names and where they came from) and most will. When they do, I can start a conversation, non-book related, and they may linger or just take a brochure or pen. When I get home I count up the number of people who stopped by my table and took info. Even if they don’t buy then, lots of people have e-readers and they like the postcards and brochures to look up the books on line.
I also have small plastic bags with my name and website. People at festivals and craft shows many times walk by hold all sorts of things in their hands. If it looks like it will fit, I’ll ask if they would like a bag. Then I’ll ask if they would like to sign my guest book.
Sometimes people will wander by and if their eyes scan the table I’ll ask if they like to write. Lots of people have aspirations and I try to have information on the writer’s organization I belong to.
At my last event the promoters wanted the crafters to demonstrate their craft. Fellow author Alana Lorens/Lyndi Alexander had invited me to join her at this all day event, so we put together the evolution of a novel, going from conception of characters, through rough draft and research, to the finished work and beyond, to promotional items and book trailers. She even had a second lap top with her on which she was creating her next story. It was eye-catching from a distance and drew lots of people to the table.
Aside from the books we signed, we were also invited by a woman from the Arts Council to teach a writing workshop they were putting together.
So you never know what can happen when you put yourself out there. I don’t always sell a lot of books, but hopefully people will learn who I am and when they see my name on Amazon they might be inclined to buy a short story or book. If they like it, they might tell their friends and family.
What have been your experiences with book signings? Any tips you’d like to share? My presentation is always changing and I love new suggestions.