Where's the book signing?

Friday, July 08, 2016
Because I write a book blog for a local newspaper, local authors sometimes contact me to tell me about book signings in our area. The last four book signings I heard about were being held at a winery, a historical society, an art show and a bird sanctuary. What happened to the traditional bookstore book signing?

First, think back to the last time you were in a bookstore. It takes careful consideration for me since the nearest bookstore is about 45 miles away -- in another county! How crowded was it? And no, don't count the people that were obviously there just for the coffee and insanely huge muffins. Count the book people. How many? If it was a chain store there may have been two or three dozen if it was a rainy Saturday afternoon. If it was an indie store they may have been no one there except you and the store owner. Now imagine having a book signing there. If you're lucky there will be 36 people meandering past your table stacked high with books. Maybe a few more if you really do some serious promotion on your own.

So maybe, like the authors who contacted me recently, it's time to start branching out with your book signings. Because what makes for a successful book signing? An author seated in a room full of books? No. An author surrounded by people. Lots of people. The more people that attend your book signing (either intentionally or accidentally) the better your chances of selling a few books.

Sometimes (most times -- unless you're James Patterson or Nora Roberts) it's tough to attract a large audience. So instead of counting on people to come to you, focus on going to where the people are. Piggyback on another event -- a wine tasting, an art show opening, a town founder's day -- that is guaranteed to have a large audience. Established, annual events that you know do lots of promoting and have had large audiences in past years are a better bet than a brand new event.

Don't be discouraged if they never had a book signing before. Call the organizers and pitch your idea. Be prepared for some of the questions they may ask.

  • Why should we have an author? Can you get other authors to come too?
  • Will you just be sitting at a table with your books? Will you be doing a reading, talking about writing, doing magic tricks (imagine the crowds THAT would attract)? 
  • Will you be selling your books? Cash, check, credit card?
  • How long will you stay -- an hour or for the entire event? 
  • Will you be giving away a book?
  • Does your book have anything to do with our event/organization/business?
  • Will you promote our event on your website/social media?
Look beyond the walls of the bookstore. Follow the crowds and find the ideal spot for a book signing! I once set up my table at an outdoor car show to sell a book about baseball trivia. I figured cars=guys, guys=baseball. It worked.

Have you ever hosted/attended a book signing in an unusual spot?

Jodi M. Webb is writer living in Pennsylvania who also is a WOW blog tour manager. You can find her at Building Bookshelves.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Jodi--I once went to a book event/book signing at the Humane Society. It was a perfect place for it, because the author had written a book about traveling across the country--with her dog as her traveling companion.

As writers, we have to think outside the box. You gave us some great suggestions. Thanks.

Angela Mackintosh said...

You're so right, Jodi. The other day I stopped by a small indie bookstore called The Gatsby to pick up a book they had on hold for me. I walked in and the clerk asked, "Are you here for the event?" I looked around and there was no one there. Just the author standing in front of twenty empty chairs, a table with refreshments, and a stack of his books. I felt so bad! Unfortunately I was on my way to another event and the book was a middle-grade book about baseball geared towards boys and I couldn't think of anyone to give one to.

The problem was exactly what you mentioned--the author was counting on people coming to him or the bookstore to draw an audience. The bookstore is in a little shopping strip that has no foot traffic and this was on the 4th of July, which was very poor planning. Everyone had somewhere else to be and I stopped by to pick up a book as a gift on my way to a party and had very little time to even chit chat with the author.

A few out-of-the-box book events I've been to: the Aquarium of the Pacific (children's picture book with marine life), Gay Pride (we had a booth that we split - one side for my friend's clothing line and the other for an author of a collection of essays), and even one at the Hollywood Cemetery (a book on haunted LA) during a movie showing night. Great ideas, Jodi!

Val said...

Just this morning, I read about a book signing at a local sporting goods store. Turns out is was a lady who wrote a book about the memorable fishing experiences of people in our area.

MonetteChilson said...

I had my book launch party at the yoga studio where I practice. The book is about yoga, so it was a natural fit. I drew a mix of studio patrons & my own friends. I did a reading & had delicious healthy snacks & a giveaway of a custom necklace designed by a friend in exchange for inclusion in the event promotion. It was a beautiful way to send my book out into the world! Thanks for the chance to reflect, Jodi.

Anonymous said...

Oooh! Ideas! I work with authors in Santa Fe, NM where we have tons of art and galleries, and even some wineries. I will definitely be looking into more interesting book singing venues. The most "different" one we organized was at a church 110 people attended... but of course we had wine and hor d'oeuvres, those too make a difference!

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