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Thursday, September 09, 2010

5 Secrets to a Successful Book Signing

Contrary to popular belief, a book signing at a bookstore is not often a huge money maker. It is, however, an excellent marketing tool and a way to get your name out there and publicize your book.

In this economy, it may be harder than ever to set up a book signing and even harder than that to sell. But with these few insider secrets to book signings, you will find yourself inside a bookstore with your stack of books and poised pen in hand in no time.

Step 1: Contact the Bookstore

Contact the manager of the bookstores in which you hope to have a signing. Ask to speak to a manager in charge of events, or if there is no one with that title, any manager should be willing to speak to you. Do not be discouraged if you are met with a “no.” Be persistent, but also remain polite. Ask to speak with the general manager. If the GM also says no, move along to the next store. There is no need to waste time on a store that is not willing to take advantage of your hard work and talent.

Step 2: Know the Source of Your Books

You will have a much better chance of setting up a book signing at a bookstore if your books are available from major distributors such as Ingram or Baker & Taylor or from publishing companies that accept book returns. If you have gone the traditional route of publishing, this should not be a problem. The bookstore will order in copies of your book.

If you have a book that is not available from a major distributor or a returnable source, such as many self-published books, bookstores may not wish to schedule you for a signing. Offer to bring your own books. In this case, the bookstore will require the payment to go through their store, not through you directly. You will then need to invoice the bookstore for the number of copies you sell. This invoice is then sent to the store’s corporate headquarters and you may not see payment for five to eight weeks. But rest assured, you will get paid.

Step 3: Choose a Date and Time

Choosing the date and time for your book signing can be very important. If you are signing in a large city in a store that gets a consistently large amount of traffic, just about any day and time would work. But if you are signing in a smaller town or in a store with a lower amount of traffic, plan wisely. The bookstore may only have certain dates and times they are willing to have you, so in that case you should take what you can get. But if you are given the chance to choose a date and time, try to have your signing at times of high traffic in the store such as on Friday nights or Saturdays, or when other events are happening at that location.

Step 4: Don’t Just Sit There!

If you have made it this far and you have set up your book signing, congratulations! But the work does not stop here. The bookstore has probably (hopefully!) provided you with a small table and chair and maybe a sign with your name on it. Unless you have a line of people waiting for your autograph, do not get comfortable in that chair! Walk around with your book and business cards in hand. Do you have flyers of bookmarks for your book? These are great handouts and useful icebreakers. Introduce yourself to customers, show them your book and offer them your card. Have you written a book about kittens? Mingle with customers in the animals section of the store. Be a proactive seller.

Step 5: Make Your Next Move

Whether you sold 1 book or 100 books, just exposing your name and your book in a location with a literate book-loving public is great publicity for you. Do not judge your book signing’s success on the number of books you have sold. Be sure to thank the manager for setting up your event. It would be a good idea to leave a business card or two with the manager in case they know managers at other stores who would like to schedule signings. Leave a card or two on the store’s community bulletin board.
Have faith in yourself and your book. This process can seem daunting, especially to the shy, introverted writer. But promoting your book is part of an author’s life. Look upon it as an adventure and the next step up for your writing career. Go to other writer’s book signings and speak to authors who have experience selling and marketing themselves. Enjoy the process and have fun!

Written by Anne Greenawalt ( who worked as a bookstore assistant manager for several years.

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