Book Signing Success

Doing book signings can be an effective way to sell copies of your book. However, unless you are very careful about where you schedule them, make sure that they are well-promoted, and unless you take other actions to increase the likelihood that the signings will be successful, they are apt to be disheartening disasters that amount to little more than you sitting at a table next to a stack of your books and no one noticing that you are there.

So what does it take to have a successful signing? Here’s my advice:

Go local. Schedule signings on your home turf where you are known and have friends and associates you can count on to attend the events. Generally, it’s risky business to schedule signings in another community unless you have strong personal connections there or unless your book relates to it in some way. For example, your book is set there; you’ve written a biography about someone who used to live in that other community; actual events that took place there are featured in your book, and so on.

Work with stores that have a history of successful signings. They know what works and what doesn’t. Although there are exceptions, these stores tend to be independent booksellers, not chains.

Find out what a bookstore will do to make book buyers aware of your signing. Some will do little or nothing – avoid them. Others however may do some or all of the following: Advertise your book signing; promote it on their web sites, in their newsletters, with in-store signage and via social media; place postcard announcements about your signing in their checkout areas; and contact local media to publicize the event, for example. However, most stores will expect you to help market your signing as well. Ways to do that include promoting your signings via email and your social media networks, posting notices about your signings on local bulletin boards, and using

Tell your local media about your upcoming signing. For example, try to get your book reviewed in your local newspaper before the day of the event and list the signing on local event calendars, assuming the bookstore hosting the signing will not do this for you. Also, if you can identify an angle for interviews about your book other than “local man or woman writes book and is doing a book signing,” which usually won’t be enough to interest producers and hosts, try to get yourself scheduled on local TV and radio shows.

Engage book buyers. At your signing, don’t just sit there! Say hello to shoppers as they walk by and try to strike up conversations with them. If you feel comfortable doing so, get out from behind the table to mingle with shoppers and invite them to stop by and see you. Another suggestion is to have refreshments at your table and to invite passersby to sample them. As they munch on your food, you’ll have an opportunity to tell them about your book.

Use props and giveaways. Unless the store will do it, blow up a photo of the cover of your book, mount it on foam core or poster board, get it laminated and either put a “stand” on the back or place it on a small table easel at your signing. It’s also a good idea to create a giveaway like an attractive flier, postcard or bookmark that shoppers who don’t purchase a copy of your book at the signing can take with them. It may encourage them to buy your book later. Your giveaway should include the image of your book’s front cover, a short description of the book, its ISBN, the URL for your book’s web site, as well as ordering and cost information.

Make your signing more than just a signing. Although what you might do depends in large part on the subject of your book and on the bookstore where your signing will take place, authors I’ve worked with have given talks and answered questions during their signings, done readings, hosted a costume party, put on a cooking demonstration, given a quick lesson, played music, and sponsored a contest, among other things.

You may also want to explore the possibility of scheduling book signings at locations other than bookstores. Here are a few ideas:

Pair your signing with a larger event that’s likely to draw people who will be interested in your book. For example, if you've written a book on green building, try to schedule a signing at an upcoming green building conference in your area; and if your book is a fictionalized account of your relationship with a pet you adopted from your local animal shelter, arrange to sign books at a fundraiser for the shelter with a portion of your sales going to the shelter.

Be creative about where you schedule signings. Obviously, the appropriate venue will depend on the subject of your book, but here are just a few suggestions to get you thinking: At a local gift shop, a festival, a museum, a gardening center, a cooking school, a meeting of a women’s or men’s group, a meeting of a church group, a business group or a writers' group.

Tap your connections. If you have a friend, a relative or a close business associate who is well connected in your community, ask him or her to host a book signing for you – maybe at their home or club. Most likely that person will invite people they know to the signing as well as the names on your own list.

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