Wednesday, August 27, 2008

12 Steps to Successful Book Signings

Many of you will remember Colleen L. Reece for being Barbour's lead author in the kickoff of the Heartsong Presents book club in 1992 and a regular contributor of new titles to the series for many years. With over 100 books in print, she has lots of experience with book signings to share with you.

Book signings are a double-edged sword. They can be moneymakers or total embarrassment. My 12 steps to successful book signings come from more than 30 years of having “been there, done that.”

1. In-store signings, street fairs, etc., are good for known and well-established authors. My first bookstore signing brought several friends who had already bought my book and one customer. The only street fair I ever attended brought everyone who had ever lived in the town, lived there then, or was considering moving there in the future (at least it seemed that way). Dozens of people stopped by. They told me about what they wanted to write, their kids, grandkids, dogs, etc. Total sales? Zero. I not-so-fondly remember it as an experience in embarrassment!

2. The best ways to do book signings are by teaching classes, speaking at churches, civic organizations, and writing groups. You come as a stranger, but by the end of your presentation, people feel they know you well enough to want autographed copies. Pre-Christmas community bazaars can also be a good place to sell books, depending on what you write. People come intending to buy.

3. When presenting, it’s fine to give examples from your own work. However, don't use the time for a sales pitch. One highly-touted conference speaker aroused the ire of students by doing nothing but promoting her books, instead of teaching, which she'd been hired for.

4. Offer your sponsoring group a % of your sales and ask them to advertise the event ahead of time.

5. Go where you are known. When my first inspirational romance came out, my hometown held a luncheon and book signing—I sold 77 copies to the 75-80 attendees. I contributed 10% to the local library and the fee for the luncheon also benefited it.

6. If possible, take someone with you to handle the money and talk with customers. I have a friend who reads all of my books and can recommend which would be good for various ages and interests. This leaves me free to sign and keep things moving.

7. Warning: You always get a bunch of looky-lou, wannabe writers who will monopolize your time and seldom buy. When they begin telling you about their idea or their grandmother's or next-door neighbor's ideas, be polite but firm. A simple, "It sounds interesting. Good luck,” then turning to the next person in line is appropriate.

8. Do make your table/selling space attractive. Blowups of book covers, a nice tablecloth, banners identifying you as a local author--anything to attract people to your table.

9. Take plenty of books, but don't put them all out at once. When people see a dwindling supply, they are more apt to buy then, instead of planning to come back. Unless you are John Grisham, a display of six to eight copies per title is enough. Exception: If you only have one book, put out about a dozen copies.

10. Office supply stores have plastic and wire holders so you can display books upright.

11. Smile, smile, smile--even when your face feels permanently frozen! Friendliness without pushing equals sales.

12. Don't just sit and wait for customers to come to you. An expert marketer taught me to stand by my table and greet people with, "Hello. I'm Colleen and these are some of my books. Feel free to browse. If you see something you like, I'll be happy to autograph."

Observing these simple steps will help make your book signings both successful and fun. Happy marketing!

(copyrighted by Colleen L. Reece August 2008)


SuzyScribbles said...

This was a delightful article from my dear mentor and friend, Colleen Reece. And a good reminder for me!

Ausjenny said...

This is interesting. I have been to book signings more for sports books as we dont have many Christian authors in this area. Its interesting hearing from an author. I will admit once I got a book just cos there was no one else in line and we got to chat with the Player and have a photo with him while he signed my book. (still haven't read the book).

Beth Loughner said...

What great and practical ideas, Colleen. Many of your suggestions for what doesn't work (and why) had not even entered my mind before, but you're absolutely right.

Thanks for sharing.


Karen Witemeyer said...

Great advice! Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us.

Rhonda said...

I've been a fan of Colleen's for years. Her books are what inspired me to want to write for Barbour. Thanks for the booksigning tips, Colleen!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi -

Thanks for the excellent advice. I've put a link to this post on my blog. I enjoy reading Edit Cafe on an almost daily basis.

Susan J. Reinhardt :)

Mary Connealy said...

This is good, Colleen. I'm already doing a few things differently because of this, planning for my next signing.

Thank you.

Shirley Kiger Connolly said...

Thank you so much, Colleen, for your wonderful advice. As a newer published author, I am still learning the ropes, and I plan to take advantage of your tips.

I still remember how much I appreciated your teaching years ago at a writer's conference I attended. I was blessed to be able to sit at your table and share my ideas of something I wanted to write and still remember taking your advice at that time. That book idea has since been published. I'll never forget you for that!

Take care,
Blessings to you,
Shirley Kiger Connolly