26 April 2012

Book Signing Pointers

So, for those who hadn't already seen the information elsewhere (on Twitter or Facebook), I once again took part in an Author's Pavilion at the Wichita Renaissance Festival. Sci-fi books? Any avenue that's open to you, and all that...but that's another post for another time.

What I really want to discuss today is some pointers for those who may be heading out for their own signings...

1. First and foremost, if you don't feel comfortable telling people about your book, then don't do book signings. You're going to be (hopefully) talking for hours on end with people about your book. If you aren't comfortable doing so, it's going to show, and your efforts are going to be for naught anyway. That said, you (as the author) are the most highly qualified individual to discuss your own books, so I'd highly recommend finding a way to get comfortable...

2. Presentation is important...I highly recommend spreading out books on the table and arranging them in such a fashion that readers can pick one up easily (unless you're handing them a copy to look at each and every time). Also make sure that your books are visible at the table, as well as from some distance away. OfficeMax (and I'm sure various other stores) sells a nifty little L-shaped stand that works great for this. Whatever you do, don't just have a couple stacks of your books sitting there with nothing else...

In the example picture of my table, I likely should have placed a few copies in front of the vertical books. Trouble being that an outdoor venue such as this brings some excitement when wind gusts come through...but then, an outdoor venue also allows for more comfortable lawn chairs. The wind issue was also why Heroes Die Young didn't end up getting positioned vertically...

Some people don't like picking the books up, so for those, it's usually good to either place a copy face up and a copy face down...or as I tend to do, place all the important information on a laminated sheet near the books in question. Also be sure to include a pricing sheet (I laminate mine, to make it look professional). People like knowing ahead of time, and it eliminates the idea that you're making up the prices as you go.

3. Paperbacks are great, but e-books make you money too. If you have one, take an e-reader with you to these events. For those slow times between mad rushes for your book, you can catch up on a little reading. And you'd be surprised how many folks will stop by your table, find out about your book, but then download a copy on their phone or device right there.

4. Interaction with fans (and potential fans) is a must. People are not going to seek you out unless they know you already. Strike up a conversation with folks who look over at your table (which is why you set the books up vertically). Say hello, ask them what they like to read (especially useful in a bookstore setting, since you know they're shopping for things to read). Match what they like to read with one of your books, or if they like something completely opposite of your own work, promote an author friend whose book they might enjoy (it helps if you pick up some bookmarks from those friends ahead of time). In a setting where the readers are geared toward certain "stereotypical" reading tastes (such as at a RenFest, historical and fantasy might be a good match), use that to your advantage.

Heck, while at this event, I was sitting next to friend of the Aston West Universe,Candice Gilmer. Her books are primarily romance, but she has a trilogy of books that are paranormal romance, one of which features a topless dude with a sword hanging down his back.

Candice was a little bit disheartened for the first little while of the event, because it didn't seem like she was going to sell any books. Seeing this book on her table, it seemed a natural fit for the folks walking around in full armor and period dress. So, I called out to passers-by: "Hot guys with swords!" (and look at that picture...do I lie?)

That got plenty of looks, and shortly after, multiple people were buying multiple copies of her books.

It's all a matter of matching readers with the books they need to read...do I lie?

On the other side of the coin, I've seen authors who sit meekly behind their table and do no interaction with anyone, even when they come up to the table. I don't know if they think that a reader is going to just buy a copy of their book on first sight...but that isn't common for book signings...again, if the reader doesn't already know you ahead of time.

Granted, there is a happy-medium involved. Don't harass readers while they're walking by or standing at your table. Don't beg, plead, or bribe them. Giving them a negative impression of you is going to directly affect their opinion of your books.

5. Beware those who only stop by your table to wax philosophic with you, tell you all about their own book, or use you as their personal psychologist. Not a lot that can be said about this, and being an overall polite person, it's hard for me to find a way out of this mess (so if you have some techniques, please share with the rest of us). Needless to say, this tends to throw a wrench in the rest of your efforts for the entire time the person is at your table...

6. Finally, always have a smile and a laugh, even if you don't much feel like it. Book signings are often deflating experiences, especially if you go in with the idea that you're going to have a line waiting to see you for three full hours and you may see ten people at your table. But one thing I've learned is that attitude affects the outcome. If you mope around your table, any readers that do come by are going to pick up on your negative vibes and more than likely won't want to hang around too long. People want to hang out with positive personalities...and the longer people want to stay around your table (with the exception of individuals covered by point #5 above), the higher chance they'll buy a copy of your books.

Anyway, it was an enjoyable event for me (and I think Candice whipped us all in the sales department), and I can't wait to return for the fall installment. Hopefully some of these pointers were helpful for you, and may they help you sell many more books at your own signing events.


  1. That was an excellent post about book signings...

    I don't think I "whipped" you all, really. I didn't sell that many.

    But yes, screaming "HOT GUYS WITH SWORDS" certainly does help.

  2. I wanted to add, though.. One of the things that neither of us had, that we should probably put together for future events:

    A paper/postcard with a book list including ISBN #'s so people who, say, left their ereader at home, can take with them and look up later.

    And PENS.

    Don't forget the PENS. That's important. :)

  3. Pens are definitely important for a SIGNING. :-P

    I've seen people who hand out ISBN numbers before, and I'm actually not keen on the idea. Speaking from my own experience, I can't remember ever buying a book online by using the ISBN. I think one does better by directing them to a website link (another idea someone brought up was to use QR codes) where it's a one-click move to go buy the book. Who knows for sure, though?

  4. Great, great post! I need this advice. I am about to venture out into the world of book signings. I tend to be shy, so it will really be outside my comfort zone to deliberately talk to people like that. I keep reminding myself that I LOVE my book. It's fantastic. I should be happy and eager to share the awesomeness with others, right? Thanks!

  5. Exactly right! If you're not going to tell someone about your book, no one else is going to tell them. ;-)

    Good luck with your signing excursions! :-)

  6. Great post full of good info. It's a lot to keep in mind. Thank you!

  7. Thanks for stopping by! Definitely let me know how your own signings end up going, and if any of these tips helped...

  8. Here's some tips a lot of writers don't think of: posters and swag! Posters (of your book covers) make awesome backdrops and attract a lot more attention. Some people aren't comfortable approaching to get a close look at your books. Posters allow people to check you out at a distance without the pressure of feeling like they have to talk to you or buy a book.

    I've had a lot of experience (and good results) with this strategy.

    One-off posters don't cost much either. And, if you decide to make a bunch, giving away posters with book purchases is a great sales incentive.

    If you have nice art, try experimenting with other types of swag - fridge magnets and temporary-tattoos are cheap and fun (always a hit with the scifi crowd).

    T-Shirts are more expensive, but they're also good at attracting a crowd (and increasing sales).

    Bottom line, if you find yourself doing a lot of live events, you should definitely consider expanding your sales beyond books. You can also sell these items from your website too!

    Plus, it's fun :)

  9. I've definitely thought about doing posters and/or banners...and might have to get a few made for my next convention.

    T-shirts, people have indicated they'd buy some if I made them, but the cost involved makes it a "what if they don't?" situation. ;-)

    Definitely lots to think about...thanks for the tips!


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