What I Know About Book Signings

In Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, I sum up my thoughts on book signings and their usefulness to an author in just a couple of paragraphs:

On Book Signings

Arranging a book signing can take a lot of time and effort, and you aren’t likely to sell more than a few books. That is why traditional publishers have lost interest. Self-publishers, however, still like to work this angle. Whether these authors receive adequate return on investment is up for debate, but with the right book in the right location, it might be. If nothing else, it gets your name out there and keeps you engaged with marketing.

Some independent bookstores and cafés like to host these events for local authors, whether they are independently or traditionally published. It gives the venue an air of intellectualism, and it gets people into the store. Of course, these people won’t all be book buyers. Many will be your friends and family stopping by to show their support. Still, if you have always wanted to do a book signing, try it out. Just know that you may spend more time thanking people you know for showing up than you will signing books for your adoring fans.

Speaking at Left Bank Books in St. Louis

Since Perfect Bound published in September 2014, I have been asked to share a little more of my own experience and to provide more details on how to make it a success if you choose to have a signing. Here’s what I know:

  • If you bill the event as a “launch party” and send out personalized invitations (via Evite or a similar service is fine) you will get more people to show.
  • Particularly for a book that has been out for a little while, it helps to make it a talk of some kind. Although people like to meet authors, there needs to be a little more of a draw.
  • Publicize the event through all channels open to you. If possible, team with a venue that will help with the marketing. I found the bookstores that were integral to their community brought in the most new people (not friends or family).
  • Capitalize on finding those new people by bringing business cards or a sign-up sheet for your mailing list.
  • Regarding sales, if the signing is at a bookstore, then the bookstore is selling your book (meaning the money is run through their cash register). If it’s at a coffee house or similar venue, then most likely you are selling the book. In either case, the venue takes a cut. Most venues will take 40% of sales, although some will go as low as 30%.
  • If you choose to have food and beverage — a nice touch if you want a more festive feel — that is on your dime. You’ll want to clear it with your venue before making plans.
  • Including audiovisuals can enrich your talk. If you are speaking at a venue that holds a lot of signings or talks, they would probably have A/V equipment or could tell you where to find it.
  • Ask up front when you will be paid. At two of my events, I was cut a check the day of the signing. In the third, they looked at me like I was crazy when I asked to be paid right after the event — it took about three weeks.
  • Consider forgoing the signing table. I had two events without a table and one with a table. The two without the table were much more enjoyable as I was able to mingle and get to know the visitors. People brought me their book and I signed it where I was. When I had a table, it was like a receiving line at a wedding: I said two words to each person and that was it. People didn’t hang around for very long, even friends and family, and I missed opportunities to connect with potential new readers.
  • And most important, make the event what you want it to be. Relax and have fun with it. Moderate your expectations for a big turnout, because signings are often very small. Should you end up with a large crowd, you’ll be all the happier.

Like this blog? Find more insights and advice in Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available from POP Editorial Services LLC, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and other fine retailers.


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