Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My Wednesday Thing on Book Signings

© Marta Stephens, 2008 all rights reserved

August 13, can you believe it? The weeks are flying by and it seems there're never enough hours in a day to do everything I need to do. I'm pleased to say though that production on the next in the Harper series, THE DEVIL CAN WAIT, is churning nicely along and the marketing is heating up with lots of freebies to share with readers in the coming weeks. More on this later.

Last Saturday I was one of several Hoosier authors at the Indiana State Fair who were selling and signing books. For me, the event was a success. I sold a few books, introduced a lot of unsuspecting people to Sam Harper and SILENCED CRY and made some very excellent contacts for future signing events. After a tw0-hour signing, my husband, son and I went out to eat. Not a bad day at all.

Some of the other authors felt discouraged because they didn't think enough was done to promote the authors' showcase. But, if our cup's half full, we have to be thankful for the chance of getting our foot in the blasted door. Besides, the success of book signings are all up to us, the authors. Personal appearances require the author to roll up his/her sleeves and do what I call the 3-P's: Plan, Promo & Prep.


1) Consider what can you do to make your book signing different. What do you have to offer a bookstore manager that no other local author can offer? During my initial conversation with the manager at our local B&N, he warned me not to be disappointed if I only sold 3 or 4 books. He said on average, if an authors sells that numer the event is considered a success. He was thrilled when I sold 25 in 2-hours. He jumped at the chance to set me up with another signing. What did I offer him to assure my event would be a success? The B&N is on our campus, I've worked on campus for 29 years and the focus of my promotion was to target co-workers who were anxious to get their hands on SILENCED CRY.

2) Contact bookstores, libraries, and author groups in your area. Get the name of the key person responsible for setting up speaking engagements/book signings. If your publisher doesn't offer a return on the books and shops are reluctant to buy them, offer to bring them with you. Offer them the standard 40% discount. If your signing goes well, they may reconsider and ask you back.


Two weeks before the event, start advertising--this is entirely up to you.

1) Print flyers that include the date, time, and place of your signing, your picture, book cover, brief blurb, one or two quotes from reviews, your bio, website link, and ISBN. Give the bookstore 100 copies.

2) Post your event on your website, blog, and author forums. By now you should also have a mailing list of potential readers. Send e-mail notices announcing the signing. Even if they have bought your book, this is a chance for them to get your autograph.

3) If you're not familiar with Book Tour, set up an account and start listing your events. You'll find my upcoming events there.

4) Send a media release to your local newspaper/radio station. If your city's newspaper is on line and has a calendar of events, post your event(s) there.


Call the bookstore a day or two ahead of time to confirm the event. Arrive at least 15-2o minutes early to set up.

Things you'll want to have at the signing:

  1. Bookmarks that include the book cover, your website, a blurb, and a review quote. You'd be amazed at how much you can fit into a bookmark.

  2. 2-3 pens.

  3. A guest book. Ask buyers to sign their name and give you an e-mail and/or snail mail address. This is one great way to develop a database of readers so you can e-mail them about future events.

  4. Props. What's your book about? Bring things that will make an attractive display and draw customers to your table.

  5. Flyers similar to those that you sent to the bookstore.

  6. A large poster (2'x3' is adequate) displaying your book cover with the words: "Author Event Today" written along the top or bottom.

  7. A camera.

  8. A bowl of mints or candy.
Customers may have that "other" book on their mind, you're wearing your salesperson hat on now, don't be afraid to look people in the eye, introduce yourself, and start a conversation. Some customers, however, may not be interested and won't want to chat. Don't press it, just move on to the next person. Hand them a bookmark, a flyer, or better yet one of your books. Let them hold it and read the blurb. If they've made it this far, chances are they're thinking about a buy.

At this point, they'll start asking questions like, how long have you been writing? Is this your first book? What they're really asking is, "Why should I buy this book?" Plan your answers ahead of time and be prepared to give the best pitch you can manage.

When you make a sale, show your genuine appreciation. An honest "thank you" and a smile goes a long way to making a long-lasting impression.

When your signing is over, make sure you personally thank the bookstore manager and staff. Leave some of your bookmarks with them and offer to supply them with more when they run out. Check with the manager or the peson in charge of scheduling the signings to set up a future date--perhaps he shop has plans for a big sale and an author signing might draw a bigger crowd.

Stay positive! Book signings can be a lot of fun, but regardless of how many books you sell, they give you a fantastic opportunity to meet new people and introduce your books to a host of potential readers.
* * *

Marta Stephens writes crime mystery/suspense. SILENCED CRY is available online at familiar shops such as all the Amazons, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books-a-Million, and Powells. Other locations include, but are not limited to those listed on her website.

SILENCED CRY (2007)Honorable Mention, 2008 New York Book Festival
Top Ten, 2007 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery)
Look for THE DEVIL CAN WAIT in November 2008.


Kathryn Magendie said...

I am going to copy this post and keep it for future reference!

(over here from Backspace!)

Marta Stephens said...

Kathryn! How nice of you to stop by and I'm truly flattered that you're going to save the post.

There are number of other things to do before and after the signing. This is was flew off the top of my head. :)


An essential guide to the basics of a successful booksigning, well worth the read. Thanks for posting.

Marta Stephens said...

Thanks BW!! I enjoy meeting and talking with poeple so although I don't do a lot of signings, they're always a positive way to get the word out. :)

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Excellent article, Marta! A great checklist. And you're right - it doesn't matter how many books you actually sell (though I always want to sell a lot!), because you never know with whom the lovely blue haired senior citizen who bought your book is connected. Maybe her son is a huge Hollywood movie maker, and perhaps he'll listen to her when she tells him SILENCED CRY is the best thing sinced GONE WITH THE WIND. Here come the movie rights... ;o)

In addition to the items you mentioned above, I used to bring four large bags of Dove chocolates to my signings to attract folks who might otherwise not notice my table. "Free chocolate," turns heads. LOL. Now I bring my glossy art photos - poster sized - to give away with book purchases. Folks seem to love them, and sometimes stop to see what the pretty pictures are before they've even noticed the books. But it's a good draw. And sometimes it's like Filene's basement, with dozens of folks pawing through the picture files. I love it. It's also satisfying to be able to combine two art forms into one event. The content of the photos are usually found somewhere in the LeGarde series books, so there's almost a symbiotic relationship there.

Isn't life grand?? Thanks for a wonderful piece.