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Planning an Exceptional Book Signing from Start to Finish




by: Penny C. Sansevieri

So what do you do when you have a book signing and no one shows up? Sure that may sound like the beginning of a great joke but for many of us, it’s our worst nightmare.


One of the scariest moments in my life was my first book signing. Even more frightening than having my first signing was the fact that I was doing it out of town and wouldn’t have my support group of friends to stop by and play the role of excited fans. But I had done everything by the book so to speak. First, I sent some advance copies of the book to the storeowner, I mailed him the book cover posters, I made up bag stuffers and sent the proper press releases to local media. To my chagrin when I arrived there, the box containing my marketing materials was still sealed. Not one poster was out, not one bag stuffer had been used. Worst of all, it poured rain that day. So there I sat, my dreams of crowds lining up outside the little shop vanished with each passing second. When one person did show up, I nearly jumped out of my chair to embrace them. Thankfully, I managed to contain myself. About an hour after the book signing started, I noticed several people in the store, none of them paying attention to me. So, I got up and began to walk around the store. I carried my book with me and each time I came across someone perusing romance, I would engage them in conversation. Often, I would hand them a copy of my book and tell them I was in there for a book signing. The mere act of holding my book in their hand induced ownership and often, a sale would follow. But it wasn’t so much about the sale. In the end it was about selling myself. It was about becoming a memorable author. If the person I was speaking to wasn’t interested in romance, perhaps they had a friend who was. After that first signing, I realized that a successful book signing isn’t having people lined up out the door, although if that were to happen, I’d be in book signing heaven! It’s about getting your books in the store, having a place to sit and maybe, if you’re lucky, having one person show up. That first book signing really helped to put this into perspective for me.


The Buddy System


Some authors like to have another person there signing with them so they don’t have to sit there looking lost and lonely. I’ve done it both ways and they each have their merits. First of all, the buddy system will probably bring in more people since you are essentially doubling your publicizing efforts (or at least you should be). You can turn a simple book signing into an event. One of you can be having a book discussion or workshop, while the other author is signing. It’s a great way to draw a crowd and keep a crowd. Also, often it’s easier to get publicity when there’s more than one author present. Unless, of course, you’re Nora Roberts, in which case you can probably ignore the buddy system altogether. This type of book signing works well for unknown authors if you have a specific program or want to have a book signing that lasts all day.


No Sitting On The Job


As I mentioned previously, don’t just sit there and smile. Get up, move around and engage people in conversation. Would you believe I’ve been told that some shoppers are actually intimidated to just walk up and talk to an author? But, if you speak to them first you’re breaking the ice and maybe, making a sale. Take your focus off of yourself and your stack of books and put it on the people in the store. As with anything in marketing you’re really selling yourself and trying to focus on people in the process. Try getting up from your chair to greet people as they enter the store. I usually have a small flyer made up with the cover of my book, a blurb about it and I tell people I’m signing books today. Smile and talk to them and hand them a book. Begin to tell them about your novel. Get them excited about it—let your passion shine through. Passion is a very contagious thing. People want to feel that same passion and folks love being around passionate people.


Go See What the Competition is Doing


Have you ever visited someone else’s book signing? I did once and I felt like everyone there knew what I was up to. I wanted to see what it was about, to see what other authors did. Some of your best ideas or taboos will come from watching other people. I remember the first one I went to, I entered the store and there she was, the smiling author, pen ready and stack of books looming over the table. I wondered if I were just a customer that happened into the store, what would make me walk up to her unless my specific purpose had been to attend this signing? Then, I wondered what I could do to draw that traffic. Face it, no matter how much publicizing you do, unless you’ve got a spot on Good Morning America to talk up your signing, most of your foot traffic will probably just be shoppers. If you’re really lucky you’ll see some frantic people in search of last minute gifts, autographed books make great presents!


If you want to pick up tips from the pros, you might try visiting a celebrity signing or two. Check out the Publisher’s Weekly Web site at www.publishersweekly.com for a listing of upcoming signings. Also the book section of your local newspaper is another great resource. Also, if you’re going on the road for any reason, check out these sites and see if there’s an event you can attend while you’re away.


Be Unique!


If your book involves anything that you can tie in with a theme or a prop, all the better. I went to a book signing for an author who specialized in period romance. This particular novel was set during the 1600’s and she dressed in a gown fitting to the time. She also had a castle backdrop that a neighbor painted for her. Her neighbor was an aspiring artist, so not only was she doing the author a favor but the neighbor got to showcase her work as well. People really love this kind of a thing. I mean anyone can sit at a table and smile, but sitting there in a corset for four hours takes real passion. So give some thought to what you can do to tie in a theme or prop into your signing. You don’t necessarily have to show up in costume, but try to do what you can to set yourself apart from the rest. The important thing here is that while it’s good to learn from the competition, you don’t necessarily want to be exactly like them either.


Stuff To Do Before Your Book Signing



· See if you can get a copy of the store’s media list. More than likely the bookstore will send out press releases but it’s important for you to do the same. Not only will you be able to target the same people twice, but the store manager will also know that you are actively involved in promoting your event.
· Send a confirmation of your signing to the bookstore. It will make you look professional and show the store manager that you are a professional and that you take your book signings very seriously. A sample of the form I use follows this chapter.
· Start tapping into that media list you’ve been creating and begin contacting local media to promote your event.
· Post your book signing information on the Author Appearances section of your Web site. Get invitations made up or make them yourself and send everyone on your contact list an invitation to your signing.


· If you haven’t already done so, get those bookmarks and postcards printed up. Don’t forget to include the ISBN of your book, include a few review blurbs if you have them. Get the cover of your book enlarged to poster size. Then, get it laminated and mounted. I had three of them printed up. I will usually drop one or two off at the store prior to the event so they can set them out and I’ll bring the third one with me that day. Prop a sign up on an easel by the front door where you will be standing and greeting people. If you have the time and the budget, get a set of colorful pens made up with the title of the book and author’s name imprinted on it then when you sign the book, give the reader the pen. It’s another great way to spread the word about your book!
· Get signs made that say: “Book Signing Today” or “Author Appearance” both of these will help to draw crowds to your table.


Things To Bring To Your Book Signing


· Bookmarks – I try to hand these out like crazy. Sometimes I’ll even hand them out with the flyer when people enter the store. I’ve even autographed one or two when people hesitate to purchase a book. More often than not, they return at a later time to purchase a copy just because I gave them a bookmark.
· Postcards – bring postcards with your book cover on them. I always say you can never have too many marketing materials.
· Chocolate – I like to fill an attractive jar with Hershey’s kisses or some other small chocolate. Food attracts people and may even keep them lingering a bit longer.
· Guest book – I always have people sign in at the event. If they give you their e-mail address, inquire as to whether you can add them to your mailing list. This is a great way to build a “fan club” and continue spreading the word about your book as well as future novels. If you don’t feel comfortable with a guest book, try putting together a free drawing. Tell them they don’t have to be present to win. People hate that; I know I do. I mean who wants to stick around a book signing for four hours? Well, okay, except for the author. You should do what you can to keep a log of people that purchased your book. It’s a great way to build your mailing list and customer base.
· Make up a small flyer to hand to people who enter the store. They may not even know about your signing but you’ll be sure to tell them. Keep in mind that heavy promotion of your book signing does not just benefit you, it also benefits the store and sends a strong message that you know how to move your books.
· Your favorite pen.


During Your Signing


· Don’t sit down unless you have to.
· Smile, talk and most of all have fun! This is no time to be shy.
· If no one shows up, remember, that’s okay. It has happened to all of us at one time or another.
· Get people to enter your contest or sign your guest book.
· Tell the store manager that you’d like to sign the remaining books before you leave the store and see if they have “Autographed by Author” stickers for them. If they don’t, you might want to think about ordering some from the American Booksellers Association (www.bookWeb.org). You can get these and a variety of other book stickers for $5 a roll. These stickers will really help to move your book.
· Don’t feel confined to stay just a few hours. Stay as long as there is an interest in the book. Once, I booked a signing for two hours; I ended up staying for five.


What To Do After Your Book Signing


Send a thank you note to the person in charge of coordinating your signing. Don’t send an e-mail. Send a handwritten note. It will go a lot further!


A Few Final Notes on Book Signings


Be cautious of pay periods when scheduling a date for your signing. For example, I will always try to schedule mine around the 15th or 30th of the month. I live in a Navy town and since they never fail to get paid on those dates, it really helps to boost my sales. Also, check to see if the store has a newsletter. If it does, offer to write a short article on your book or discussion topic that will draw more attention to your signing. Keep the article interesting and helpful without giving away everything you plan to share with your guests. Or, if your book is fiction, share an interesting excerpt from it. Sometimes bookstore newsletters are printed by their corporate offices but generally they print them in-house and are always in need of “filler” items.


Also, contact your local TV stations and speak to the producer. Call the day before (if your signing is on Sunday call them on Friday) and let him know you’ve sent a press release regarding your signing (you have haven’t you?). If they need a sixty-second filler, you can offer their viewers some helpful tips on XYZ. Or, if your book is fiction, play up the “local author makes big” angle. Local stations love that. Speaking of media, if you can get yourself booked on a radio show the day before or preferably the morning of your signing you’ll really help to boost interest. If you get some on-air time, consider giving away a few of your books during the show. And remember to tie your book and event into something topical and relevant!


Check the book section of your local newspaper. Many times they will announce author events. If they do, you want to make sure yours is included! Be sure to send them a notice of your event at least a month out.


Finally, have fun! It's your big day and you've earned every glorious minute of it!


About the author:
Penny C. Sansevieri
The Cliffhanger was published in June of 2000. After a strategic marketing campaign it quickly climbed
the ranks at Amazon.com to the ##1 best selling book in San Diego. Her most recent book: From Book to Bestseller was released in 2005 to rave reviews and is being called the “roadmap to publishing success.” Penny is a book marketing and media relations specialist. She also coaches authors on projects, manuscripts and marketing plans and instructs a variety of coursing on publishing and promotion. To learn more about her books or her promotional services, you can visit her web site at www.amarketingexpert.comTo subscribe to her free ezine, send a blank email to: mailto:subscribe@booksbypen.com
Copyright ã 2005 Penny C. Sansevieri


©2005 - All Rights Reserved



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