Nervous when it comes to figuring out how to plan a book signing?
Answer this: Is it harder to write a book or host a book event? Way harder to write the book, right?
So don’t freak out when it’s time to plan your signings–you’ve already done the hard part! I know, we’ve all seen the guy sitting at the table with a stack of books and NOT A SINGLE SOUL within signing distance, desperation evaporating off of him like he’s being blasted by the hand dryers in the bathrooms of Barnes & Noble. We want to help that guy, to throw him a life preserver, to at least go stand next to him and chat for a while about the incessant rain or something but… We’re afraid to get sucked into the vortex of gloom. Besides, if his books were any good, wouldn’t there be somebody there? At least a bored book browser? A spouse, even?
And, thus, we let an author who’s probably pretty decent sit squirming in book signing-not-signing purgatory because we’re afraid to sidle on over and take a glimpse at the back cover.
But don’t worry, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or that you’re setting yourself up for wretched book signing karma because, guess what? That reaction is normal. We’re all busy, we just want to run in, grab what we’re shopping for, maybe order a latte, and get out. Or maybe you got an invitation to a signing, either online or in the mail, and thought, “Eh, I’ll just order it later.” And that’s the hard truth: the traditional signing event doesn’t work very well anymore. At least if you plan a book signing like that guy.
So don’t be that guy!
We’ve found it’s possible to let people know too early *and* too late when planning an event. The solution? Promote your book signing a month in advance, then remind folks a week before the date. That way, they can pencil you in to the calendar early, but still do last-minute schedule changes. Post on social media the morning of the signing, too.
It may feel like you’re being spammy to mention your signing three times, but the truth is that everyone is super busy. If you’re bashful about inviting people to attend, you may find yourself alone with the book store employees…
It’s a good idea to bring several others with you–a posse, if you will–so it never looks like you’re the lonely guy at the table. Coach your friends a little and let them know that you’ll need them to make you look semi-occupied, but that you’ll swing your attention to new attendees when they show up. Don’t forget to reciprocate and support your posse in their own ventures, too 😉
The Golden Rule
As a matter of fact, your book signing ain’t about you at all. It’s about your guests. More specifically, it’s about your ideal reader, who is now your ideal listener! Remember? The person you held in your mind’s audience the whole time you were writing and revising and choosing a cover? Are you ready to forget your ol’ buddy, your ideal reader, now that you’ve published? Heck, no.
So think about what you would enjoy from an author event, and let that guide you when you plan a book signing. Here are some things I want when I attend a reading/signing/talk:
- Value: If I put on actual shoes and leave the house after six pm, it’s for a good reason. Namely, value. Marketers call this “WIIFM” or “What’s in it for me?” Give your guests a ton of value for showing up. After all, they put on actual shoes and possibly drove after dark to reach the event. Impress the socks out of those actual shoes and off your precious listeners. Tell them how to write a book of their own, how to organize their ideas, or any of the major breakthroughs you’ve had while writing your book. Share, share, share. Whether it feels like it or not, you’re kind of an expert now. So help others find their way. Remember, they can read the book later. They showed up to get something valuable from you. What do you want to find out from your favorite authors? Give that information to your own fans.
- Entertainment: You don’t have to be a stand-up comedian or bring an animated visual presentation, but, for heaven’s sake don’t bring a power point presentation and then READ THE SLIDES!! That’s excruciating. See more, below.
- Snacks: You know it’s true. Bring some cookies… a box of coffee wouldn’t hurt, either. Snacks help people linger for a while after your talk so they can relax, study your book(s), and enjoy themselves. Remember, if someone holds a book in their hands, they’re much more likely to buy it.
Don’t Be Boring
Bring some eye-candy for attendees to shop or study while they wait. Bookmarks, business cards, table decorations, and, or course, lots of books.
Decide how much audience participation you want. Don’t just talk *at* them the whole time, talk *with* them.
If you’re terrified of public speaking, you can pre-record a video of your talk, make a short documentary about your book, or show a powerpoint presentation with juicy insider info. But, if you do bring a power point pres, offer to send it to attendees when they sign up for your email newsletter. That way, they can focus their full attention on your charming (and way more entertaining) stories, jokes, and creative process. Always save some time for questions. If there aren’t any, flip the script and ask your audience about the books they enjoy, whether they think they’d ever like to write a book, or about their favorite authors.
Here’s something I borrowed from my years in the classroom. Once, I brought a deck of 3×5 cards and passed them out at the beginning of a talk. I told attendees to write down their contact info if they want added to my email list for news and special deals and discounts. Then I asked them to write down any questions. That way, even the introverts got a voice, and I got valuable feedback.
Be Ready to Collect Money
Find out ahead of time who will be in charge of managing the book table. If you’re at a book store, the employees may handle this for you so you can concentrate on networking and answering questions. Or you can ask a friend to help you. Just don’t forget to bring change for people who pay with cash. (That’s still a thing!) If you’re going to use a card swiper like Square or PayPal and your phone, test out the hardware a few days before the event. Make sure everything works well enough that you can use it while talking to people.
One more thing. At my first signing, I had a weird problem actually accepting money. I was high on adrenaline and fought the giddy urge to pull an Oprah and just give all my books away for free. Not everyone feels this way, but I’ve talked to a few other authors who have. So in case this is you, prepare yourself to actually *take the money*. You spend years on a book. Let them give you a few bucks, even if it feels uncomfortable because, in a way, you wrote the book for yourself. Think of a big-name author. Guess what? They’re making a full-time income writing, and even they don’t give away all their books. Neither should you.
For more tips on how to plan a book signing, including how to nail your talk, check out this post: How to Speak to a Crowd.
NOW YOU: What was your favorite book signing you’ve attended? What made it great?
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