The book signing, like so many other elements of the publishing industry, is evolving into something new, different, and better. Gone are the days when authors can sit at a bookstore table and sign book after book. That still works for Sarah Palin, but not the rest of us.
So what does work? How do you make sure your book signing isn’t a waste of time for you and the store? Here are six tips for planning an event that will sell books and leave you and your host smiling.
1. Don’t approach a bookstore to discuss a signing unless you’ve written your book for a wide consumer audience. Many bookstores won’t host signings when it’s clear that the audience for the book is too narrow – perhaps it applies only to attorneys or plumbers. Ask yourself if there’s a better place to meet your niche audience face-to-face.
2. Plan an event, not a book signing. You want to engage your target audience, whether your book is fiction or nonfiction. When Marcia Layton Turner did a book signing event at her local Barnes & Noble for The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Vision Boards, she didn’t sit at a table near the entrance. Turner taught store customers how to create vision boards with materials provided by Marcia and the bookstore. “I shared the book’s message and showed how to apply it,” she says.
3. Consider non-bookstore locations. Go where you’ll find your audience – and it might not be at a bookstore. Be creative – if your book is a vegetarian cookbook, schedule an event at a natural foods market or the produce section of a supermarket. Your new mystery takes place at a museum? Talk to the most popular museum in your area about hosting a presentation and signing. When Irene Levine introduced her community to Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend, Levine’s hair stylist hosted a book signing at her salon. Their friends brought friends, too. Borders sold books on site to about half of the 150 attendees.
4. Market to warm. Are you an active member of a supportive group? Jackie Dishner, author of the regional travel book Back Roads and Byways of Arizona, sold more than 60 books at the weekly meeting of her businesswomen’s group. She kept members informed of her progress as she researched and wrote her first book, so they welcomed the opportunity to celebrate its publication with her. Do you belong to a similar group that might support you?
5. Do your share to get the word out. Don’t expect your event host to do all the promotional work – collaborate so you reach as many people as possible. Contact the press, send an e-mail to locals in your address book and ask them to forward it, and use social networking tools such as Facebook events and Twitter to spread the word.
6. Don’t just sign your name. When I sign copies of my humor book about men, WHY CAN’T A MAN BE MORE LIKE A WOMAN?, I write the person’s first name, add “It’s all true!” and sign my name. For Publicity for Nonprofits,” I use “I’ll see you in the news!” People like that additional touch because it feels more personal.
Be prepared to invest time. Planning, promoting, and executing a successful book signing takes time, thought, and effort. It will all be worth it, though, as you watch those cases of books under your table empty and your hand gets tired from writing with your favorite pen.
Award-winning former publicist Sandra Beckwith now teaches authors how to generate book publicity and promotion. Get more author and book publicity tips and sign up for her free Build Book Buzz e-zine at http://www.buildbookbuzz.com.