How to Maximize the Benefits of Signings, and What Not to Leave at Home

Posted: August 30, 2011 in Writing
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You can do a ton of online marketing, but in my mind, nothing substitutes for meeting a person face-to-face, discussing what they want to discuss, and selling ’em a book.  Obviously, you can’t do one to the complete detriment of the other, but it seems that in this age of a trillion online marketing prospects, we need to highlight the benefit of in-person events.  With that context in mind, I’ve just had successful signings for my new book, Enemy in Blue, and wanted to share some of the keys that made them work out for me.


I will admit, I fell into this trap.  And, I consistently hear of other authors falling into this trap as well.  Somehow (at least in my mind) having the signing/event at a bookstore gilded the entire thing with more prestige, more glamor.  That’s the same rationale that drives so many of us to pursue traditional publishing, and is similarly faulty.  Here are some “negatives” I found with trying to hold my events at a bookstore:

  1. Bookstores ain’t gonna serve food or booze: I don’t know about the circles you run in, but in my circles, lubing the wheels of conversation with some alcohol is always welcomed.  Add to that, the events I had were shortly after a 9-5 workday ended, so people were hungry.  These two facts meant a bookstore would actually have been a terrible fit for me.  I would have had to pay for both food and booze–not a cheap venture.  Plus, end of the day, our goal here is to make money and increase exposure.  At a minimum, breaking even so that we don’t have to pay for that exposure, other than with time.  So, consider other locations, where you don’t have to pay for space, food, or booze, and you could end up maximizing your profits while creating a fun environment for your potential readers.
  2. I think bookstores, simply because they are in the industry of “no response,” take the same course as some editors, publishers, agents, etc.  If you aren’t Patterson or Grisham, there’s no impetus to get back to you.  And, when you’re trying to schedule something with some semblance of a deadline, no responses or delayed responses are going to throw a wrench in your plans.  On the other hand, I have found that industries which recognize they can make money from your event, and that you won’t cost them anything (i.e. restaurants, restaurants/bars, art galleries) are responsive to the possibility of someone bringing them income, especially on slower nights.
  3. Bookstores aren’t that much fun or lively.  People are compelled to keep the noise down, even if a bookstore has a separate event room.  I believe fun attracts more participation/attendance, and more participation/attendance leads to more book sales.
  4. Space.  This entirely depends on the bookstore, but some are small and/or laid out in a limiting fashion.  I want my attendees to be able to interact with myself and other people, and a cramped space does not promote that interaction.


Choose your date/time wisely.  For signings in the summer–don’t do ’em on weekends.  No one is around.  Probably, don’t even do them on Fridays.  Wednesday and Thursday have worked out well for me so far.  Wednesday is “hump day,” and people are looking for an excuse, any excuse, to get out.  Now, people are probably more inclined to do some drinking on a Thursday, which lends itself to a more lively environment, in my opinion.  And, by lively, I mean a more open wallet and conversation.


You organize a signing, and a day before it you’re racing to get everything together in preparation for the event.  Don’t forget these things:

  1. Make sure you have enough books in advance.  If you are a POD author, priority mailing your books costs a fortune.  Plan to order books 3-4 weeks in advance for the event.
  2. Sharpies for signatures.  Pens.
  3. If you’re doing an outdoor signing, like a booth at a festival, bring things to weigh down your materials.
  4. If you have reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, etc., create a one-page sheet of excerpts from your best reviews.  It goes a lot further to have recommendations from people other than yourself.  Make it easier for potential readers to see what other people have said about your book.
  5. Have flyers for your book that include a summary of your book, your author bio, and how to buy your book.  You aren’t going to convert every “up” or contact to a sale.  Make sure they can leave with something in their hands to read, and to hopefully buy the book later.
  6. A sign up sheet, or a nice journal people can sign.  Get email addresses and mailing addresses.  Use this to start building a mailing list of your fans.
  7. Consider giving something away for free in exchange for people signing up to be on your mailing list.  It’s kind of amazing what people will do to get something for free, regardless of how mundane the free item is.  Giveaway a few books, an iPod, or something relatively slight in cost, and you’ll get a significant amount of interaction.
  8. Bring change.  Most people aren’t going to pay in checks. I have made many trips to the bank to get $100 in one dollar bills.  They look at me weird, and have even said, “Gonna be a fun night for you!”  Fughetaboudit.  I ask them to buy a book.
  9. If you have a business established, but don’t have a business bank account, don’t let people write checks to your business.  You can’t cash them without the business account.
  10. Bring a camera, and someone to take pictures.  It’s great to have pictures with your readers for a variety of reasons.  Not the least of which is to update on your Facebook fan page.  Check out my fan page for examples of photos from signings:  People love them, and you can tag them, which brings people back to your page.
  11. Have a blowup of your cover made to use as a poster.  First, it’s cool, and you’ll feel like a stud or studette because you essentially have a movie poster of your book.  Second, it makes you look professional to have something like this at your event.  Of course, don’t forget to bring an easel to display it.
I’m sure there are many more suggestions some seasoned authors can offer.  If you want to add to the list, send me an email or comment on the post.  Finally, have fun!
  1. Jack says:

    As usual, lots of very helpful, stress-mitigating information here. Thank you.

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