View Full Version : Looking for Book Signing Tips....

12-05-2005, 04:23 PM
Hi All:

On Wednesday I have my first book signing for my 1st fantasy novel "Child of Night." Wondered if anyone out there has some good tips for handling a book signing?

Cathy C
12-05-2005, 07:22 PM
Well, you don't say for sure, but I'm presuming this is in a bookstore. Yes, I have several suggestions:

1. Make sure that you contact the store TODAY and ask who the manager on duty will be during your signing. We've had signings where we set it up with one person, but the person on duty didn't know squat about it, leaving us looking like idiots! Yes, they scrambled to set it up while we were standing there, but it's just much more professional to ensure that it's all fixed for you.

2. Make sure that you take a Press Kit about the book along with you to give to the manager on duty (just in case he hasn't heard of you.) If you've never done a Press Kit before, you should learn. I give detailed instructions on how to make one over here (http://www.revision14.com/readstory.jsp?article=260). Business cards are also a good idea, even if you only do them on your computer with Avery-style pre-cut ones.

3. Make sure that the store has ordered copies of your book and has them on hand. If you're bringing your own, make sure to stop by and have them make barcode stickers for the back before the event, so that the books can be checked out at the register. Also make sure that you have filled out a consignment form with the store and given them your billing information. Some stores will cut you a check for your portion on the spot. But others will send you a check in the mail on their regular schedule. Make sure you know how they do it, so you're not surprised.

4. Make sure that your table is in a traffic aisle, or near the front door. We've done signings in several small indie bookstores where we were shunted to a back corner. Gee, think maybe the people COULDN'T SEE US?! :mad: Be nice and polite, but check out the layout of the store early. You might be able to suggest an alternative location if you're placed in an awkward spot. This doesn't happen often, though, since the bookstore's goal is to SELL BOOKS, so they usually put you right up front where people can see you.

5. Take along a dozen fresh new pens. A few will disappear. It just happens, so don't sweat it. But if you hit it off with someone there who might be able to help your career, it's good to be able to hand them a pen to write down contact information.

6. Take along a nice white or black tablecloth that will fit something about the size of a cardtable. Good, bad or indifferent -- people are much more likely to stop at a table that looks like the person is important. A tablecloth (for some unknown reason) seems to convey this. If the store already has one on the table, so much the better. But it really does help convey an "author-ish" image.

7. Take a small basket along and fill it with individually wrapped chocolates. Hershey's Kisses are good. What usually happens is that kids will spot it and then their parents will come over to apologize for the kid "taking" the candy. You are to act nonchalant, nice and polite and then chat them up about the book. They'll usually stay for a minute or two -- sort of as an apology, and if you can hook them with the story, they'll buy it.

8. Be extremely personable. You don't have to talk to every person, but try to meet their eyes as they walk by. Nod, smile and perhaps say something like, "Hi! How are you today?" Those inclined will stop to chat. Those who aren't, won't. But if the ones who didn't stop happen to notice others who have, they might stop by on their way out. It's sort of like one person staring at the sky for long minutes out on the street. Eventually, passers-by are almost forced to look up. It's human nature.

9. If you have the time and money, have a poster sized copy of your cover made up and ask the store to put it in their window or tape it to the front counter the day before, so that people know you're coming. If you have a .jpeg or .gif of the cover image, you can take it to Kinkos, Office Depot, OfficeMax or Staples and have them produce an 11x17 color print of it. Then they can laminate it, so you can take it from place to place for your signings.

Remember, the more professional you make yourself APPEAR, the more professionally you'll be treated!

Good luck, and have fun! :D

12-05-2005, 07:51 PM
Great list, Cathy. I have yet to do my signings (book coming out in February). Just a few comments:

2. Make sure that you take a Press Kit about the book along with you to give to the manager on duty (just in case he hasn't heard of you.)

What's the purpose of giving the manager on duty the press kit on the day of signing?

3. Make sure that the store has ordered copies of your book and has them on hand.

A VERY important point. Make sure you call ahead of time (a week) to make sure books have been ordered and will arrive in time for the event. Sometimes things get shuffled around and lost, and it would be a really bad thing if you show up and there are no books to sell/sign.

6. Take along a nice white or black tablecloth that will fit something about the size of a cardtable.

Great advice. I have seen authors sitting at a crappy desk, looking miserable. :) I'd add that if your book has a light cover, choose a dark cloth. If the cover is dark, choose a white cloth -- helps bring out your books.

9. If you have the time and money, have a poster sized copy of your cover made up and ask the store to put it in their window or tape it to the front counter the day before, so that people know you're coming.[/QUOTE]

Should it be just the cover, or a poster about the event? If it's just a cover, unless the store also put up a notice about the time/date of the event, it might not be apparent. Most chain stores (Barnes and Nobles, etc.) will put up event posters days in advance. If you have a good author photo, should put that up as well.

Cathy C
12-05-2005, 08:05 PM
What's the purpose of giving the manager on duty the press kit on the day of signing?

Very, very simple -- fame by association. You now have TWO managers who can talk you up. Actually, this is especially important, because a duty manager is much more likely to refer to your table people while they're checking out with similar genre books. But the manager has to KNOW enough about the book to do so. Managers want to be knowledgable, so they will probably take a few minutes to scan the information. Just enough to know a bit about you. It really does help!

Should it be just the cover, or a poster about the event?

A poster with blanks to write in the data is always best, but few people have the software to make one that could easily be reproduced by an hourly employee at an office supply store. It's much easier to print the cover and then place a large sticker in the corner with the information (:o Oops! I should have added that part! Ahem... Make a sticker for the corner with the signing information. A good sized sticker for this is the Avery 5164 mailing label. It's 3-1/3"x4" and both Word and WordPerfect have the template built into the software for ease of use.

Oh, and one additional point with the consignment arrangement. See if they will need an INVOICE from you for the books sold. Ask when you talk to them about the bar codes, etc.

12-05-2005, 11:28 PM
When you say bar code, do you mean the ISBN scan code? Or store specific bar codes? The ISBN bar code should be on the back of most books already...

12-06-2005, 12:12 AM
Thank you Cathy... What a great list. My first book signing is actually at the small college that i teach at. I am hoping to get a few of the local book stores next. Thanks again. :)

Christine N.
12-06-2005, 12:16 AM
Maestro, Borders uses their own bar code stickers with their own number. So all books bought there have to have the BINC sticker on the back.

I also made up flyers announcing the event -date, time, etc... and dropped them off at the locale. They can copy them to hand out or post.

12-06-2005, 08:45 PM
Well there is at least a little buzz around campus about my new book. I teach at a small school and it is big news when a faculty member publishes a book. Particularly a fantasy novel that the cross-country coach writes :) I have two students that have been in charge of the promotion of the event. I also work with a charity that builds schools in Kenya, so I am giving a small cut of each sale to that charity. I am hoping that that will help the sales :)

I'll let everyone know how it went.

12-08-2005, 08:04 PM
Well the book signing went just okay. We had 30+ people buy a book in the hour and a half we set up for, and we took orders for quite a few more. Definitely a learning curve but well worth the effort. Any tips on how to better advertize or promote a book signing would be appreciated :)

Cathy C
12-08-2005, 08:09 PM
What did you do this time? We'll go from there!

12-09-2005, 05:35 AM
Hi Cathy :)

Actually not much of anything to promote this book signing. We got permission to set up outside the student cafeteria around the evening rush hour and just put up some flyers around campus. It was very much a spur of the moment thing :) I know I could do alot more for promotion. I still have had alot of traffic through my office on campus today from people who heard that I have a book out.

I want to do a "real" book signing with good promotion at a local independent bookstore maybe next week and would like to be better prepared.

Cathy C
12-09-2005, 07:10 PM
Well, you're going to be hard pressed to get even a friendly indie store to set up a signing that fast -- especially around the holidays. Signings are normally set up weeks or MONTHS in advance, so the store can properly prepare. But if you can manage it, GREAT!

Promotion will also be a problem this close to the holidays, as newspapers, radios and the like are pretty much full of paid announcements. But it certainly can't hurt to call your local newspaper and see if you can talk to the Book Editor (for a large city paper) or the Entertainment Editor (smaller papers). Posters are also a good idea, in coffee shops, donut shops or the like where people often wait in line with nothing to do. Always ASK if you can put up the poster, and explain that you're a local author. You'll get better response. Web press releases are also good, because you reach a wide variety of people who might not otherwise know about you. PRWeb (http://www.prweb.com) is my favorite, because they were one of the first in the business, so they're signed up with most of the major search engines (Yahoo, MSN, Google, etc.) This is a free service, but you can also pay them (credit card or PayPal) to get higher placement on the engines. I usually pay, and our Press Releases have gotten over 100,000 "click-throughs" over the course of a month or so. A click through is when someone reads the title of the press release and clicks the link to read the whole thing. Of course, this means that you have to have an interesting headline that grabs people's attention. If you want to read an article I wrote about Press Releases, wander over to my website and click on the "Articles for Aspiring Authors" link. I think it's Article #10, but check the titles to be sure.

Good luck!

12-10-2005, 09:09 PM
Thank you for all the help Cathy :)

12-16-2005, 11:50 PM
Great advice, Cathy.

Can I ask you how much you pay per click for your click throughs from PR Web? Also, you said that you have had over 100,000 click throughs in a month. Was that on one press release or more? If more how many? And what was your conversion rate from those click throughs? In other words, of the 100,000 + who clicked on the press release how many interviews did you get or how many sales? I'm asking because I might try that avenue myself when my next book comes out. Thanks for any further information you can share.

Cathy C
12-17-2005, 02:21 AM
One of the nice things about PRWeb, Maggie, is that they don't charge "pay per click" fees. The money that's paid (if you decide to pay anything) is for distribution of the release. But after that, there's no charge.

Here are the press releases we've done with them to date, and the number of clicks. If you read the release headlines, you'll spot pretty quickly why some got more clicks than others.

Now, just so you understand how to read the numbers, the first number stated is the number of click-throughs. The second number is the number of SECONDARY news distribution agencies (like Yahoo News, MediaWire, etc.) that have picked up the Release (for which PRWeb will have no further data about click-throughs). The third number is the number of times the Press Releases was printed using the website's "format for print" feature. The fourth number is the number of times that the Press Release was forwarded by email to a third party. The final number is the number of times the Release was downloaded in PDF form.

PR Web - September, 2004 (http://www.prweb.com/releases/2004/9/prweb157416.htm) - 51,006 / 1,127 / 4 / 20 / 46

PR Web - November, 2004 (http://www.prweb.com/releases/2004/11/prweb182607.htm) - 135,269 / 1,094 / 4 / 17 / 34

PR Web - January, 2005 (http://www.prweb.com/releases/2005/1/prweb197402.htm) - 89,956 / 1,365 / 5 / 12 / 31

PR Web - April 10, 2005 (http://www.prweb.com/releases/2005/4/prweb226899.htm) - 82,661 / 1,252 / 13 / 14 / 106

PR Web - April 25, 2005 (http://www.prweb.com/releases/2005/4/prweb226899.htm) - 89,361 / 844 / 9 / 14 / 72

PR Web - July 24, 2005 (http://www.prweb.com/releases/2005/7/prweb264944.htm) - 95,192 / 1,371 / 2 / 17 / 109

We weren't really SEEKING interviews. Our goal was to reach the end buyer or bookstores. We did get contacted a few times to confirm data in the release, but the goal is normally to provide enough information that an interviewer doesn't NEED to contact you. As for sales, we have noticed a sharp increase in hits to our website to read a sample chapter of the book (between 200-1,000 extra website hits in the first 48 hours or so.) We already get about 100 hits a day to our site, so it's pretty easy to spot a rash of new visitors.

Hope that helps! :)

12-17-2005, 03:04 AM
Wow! Those are pretty impressive statistics. Thank you for sharing with me. I'm still unclear about the payment for distribution. Is it expensive and how does it improve your click through rate? I'm heading over to their site right now to see if I can learn more there. Thanks again.

12-21-2005, 03:58 PM
PRWeb is actually free-- you don't have to pay anything to have them post a press release. But if you want to see your stats and have increased distribution and higher placement in that day's releases, you pay whatever you like. I normally go for the $30 level when I have a fairly important release.

Oh, and my tip for book signings? Wear this:


Available here: http://www.cafepress.com/writegear

P.S. CaelinPaul, way to go! 30+ sales is very good, especially for a sort-of impromptu signing!

07-20-2008, 06:26 PM
Hello. I had a question relating to book signings and figured this thread might be one place to post it. I recently had a signing that wasn't a raging success. Sold copies were in the single digits (including some purchases by family). An announcement in a major paper was listed the week of the event (no one indicated it brought them in), in-store promotion occurred, people were notified, and I utilized most of the tips on this thread and...oh, well. Just didn't work out this time.

My question relates to this. I was surprised to see that after selling so few copies during the signing that the bookstore manager allowed me to sign all of the remaining inventory (not a huge number, but around 30 books). Forgive my ignorance on this, but I thought that signed copies weren't able to be returned to publishers. Is that true or is it just a myth? If it is true, why would a manager allow me to sign so many that probably won't sell and what exactly happens to them? Do those copies count as "sales" for lack of returnability? Do most publishers take such copies back anyway or do they simply get recycled? Who gets the bill? Do royalties apply? Just curious. Thanks.

Cathy C
07-21-2008, 04:25 AM
Myth. ANYTHING can be returned to the publisher. They don't care, because once it's returned, it's generally destroyed anyway.

The value of signing the stock (and, in fact, signing the stock at any store you visit) is that the bookstore manager will likely feature that book with a sticker or prime location in the store for a few days.

One of the things I've (somewhat painfully) discovered is that the average citizen is actually afraid of authors! :eek:

It's TRUE! I swear!

A person sitting at a table with books in front of them seems to have the same effect on people as people doing sales pitches for donations on the subway (or street corner, or whatever.) People are often afraid of a sales pitch and while there are some authors who are truly genius at making strangers feel welcome and interested, most of us writer-types are introverts. It shows. Really, it does.

But that doesn't mean that people don't want the books. On the contrary, I've had more than one bookstore manager tell me that mere minutes AFTER we've walked out the door, people picked up the signed books and purchased them. At first, it made me feel a little offended---like, "So my book's fine? It's just ME you don't like?" :e2cry:

It's not you. It's NEVER you. It's that people are really, REALLY impressed that someone wrote a book and haven't a clue what to say to them. Accept it now, and feel free to check your deodorant levels (:ROFL:) but don't stop trying to talk to people. It really does help sell books, even if it doesn't seem to.

And keep signing stock. It's that little hedge to keeping the book in good spots in the store. :)

07-21-2008, 10:03 PM
Just wanted to thank you, Cathy C, for your reply. I'll be keeping it in mind during future signings when managers read the announcement "Today we have local author..." and people do their best to avoid my "Hello," free bookmarks, or any contact / conversation whatsoever.

Still, I can't blame them. Who really wants a sales pitch anyway? It's just a sign to me that these events have a learning curve and I have to keep at it and not give up. Thanks.

07-21-2008, 10:37 PM
. . .Sold copies were in the single digits (including some purchases by family). . . .
Stephanie Chandler, author and former bookstore owner (you can Google her, and should, as her latest book is on Internet promotion for authors), has said that the average sales at a bookstore book signing = 8 copies. That (plus the discount that the bookstores take) is why she says that bookstores are a bad place for authors to sell books. You can get better results at libraries, group meetings (service clubs, chambers of commerce, etc.), local craft fairs, and so on.