We've all seen them, those movies where the author is scheduled to appear, do a small reading, talk a little about the book and then, graciously sit at a small table laden with stacked copies of the book to sign. Oh, I forgot to mention, starting at the table and and snaking an impatient path through the store are hundreds of fans pushing and shoving to have their fleeting chance of a few precious moments in your presence.
Yeah, Hollywood dreams at their best.
Let me tell you, it don't happen that way UNLESS you're in that 1% (yes, ONE per cent) of authors who have sold
millions of copies — and even then, that line may be limited in most cases.
The other day I had an opportunity to share in a writing event where a total of 21 authors presented their wares. I'll be honest, most were what I would call "One-book wonders" but that doesn't matter. One book, ten books. You are still an author.
Over one hundred (100) people milled through the array of writers and their books they offered. Not bad for a first-time event. Writers hustled their books, talking to the public as they perused the tables.
I'll be honest. I had my latest book proudly displayed and also offered a few of my older scribblings for a total of eight (8) novels. People stopped and I stood and talked with potential customers.
I sold one (1) book and it was on how to write science fiction. I had a chapter within that fine book. Surprisingly, I'm one of the few authors who actually sold something. I know of one author who traded two copies of her book for two copies of another author's books — does that count as sales? In truth, I believe the only author who "sold" more copies than all the rest was the one giving away his book for a donation to the Cleveland Cancer Center.
Book signings, as Hollywood portrays them, are unreal for the "Dove" majority. What does "Dove" mean? 99 44/100 per cent, if you've ever listened to their ads. My last solo book signing had approximately seven (7) people show and I sold three (3) books. The one prior to that? I had a total of twenty-two people attend and I sold eight (8) books. The one before that was dismal: two attendees, zilch books sold. In fact, I vividly remember my very first book signing. If you count my family who showed to rally me on, I had a total of eleven people at my event. Removing my family from the equation, there
were only four who showed. Still, I was able to sell five copies and give a complimentary copy to the library. My sister-in-law was adamant she was going to be the first supporter of my writing career and wouldn't allow me to give her a book.
BUT, I have learned with each signing, there are tricks to the trade.
Make your table attractive but not cluttered. A small table with eight books can be overwhelming but if displayed neatly, or standing upright, it will appear cleaner. As people finger your books (and leave) take a moment to straighten your merchandise.
Have a larger poster of your spotlight novel — a 12x18 inch is quite adequate. Just be sure to keep the ratio of the book's size correct when enlarging. You don't want a squatty picture. Have it done professionally.
Offer a small treat or candy - if you can tie it back to your book in some manner, even better. A friend of mine had a novel which revolved around her character always having a cup of tea — she offered tea bags she'd doctored with a small business card attached to the label.
Make sure you have a tablecloth or runner to cover the presentation table. This will help to establish an ambiance rather than present a cold image.
Stand. Don't sit at the table and talk "up" to the prospective buyer. Unless you're one of the lucky authors who have a long line awaiting your autograph, being on the same level with a reader, looking them in the eye, will help. For my last event, I stood for over two hours, resting just a few minutes at times, and noticed that as the evening progressed, other authors were picking up on my action of standing.
Have business cards available for picking up. Have a flyer about the book or books. Have printouts of reviews for them to read. Grab one when talking to a prospect.
Be pro-active, not re-active. Be the first say "hi" or shake their hand. Trust me, they're not going to bite you.
The above won't guarantee a great book signing, but it will definitely help. I wish you long lines but don't be disheartened by sitting alone. By the way, practicing your autograph is a waste of time — if you don't know how to write your name by this time, practicing isn't going to help.
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~ COMMENTS ~
Thanks for the tips, and for the honest description of what really happens at most book signings. If we hope for Hollywood-style events, we're going to be badly disappointed.
I have been hearing from authors about how slow signings have started to become. I think part of that is the digital revolution. But one author said to me they were just about to pack up and leave the show...the one they were at had even less people show up, and at that moment a fan showed up. Bought copies of the 3rd in all her trilogies and even brought her other books to be signed. Sometimes it is all worth it for that one fan.
I'm scheduled for a book fair in August and haven't had a lot of success with book signings, this is very good information. Perhaps some of it is common sense but I forget my common sense when in a group situation! Another thing, please remember to bring change for that odd occasion when actually selling a book! Thanks for this, I enjoyed reading it.
I forgot to mention that aspect - must add it to the list. Thanks for reminding me. I priced my books at even breaks like $5, $10, $12 and $15. Actually, I only had one book at $12. Still, I made sure I had $50 in one dollar bills and $75 in five dollar bills. It may seem overkill, but I was short change at one book signing and another book signing found two other authors begging change from me. I'd rather have too much than not enough.
Elyse, it was experience but I found it was more about getting my name out in the public eye. Most of the attendees were intrigued by my writing genres: science fiction, fantasy, adventure, thriller, horror and well, this one threw them, Amish Christian. It seemed many couldn't wrap their minds around the concept. Thank goodness I had the book reviews to back me up!