Meeting your potential (and current) readers in person is a big deal. Book signings can either be a roaring success or a dismal waste of time. It all depends on how you the author approach it.
I've done a few author book signing events, and in fact I'm on a committee planning Meet the Author Day at the Kimberling Area Library in Kimberling City, Missouri. Here are some things I've witnessed.
Some authors come:
- Having only a box of books and no table covering.
- Stacking books on the table in an unappealing manner.
- Sitting behind the table, waiting for magic to happen.
- Wandering around talking to other authors instead of connecting with readers.
- Having no way of making change or taking credit cards.
- Making customers use coins instead of rounding that .95 up to the next dollar.
- Not asking questions or talking with potential customers.
If any of these describe you, then you will want to read this article and plan for your next event.
1. Don't Expect the Venue to Provide for You
I'm not sure why authors expect the host location to do everything from provide tablecloths to make change for them, but they do.
I did a library book signing event in another town, and I even had to carry my own table and chair with me!
The organizers will probably let you know if you need to bring a table/chair, but they probably won't think to tell you about other things you need. KAL Meet the Author Day gives you a half table and 2 chairs. The rest is up to you.
2. Create an Engaging Display
You know how they say people eat first with their eyes? Well, they SHOP with their eyes. Sure, if someone knows your books they may not care if they're lying in boring stacks. But new readers are more likely to flock to more appealing displays.
If you do nothing else relevant to your display, please oh please bring a tablecloth. Don't expect the venue to provide them.
Stacks or fanned books aren't especially enticing. Remember vertical. You can get plastic or wood racks that allow you to create a tablescape.
If your books have a theme, represent it on your display.
One of the authors had a novel inspired by his experiences as a firefighter. How cool would it have been if he brought a toy firetruck? Nothing fancy, just a borrowed toy from his kids or a dollar store find.
For my first book I'll push You Steer, which initially was my only book, I set a toy car and a miniature tree as table dressing that spoke to the road trip theme.
When I brought The Peace Seed to an event where I only had 18 inches of space, I set my peace symbol and an amethyst point on the table, stood up one book in a little picture frame, and stacked the rest behind. Even though I didn't have anything elaborate, this did the job in a tiny space.
3. Be Prepared to Accept Payments
At this year's book signing event, several authors expected the library to make change. Not sure why, as library isn't a bank or store. Customers need a way to pay.
- Try to have $80 or $100 in cash, primarily small bills. Attendees may come with "yuppy food stamps" ($20s.)
- Don't mess with coins. It's just a pain. Round up that 5 cents.
- Just consider the sales tax included.
- Bringa calculator if you're not good at figuring out change (most millennials as well a those with learning disabilities have trouble with this).
- Have an envelope or divided holder for your cash.
- Keep money on your person or in a secured place during the event.
I have a little plastic case with dividers in it, like you might use to organize your household bills. I separate 1s, 5s, 10s and 20s.
Taking plastic used to be something only for the big guys. You used to need a machine and an expensive merchant account. Not anymore.
Now all us little ol' authors can join the 21st century and make buying our books easier on our cherished readers. The minimal processing fee per transaction is a small price to pay for offering our dear readers easy ways to buy our books.
There is absolutely no excuse for not accepting credit cards these days. You can use a scanner like PayPal Here, Flint, PayAnywhere, or any number of other apps that don't require a special merchant account. Check your phone's app store.
When I was selling books at this year's events, I was the only one in the room offering this convenience. People won't necessarily have any cash on them at all, let alone perfect change. So provide options other than empty hands and disappointments.
4. Be Where the People Are, Not Behind Your Table
The whole point of a book signing eent is to connect with readers and sell books. If you're slumped in your chair only answering direct questions, you won't make a good showing.
Like what Ariel sings in The Little Mermaid (TM), you want to be where the people are. It's fine to sit behind your talbe during a lull, but don't grow butt roots.
Stand if You Can
If it's possible for you, stand in front of your able when readers are near. If this isn't possible because of bad knees or a disability, then set your chair in front of the table.
Use open body language, even if you're sitting there and nobody is near. They can see you from across the room, unless they're blind.
When nobody's near you, wear a pleasant expression. Think of things that make you smile so you don't end up scowling because you're thinking of all you have to do when you get home.
Smile when talking with people. Just like the orphans sing in Annie, you're never fully dressed without one.
Most authors are introverts. I am, even though I seem not to be. But I know the importance of talking with people and asking questions.
They won't bite.
Here are some points to conider when talking with those who come by your table.
- Remember your smile.
- Focus on the connection, not the possible sale.
- Ask questions.
OK so sometimes I'm at a book signing event and I make the mistake of asking a question of an author, then it's as if I've opened a floodgate. THe author goes on and on and ON about their book, failing to notice that I'm not interested.
Sure, you're excited about your book, but that doesn't mean you need to fire-hose it at anyone who walks up to your table.
So here's what you can do to make a human connection without running off the attendee.
Smile and say hi. Just be yourself as long as your self is friendly.
One author I know who is painfully shy came up with a terrific way to be more open in public. He wrote up a persona a character sketch of how he wanted to be at events. He used a cowboy hat, and whenever he put on the hat, he became that character. This allowed him to speak to groups and do other crowed events much more easily.
Ask the "Golden Question"
Ask the person, "What do you enjoy reading?"
This is a golden question. Not everyone knows the word "genre," so don't be fancy. This demonstrates to the reader that you're not trying to be pushy. You're engaging. You can tell if they would enjoy your work. If you write multiple genres and have several options on the table, you can also decide on which book to focus your attention.
Serve the READER
At an event I had a fantasy novel, a peace book and, 1 for business owners and an inspirational/self-help. One guest was a young lady of about 9 years old. Only 1 of the 4 would be of any interest to her. She said she wanted to learn to write a book. I explained that my book about how to do that was meant for people who own shops or other businesses, so she would be most unhappy if she bought that one.
She said she enjoys fantasy, so I told her a quick description of my novel. I also said to her mom that a school teacher friend of mine had her students read it, so it was safe for her daughter. No hot love scenes or anything else a momma wouldn't want her girl to see.
If the guest would not enjoy your book:
If you ask the magic question and can tell they aren't likely to be interested, you can follow up with, "I write _____, so you may not like my books, but do you have any ______ lovers among your family or friends?" This might trigger the guest to remember how much her sister or his nephew or whatever likes that genre. IF there's interest, you can give a short description of the book likely to please them.
Several times I directed people toward authors who wrote what they loved. "Since you love political thrillers, you'd love talking to..." I would then try to point out the author or say something about how they look. "He's the one wearing the black cowboy hat," or "She's the one wearing the pink boa."
If the attendee loves your genre
If the guest might like your book, give your 1 sentence "elevator pitch" / logline description of your book. Point out the book. You might flip it over to the back if you have some juicy cover quotes. zip your lip.
Once you ask about genre, be still. Let the person either ask a question of you, pick up a book to see, or move on.
6. Decorations & Swag
Part of setting a great tablescape/display can be having items that go along with your books, like peace sign keychains for The Peace Seed. It's nice to have little gifties for those who buy, and possibly a tiny something any guest can take away. This isn't essential, but it's nice.
Since I'm playful and I do a lot with butterflies, I bought some butterfly super-balls to give out to customers or well behaving kids. I got them from Rhode Island Novelty, which offers affordable bulk items around a giant variety of themes.
7. Keeping In Touch Using Email Marketing
THis is actually the most important thing you can do at any live event. But I figured if I put it first, I'd scare you off.
Having an email "list" is incredibly useful. You can let your readers know about your next book or appearance. You can share free stories or run contests. You can share things your readers will find interesting...all in a "1 and done" manner that frees up your time.
I won't go into a lot of detail here, but it's important to have the option of follow-up.
I like to give away free stories. If people like your work or your genre if they don't know you, they would likely enjoy new things to read. Easy enough to save as a PDF and upload them to your site. Then put them behind an optin so they can't just download it without giving you their email.
If you do a giveaway, like a basket of things related to your books (not your books!), you can get people to share name and email in order to be in the drawing.
You can find out more about the program I use and why at WriteOnPUrpose.com/email Soon I'll post an article about it for you.
I hope these 7 tips are helpful!
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Ronda Del Boccio
#1 best selling author, speaker, and Amazon Top Reviewer
About Ronda Del Boccio
Ronda Del Boccio is an award-winning and best selling author of both fiction and nonfiction. She tells transformational tales and helps visionary authors turn their dreams and imaginings into published books. See and order Ronda's books on Amazon.SHARE!