Book Signing Basics
By Caroline Giammanco
We spend months or years struggling to complete our manuscripts, and the thrill of signing a publishing contract blinds us to the cold truth: our work isn’t over. Four years ago I hadn’t realized how difficult it would be to market and promote my first book. Few publishers, even large ones, promote authors, so we writers have to do what it takes to be successful. Book signings are a critical part of landing your book in the hands of readers.
Not everyone is a born salesperson. I know I wasn’t, but I’ve picked up some strategies along the way that have helped me transition from determined writer to successful salesperson. Arranging an event and making it a success may seem difficult and overwhelming. Now that I’m on tour with my third book, with over forty Barnes and Noble signings under my belt, I’m offering tips to make your book signing a win for you, the store, and the readers.
First, let’s start at the beginning.
When you contact a bookstore, whether by phone, in person, or by email, have a game plan. At Barnes and Noble stores, ask to speak to the CRM (Community Relations Manager). If contacting an independent store, ask to speak to the owner. Once you are connected to the right person, have confidence. Pitch your book and who you are. Be enthusiastic. Explain what your book is about, why it appeals to readers, and what you will do to promote an event. Include press releases, the use of social media, and any print or radio and tv interviews you may do around the time of the event.
Be persistent. Not every store will immediately agree to a book signing. Don’t take that as a definite no. Follow up on the conversation. Send an email including your book trailer, photos of you and your book cover, and a blurb about your book. If you have high ratings on Amazon, let them know. Your job is to convince the management it won’t be a wasted effort to have you in their store. While most bookstores are supportive of authors, sales are their bottom line. Let them know you will be able to bring buyers into their store.
Be seen as good for business for that bookstore, and be proactive once an event is scheduled. Advertise and discuss the signing on social media. Facebook events are a great way to target people in the area. Use the resources you have available. If you can afford a Facebook or print ad, place one. Ask the local newspaper if they’d write an article. Ask radio stations about interviews they may be willing to have with you. Use Twitter and any other networking sites you belong to in order to spread the word. Word of mouth works.
Even with a full-fledged effort to get your friends and relatives into the store on the day of the signing, the truth is that most of the readers you encounter will be general foot traffic—people who just happened to come to the store on that day. In truth, you don’t want your target customers to be your friends and family. The only way you will be successful is to have complete strangers buy your book. We all hope our circle of friends and family will support us, but that will never get us to the bestseller category. It won’t even produce lukewarm royalties. You have to be willing to expand your comfort zone and reach out to total strangers for sales.
Many writers enjoy being introverts. There’s comfort found in being alone with our laptop and the stack of research we’ve compiled, but once a book signing is at hand, it’s time to come out of your shell. Be prepared to engage customers as soon as they walk near your table. There’s no need to be the heavy-handed used car salesman, but you must initiate the conversation.
At my first Barnes and Noble signing, I had an epiphany. I realized after the first hour that when I smiled and said hello most customers assumed I was a store employee. Yes, I had a big sign sitting next to me announcing my appearance as an author, but few paid attention to it. I adjusted and overcame. I adopted an approach that has worked well for me in stores across the country. As people enter my area I cheerfully say, “Hi, I’m having a book signing today. If you have a moment, I’d love to talk with you about my book.” Bingo! Now I have their attention and they are aware that I am an author with a book they may be interested in. Book sales only happen if readers are attracted to your product. It is your job to get their attention.
I’ve had multiple sold-out signings, and I’ve also seen authors who are doing all the wrong things. They placidly sit at their tables waiting for customers to come to them. Others only schedule an hour or two at a signing. Don’t do that! Devote time to meet as many readers as possible. If the store has been kind enough to give you space in their business, don’t make their efforts to order books, develop signs, etc. be wasted by a half-hearted effort on your part.
Be passionate about your book. If it was important enough to write, it should be important enough for you to promote. This is difficult for introverts. You must put on your performance mask, however, and engage, engage, engage! Keep in mind that many readers are also introverts and may not feel comfortable walking up to you unless you make yourself a welcoming presence. A book signing is no time to be shy. Also, don’t be discouraged. Not everyone you talk to will buy your book. That’s okay.
Remember to have fun! Book signings aren’t an obligation or work. You are getting to talk about something you love. What better topic do you have to talk about than the book you created and are incredibly proud of?
Marketing and personal appearances are important. Your fan base grows when you put yourself out into the public. Personal encounters with readers fuel sales and are a rewarding part of an otherwise private journey as a writer. Now get going!
Caroline Giammanco’s latest book, Inside the Death Fences: Memoirs of a Whistleblower can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Caroline-Giammanco/e/B017KQZRU4/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1
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