Not every author can schedule book signings into their promotional plan, but thanks to technology, there are easy and convenient alternatives to this traditional event. It can be as simple as an author signing her name on a plain label and mailing it to the reader, or as complex as organizing an online chat with a bookseller standing by to take book orders. If you look around to see what authors are doing, you’ll notice that there are three types of virtual signings: the exclusive signing, the special event signings and the do-it-yourself signing.
Exclusive Signings: Does your favorite local bookstore have a website and a system to handle out-of-state requests? If they do, consider signing your stock for them on a regular basis and then point your online readership to their website. Although the sales will trickle in rather than skyrocket, this is a low-risk, no obligation choice for everyone.
Special Events Signings: If you are hosting an online launch party or a chat, you can arrange for an online bookseller to handle the sales. I know of one online launch party where the small online bookseller was on hand to process the order right away. The author had also sent the bookseller promotional goodies ahead of time to add to the package. Booksellers aren’t obligated to be available in real time, but they might require a guaranteed number of sold books. Shop around and compare for the best deals.
Think you would like a special event signing that lasts for more than one night? I have heard that some book-focused websites will handle orders for signed books for their very special authors. This is usually for the month of the release and it is part of a package deal that includes featuring the author prominently on their site, newsletter, etc. This costs money, and the site usually requires that the author isn’t heavily featured on competing sites, so make sure it’s worth your while.
Do-It-Yourself Signings: Another version of the virtual signing is to offer a store section on your website and an online payment service like PayPal. Readers can buy any autographed title from your entire backlist. The price should include shipping and handling. If you aren’t planning to do international mailings, be very clear about it. Some authors sweeten the deal by giving a small but exclusive gift with purchase. This type of signing is more work for the author, but the option allows consistent and convenient sales!
What can you do today?
On your website offer to sign a personal inscription. Give readers step-by-step instructions on how and where to send you a copy of your book for you to autograph. I recommend asking for a SASE large enough to send it back to the reader, warning them that they won’t get the book back unless there is enough postage. You can also include some lightweight goodies and bookmarks. Sometimes an open invitation like this is all it takes to connect with a fan.
Offer free autographed bookplates on your website. A bookplate is a plain mailing label that is big enough to hold your signature but small enough to fit easily on the title page of your book. You can also add a design or print out labels on a color copier to give it more pizzazz, but leave enough room to write! On your site, let the reader know if all you need is an e-mail request or if they’re required to send an SASE. This is another opportunity to include bookmarks and lightweight goodies. Not only is this an economical way for both reader and author, but the author can also build her mailing list from these requests.
Susanna Carr is a best-selling author of sexy contemporary romance. Visit her website at http://www.susannacarr.com.