Thursday, November 1, 2012

The YAY or NAY of book signings

I live in a fairly small town.  Many people here know I’m a writer.  I can tell because they come up to me, they whisper about me, they talk to my relatives about me, they chase me down the aisle at WalMart…Okay, so that last one is a story we'll save for another day, but you get the idea.  I’ll be honest, it’s pretty amazing to meet people  who are fascinated by what I do.  And for that reason, whenever I am asked to do a book signing locally, I do it.  And I sell out every single time.  We aren’t talking about thousands of books, but that’s okay.  That’s not why I do it. 

When I was fist starting out, the people in my town rallied around me, buying my book and spreading the word around town.  So doing a book signing here is more about showing my appreciation than the money I get from doing it.  Although, money isn’t so bad either.

My publicist recently tried to schedule a book signing for me that was four hours away.  I declined.  Then she said, “What if I can schedule a TV interview for you in the same town that morning?”  Book signing, back on.  However, I don’t like to travel to do them, for the most part.  I don't like to spend a whole day on something like that when I could be writing instead.
The next time you consider pimping yourself via a book signing, ask yourself these questions first:
1.       How far away is the signing and how much money will it cost you in gas?
2.       Will you have to stay overnight?  If so, how much will the hotel room cost?  Food?  Entertainment?  (one bonus is, at least you can write it off)
3.       How many hours will you spend that you could have spent writing?

I’ve been to plenty of author book signings, and unless the person was named Stephen King, the lines usually weren’t that long.  I’ve been in a bookstore many times without even knowing beforehand that a signing was going on, and there, sitting all by his or her lonesome, is the author looking quite forlorn.  I guess what I’m trying to say is: get your expectations in check before doing the book signing.  And make sure you are fine with shelling out a bunch of dough and not getting a lot in return.  I’m not saying your signing won’t be a success, maybe it will be, and I hope it is.  But try not to expect it just in case it's not.  

There is one place I like doing signings: conventions.  But you have to make sure you are at the type of convention where a person would actually be interested in buying your book.  I did one last year at a conference for women and it was very successful.  The conference was all about supporting each other.  The woman in the stand next to me was pimping cupcakes with huge edible flowers on top that she made herself.  She did good as well.  Sometimes it just works. 

Now let’s shift the conversation a bit and talk about setting up.  I have a few rituals.  I always bring a tablecloth for the table.  After all, I am a woman.  It’s simple though, black and white.   I’m not into huge frills.  My books are the main attraction. 

On the table I have a basket which contains clear bags of candy.  The bags are wrapped with ribbon and my business card is attached.  These I give to anyone and everyone regardless of whether they buy my book.  I also have a metal cookbook stand with two of my books displayed (usually the two most recent books).  My books are stacked behind them, not too many, maybe five of each.  I reach under the table and replenish the supply when needed.  The metal stand looks like this:  
Next to the table is a giant metal easel.  On this I set the poster board I’ve made (see example at the top of the page).  This is what my first one looked like (without the easel and before I had more books to my name).  

Make sure you have more than one pen to sign your books with.  There's nothing quite like being properly prepared.  My favorite pen is a fine point Sharpie.  And always, no matter if they say their name is Bob, ask them how to spell it.  Or you'll end up with the one guy who spells Bob: Bobb or Bahb.  Trust me on this. 
Now, as to how many books to take with you and what your price point should be, first consider the venue itself and how many people are expected.  If it's a bookstore, they should be able to give you general idea of what to expect.  For a smaller venue, I like to have twenty-five copies of each of my books.  I also keep a clipboard handy so if I sell out, I can get the name and an address of the person I need to send the book to. 
Anyone who buys my book(s) also receives a bookmark and a keychain (if I have a bunch of them handy). 
As to how I group my books together, I sell them as singles for the price on the back of the book which, right now, is $12.99, BUT I also box some sets together since I have one series right now, and another one I'm starting in 2013.  I’ll put three together in the series and charge less, maybe $30.00.  They get a deal, I move more books. 

If you are tight on funds, and the venue is small, don’t worry so much about taking so many.  Maybe start with fifteen or twenty.  If you are only promoting one specific book, I’d say fifty or so for a medium-sized signing.  You have the rest of your life to use them for promotions, giveaways, or even to sell them.  Fancy that. 
I usually drag my husband along with me when I can because he makes me sound like the most talented person in the world, and since I tend to be fairly introverted when it comes to people I don't know, his outgoing nature comes in handy.
Now go move some books :)


Anonymous said...

Thank you. This is Great information. I bought 60 for mine, but we have already sold about 10 to local friends and such, so that is 10 less to move. Most of the rest I am keeping in your guidelines. Have table and cloth. Venue is a mall Atrium which is only a mile from my house. I could kick myself for not thinking of doing a giveaway, but maybe their is time to put something together. Thanks for the post, this is great advice!

Val Poore said...

Great advice, thanks!

Anonymous said...

I have my first bookshop signing coming up in a few weeks time so this is really useful advice thanks. I don't have to worry about number of books for this particular one as the shop is ordering stock but I will certainly follow all your other top tips!