Book Signings and Book Readings are excellent ways to entice new readers to pick up a copy of your book, and interact with those who have already read it! In order for your signing to be a success I've enclosed a list of tips I've learned, which will help your signing become a success.
Planning the Event: Many times Authors want to coincide a Book Tour with the release of their book. This is excellent if you are able to afford the time off from work and family life to do so. However for many Independent Authors embarking on a multi-city tour might not be feasible. If this is the case, what I suggest is starting small and working your way up to larger book events, venues and extended touring.
First pull out a calendar and a map of the region you'd first like to tackle. For instance, I live in Bozeman Montana and I know my book is being released on February 1st. There are five major and independent bookstores in Bozeman, which I hope will carry my book. I know I'd like to have one to three book signings in the area between February and March. I look at the calendar and figure out a list of possible signing book event dates and possible locations to have the event. I then politely phone the store or library to inquire about the possibility of having a signing and list possible dates in which to schedule the event.
Once a book event date is settled upon it will then be up to the bookseller whether or not they prefer that books are sold on consignment (I.E. It's your responsibility to order the copies from the printer, and bring them to the book signing. The Book Store will then take a 40-55% commission off the retail price, and you receive the wholesale price, minus printing costs as a profit). If you are listed with Ingram or Baker and Taylor and allow returns, the bookstore may opt to order books into the store. The copies, which don't sell are sent back to your printer/distributor and you pay the refund to the store.
For "Burden of Proof" I opted to schedule several small events in the Bozeman area, first at the town library and then at a local bookstore. I learned a lot from both experiences about what to do and what not to do at a booksigning.
So Tip #1: Start off on a regional basis, scheduling events in your hometown at a local library, book or grocery store (yes believe it or not many grocery stores host book signings) and depending on your genre you can also work to schedule book events at schools, book clubs/rotary clubs, the local Y, Church, etc...get creative and constantly be conscious of your key demographic and genre of book.
Once you've done a few signings I recommend setting a goal of how many signings you want to do in a month or six month period. Be realistic - if you work all the time or can't leave the kids, think small, but efficient. Maybe aim for one event a month in a nearby town that the kids enjoy going to or a place you are going on vacation...If you have the time (and yes money - for gas and hotel, which you are responsible for while on tour) then think on a larger regional basis. For example, I'm aiming for a multi-city tour in Montana and Washington State for two weeks in June...I look for locations that are on a certain path to make getting from one event to the other stress-free and easy.
Tip #2: Promotion - Book Signings at a busy book store often get unexpected foot traffic, but I can guarantee that the more you promote your book and publicize the event the better, especially in your hometown. Send out email or postal invitations to friends and family to attend your event. Send a Press Release regarding your book and linking it to the event in a local paper. Supply the bookstore or library hosting the event with ample promotional supplies such as posters, postcards, bookmarks, etc...It doesn't have to be expensive ads, just a catchy flyer printed and copied from your home printer will be effective. Print out synopsis sheets and book information to hand out around town...anything to help get the word out about the Book Signing event.
Tip #3: Just before a Book Signing: Be sure to call the event venue several days before the signing to double check to make sure everything is set for your event. As them what time you need to be there, what you should bring, and any other questions you might have about set-up. I learned too that if you are supplying the books directly to the store on consignment versus a distributor - ask them about pricing and make sure the book is in their system I ran across this problem at my book signing today, where I have an Ingram book, but it wasn't priced in the system and it caused a delay in the signing.
Make sure you know where the venue is, if it's in a new city or part of town you aren't familiar with. Print out Map Quest directions and double check to ensure you have the correct address with the venue manager.
Tip # 4: Personal Prep for a book signing can include figuring out how you want to display your books, getting all of your on-site promotional items (i.e. posters, business cards, etc...) organized. Think about what you want to wear. You want to look professional and I recommend a dress or suit, either casual or more formal depending on event venue.
Tip # 5: Arrive early and be courteous to the venue employees. I know this is common sense, but just something that will help your signing/event go smoother. If you rush to make the event you might come across as abrupt in attitude to potential readers or feel anxious about the event.
Tip # 6: Setting up your signing table: Usually the venue will have the table set up and possibly a rack to display books. When setting up your table think of ways to attract customers to your book. It doesn't have to be fancy - just figure out ways to appropriately set-up your table, whether it's a poster board, cut-out, etc... Also don't forget to bring a couple of Sharpie pens - so you can in fact sign your books.
Things that really draw a reader to your book at a signing:
- Books - Display your books so that the title is easily read and books are easily available for customers to pick up and browse...
- Postcards, pamphlets, bookmarks: I printed out 4 X 6 postcards with Next Day Fliers and keep them at my table. They have a book description, ISBN #, ordering and contact information. That way if Customers aren't sure if they want the book right now, they can opt to purchase it later. You can also sign these postcards in lieu of books if someone wishes.
- Promotion: This isn't a must, but I often have a small prize, such as a bookstore gift card for $20 or a copy of a book or DVD, which consumers who purchase the book at the signing can enter to win. It's a perk for them and a way I can thank my readers for purchasing the novel.
- Email sign-up: Keep a Guest Log at your table, where readers can sign up for email updates regarding your book and also post a comment about your book.
- Don't have so much at the table, that you detract from the book itself, just enough to add to the reader's enjoyment of the book signing and invite curious customers to investigate what your book is all about.
Tip # 7: Always be friendly and outgoing to those who stop by your table. Be informed about your book, you wrote it after all - so confidently tell the potential reader what it's about and why they might like it! Greet passerby and smile at other store customers. You don't want to nag someone to come over to hear about your book, but when you sense someone might be interested start up a conversation about your novel....Also if someone brushes you off or is rude don't worry about it- many people are in a hurry or just don't have social skills, don't let it make you mad, especially sense the person who was rude hasn't even thought about it or how it affected you - why let it bother you when it doesn't bother them?
I'll post more tips later on...those are just a few on my head today after hosting a book signing in town!