Getting a Book Signing: Do’s and Don’ts

Just after I published my first novel, I sat in the parking lot on three separate occasions trying to gather the courage to go into the local Borders to set up a signing. At the time, I was a first-time author, self-published, new to the community and with only my personality and a smile to guide me. Over time, I managed to hold many successful signings in the Borders and Barnes & Noble stores in a thirty mile radius of my home over a period of two years. The bottom line is all the a course in miracles bookstore is interested in, and making it happen each and every time opened the doors, not only for me, but for all the fearless Nightengale Press authors I serve all over the world as well.

How do you approach a bookstore in your area?

First of all, go to the bookstores you’d like to approach to find out if they hold book signings. Some list these on their websites, others post advertising in their stores, some will just look at you like you’re nuts and say no. Big chains have people who work with the community to promote these kinds of events. (B&N, Borders, Waldenbooks etc.) Medium sized stores sometimes have a promotions person who handles these events and all the ads and in-store promotions (Davis-Kidd)Small bookstores usually don’t have the space or the budget for a book signing, and often will just say no. Not always, but often.

Find out the manager’s name, e-mail and direct phone number if you can. Ask to speak to him/her, but come prepared to be told they’re too busy. Ask when would be a good time to come in — they all have schedules, and usually prefer to meet with people early in their day before the hectic pace gets started. Be sure to follow up with an email or a voice mail message giving your name, your book’s title, that you’d like to meet to schedule a book signing, and why that would be good for the store. This is crucial. If it’s all work and no profit for the store, they won’t do it.

Managers are very busy people: OFFER to do the work providing the details — such as: Poster information laid out for reproduction: 8.5×11″ layout on white paper which includes your title, your name, the ISBN, the price and the wholesale distributors (usually Ingram or Baker & Taylor), and the publisher. Be prepared with your own eye-catching signage, which you’ll use to attract attention on the day of your book signing. Ask the store to provide only a table and a chair in a prominent place where customers will find you. Try to get the store to put you in the front near the entrance. This is tricky, since often they’ll tell you they have the “perfect” place, in the back of the store, out of the way. That’s not good, no one goes back there.

Have a gimmick that will draw patrons towards you.

Be ready and able to produce “buyers” – these are friends, colleagues and all kinds of other people who know you and who will come into the store to support your signing. You need to have a viable list of people you can “turn out” for your events. If you don’t have this, develop this before you try to get a book signing.

See if you can connect to a special promotions day like “teacher’s weekend,” a holiday, a news trend, anything that perks up the potential buyer’s interest. Holidays other than Thanksgiving and Christmas are good days to hold a book signing — Valentine’s Day for romance novels, July 4th for military or political titles — January and February for Fitness titles — Halloween for horror titles and mystery titles — you get the idea. You can make up your own holiday too – or use the more obscure ones that fill the calendars.

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