Saturday, June 22, 2013

6 Things to Know Before Your Author Signing

This past weekend, I attended my second ever author signing event. Organized by the NJ Authors Network, this was an opportunity to set up a table at a public venue hosted by a local book store. Being as my book has been out for 2 years, you would think I'd have attended more events, but I pretty much fell off the public book event radar last year. I was too ashamed at having not finished the second book in my series (it's coming, I swear). That being said, I'm now booked for four more events this year and am hoping to schedule a few more.

It occurred to me that, even having just attended one prior event (2011 Collingswood Book Festival), I knew waaaay more about public signings than I had going into my first. And, that I especially had a bit to share with folks who had never done a signing event. So, here are some tips to prepare you for your first public signing.

1. Bring plenty of your books. This might sound obvious, but there's a point here. Even if you only have one book in print (like me!), you're going to need to take up real estate on a table (or even a booth for larger events). Even a six-foot table starts looking enormous when you only have one book. Bring 15 copies at least and make staggered piles. This is the "I had more, but already sold a few" trick. Keep some in reserve, though. You don't want to pile a hundred books on the table that you have to look around in order to greet someone.

2. Have something small to give away. Think bookmarks, flyers, business cards, or some other branded trinket. Heck, tape your business card to a piece of candy. Candy draws kids, but can also draw the ire of parents. Be creative with your giveaways. Try a theme if your book suggests one. Vampires? Give away fake teeth. Mobsters? Give away fake tattoos. Romance? Ummm...yeah... stick to candy.

Normally, I print my little signs in color, but the printer was down. :(
3. Consider getting some swag. I'm a huge proponent of Vistaprint. They have a lot of different options for marketing materials. It's not cheap, but here's the trick: wait for a Groupon (or Living Social) deal. Right now, you can get $70 of stuff for a $17 Groupon! You can get some serious swag for $70. As you can see in the photo, I have bags and mugs on the left side of the table. A dozen of both cost <$50 because of coupons. A bag works well, especially at a large show where folks may be carrying a few books with them. And, it's free advertising!

4. Bring a pen. Another obvious one, but there's a caveat here. Make sure it's the right kind of pen. Make sure you test it out. A Sharpie might be too heavy and run through your page. Practice with your pen and be confident about which page you're going to sign. Oh, and take it from me, if you've got a pseudonym, PRACTICE your signature a lot!

5. Have a hook. This is my least favorite part of the public book signing. The circus barker call. The "hey, come see what I have over here," only... a little less creepy. I'm passive aggressive. This can be surprising to some folks who know me, if only for the fact that I can be downright gregarious at times. Let me tell you something, the two are not the same. I hate confrontation and I'm very empathetic. I don't want someone shouting at me to buy their book, so why would I want to be that guy? Instead, I tend to engage only those who engage me first. They have to at least look my way and/or glance at my book. "Suspense, thriller. First book in a trilogy. A little bit of James Patterson with a dash of Dean Koontz." If they linger longer, I add a bit about the story. "Young man is accosted on his back porch by an identical twin he never knew he had." That's where I leave it. If they inquire further, I know they're interested. Otherwise, I give them the kind of space I would want.

6. Prepare to be disappointed. Be realistic. Let's face it, no matter how well prepared you are, things might not go the way you hoped. Maybe the venue is slow. Maybe the clientele isn't your typical readership. Maybe you get a bad traffic location. Maybe you didn't find the right hook. Maybe the guy next to you was so aggressive, he was scaring everyone away. Stranger things have happened. As a self-pubbed writer, you also have to understand that some folks don't want to buy a book from someone they've never heard of, even if your idea is the greatest ever. I sold three books at my first signing. I'll admit, being at a large book festival, that number was a bit disappointing. But, I took what I knew from that experience and applied it to my second event. I had the same number of sales with much less traffic and a much smaller venue. I'd tempered my expectations and walked away pretty satisfied.

The point of doing a signing isn't about making money. If you go into it with that as the primary goal, you'll more than likely come away with a bitter taste in your mouth. It's an opportunity to get your name and the title(s) of your book(s) out there, and to talk books with fellow readers and writers. Book signings are as much about networking and socializing as they are about selling books.

If you live in NJ or the tri-state area, be sure to visit my Facebook event page and check out some of the places I'll be this summer and fall.


  1. Bringing something to give away is always a good idea for book signings and sales. At university, I was on the staff of the English department literary magazine. My job was organizing regular bookstalls in the university cafeteria where we sold our magazine. One day, the bookstall just happened to be scheduled on October 31, so I bought some Halloween candy to give away and it was a great success. So we did it again with Christmas chocolate on December 6 (St. Nicholas Day). It may seem silly, but it works.

  2. Not silly at all, though you might be attracting the wrong clients. Kids love candy, but if you're not selling children's or young adult books, you might want to consider a more adult-oriented food choice (eg, protein bars, small bottles of water, shots of gin). ;)