Every writer, at some point in their writing career, hosts a book signing event for their latest book. It can be a daunting prospect for both experienced and inexperienced writers, because there is always the fear that no one will turn up. Authors are divided on how much value a book signing event holds, some go on to do many, others the bare minimum. Some, I suspect, have never done one or ever will.
Last month, I held my first book signing event and I’m pleased to say I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. In this blog post I will share my experience in the hope that other writers will learn from it and readers will gain insight into the hidden side of a book signing event.
How many authors does it take..?
My book signing event was shared with seven other authors. This is a great way to learn the process, pick up tips, share its eventual success (or failure) whilst gaining additional access to readers who may attend the event to see your fellow authors. There are other benefits too. An event hosted by multiple authors will have a unique angle and be more newsworthy, which will improve your chances of securing radio airtime and newspaper editors’ attention to spread the word.
It may also increase your chances of securing your preferred venue, particularly if the venue is connected to a café/gallery etc, which will benefit from the increased footfall attracted to your book signing event.
Tip No. 1:- Team up with other authors in your area and host an event together. I was lucky to be able to team up with Jane Jackson (Historical Romance), Kate Ryder (Romantic Fiction) Chrissie Loveday (Romance/Murder Mystery) Carla Vermaat (Crime Fiction) M.J.Logue (Historical Fiction) S.J.Haxton (Historical) & Adrian Martin (Horror).
Why do you want to hold one?
A book signing event is about selling books. Wrong! Book signing events are much more than that. Success or failure should not be measured by the number of books you sell on the day. If Author A sells one book and Author B sells ten, it’s understandable to think that Author B has had the most successful day. However, Author A gave away 50 bookmarks, engaged with visitors to her table in a friendly, positive manner and had an enjoyable experience. The visitors went home later that day and downloaded her latest two ebooks (which were publicised on her bookmark). On the other hand, Author B, who sold ten books, barely looked up from his scribbling to speak to his customer. They went home feeling a little resentful at his arrogant manner and, frankly, who can blame them? Suddenly Author A appears to have had the most successful event, even though they sold only one book on the day.
Tip No. 2:- A Book Signing event is about meeting like minded people who love books. Enjoy it, have fun and don’t panic if you don’t sell very many.
Location, location, location
Finding the right venue is always a challenge. Consideration has to be given to the location. Is it accessible? Are there other services onsite which will entice visitors? Does the theme fit with your books and if it doesn’t, does it matter? How much do they charge? Is it available for the date required? Where can signs be displayed to help show the way? Are the owners happy for you to give out freebies/business cards etc.? A visit to the venue will help alleviate any concerns or raise a few issues.
Tip No. 3:- Always visit the venue. Recommendations by fellow authors are always helpful. See the venue through the eyes of a shy reader. Would you visit an author at this venue? What would stop you? What would make it easier for you to step inside and browse?
The word on the street…
It’s no use booking the venue if no one knows it’s happening. Today’s author is used to the publicity machine and if they are not, they soon have to learn how it works. It may come as a surprise to most readers to discover that many writers are not “A list” writers who earn big bucks. Many are struggling to make a living and probably have a day job to support their writing career. For these authors, publicity events, radio interviews and newspaper articles are organised by the writer themselves and not by their publisher or agent. A book signing event is no different. Local radio, podcasts and social media networks are all great ways to spread the news. Flyers, posters, newspaper articles and parish magazines are more traditional methods and just as valuable for informing the public of your special event.
Informing the shy reader about your book…
The big day has arrived! You’ve booked the venue, done the publicity and now you want to encourage the reader to your table. The best way to do that is to display what you would want to see if you were a visitor. Again, I imagined I was a shy reader and asked myself the question, what would make it easier for me? I came to the conclusion I would want to know what the book was about, without feeling watched or badgered into buying it. This is what I kept in mind when I set up my table.
I write romances and therefore wanted romance readers to recognise my genre from afar and find my table interesting enough to take a closer look. In order to do that, I covered the table with a white table cloth and decorated it with heart shaped confetti. I filled heart shaped bowls with business cards, bookmarks and sweets with a note saying “Please take one”. These things helped to set the genre and gave visitors “permission” to take any freebies they fancied without having to ask. While they munched, or considered which bookmark to take, I wanted to promote my book in what I hoped was not a “sales pitch” or hard sell. I displayed several copies of my book, an A4 poster detailing the book blurb and my credentials and a video of my book trailer which played on a continuous loop. If the customer had any questions, I was nearby to help. If my table became quiet, I walked around the room offering sweets and free bookmarks, but with no pressure to buy my book and no sales pitches. There is no bigger turn off than someone saying, “Buy my book! Buy my book!”
Tip No. 5:- Make/order bookmarks and business cards in plenty of time to allow for delivery. If you use sweets and chocolates to entice readers to your table, put a few out at a time and not the whole lot. I have heard of customers taking handfuls of sweets, even emptying a bowl into their handbag, before disappearing without a backward glance. If this happens, your sweets will not last long! However, I must confess, I would probably take far more than I should if I was a visitor, as I find it very hard to say no to free sweets and chocolate!
The end is not the end…
I really enjoyed my first book signing event. My fellow authors were great fun and it was a privilege to share the experience with them. The visitors and owners of the venue appeared to enjoy the day too. However, the benefits of hosting a book signing event continues long after it is ended. Photographs taken on the day can be used for publicity purposes in the future, whether on twitter, Facebook, Pin Interest or a blog post. Within 24 hours of posting the photographs of our event on Facebook, one author saw her viewing stats soar to over 400!
Tip No. 6:- Take plenty of photographs so readers, family, bloggers and fellow authors can share and remember the experience with you. A book signing event is not the time to become camera shy!
So if you hear of a book signing event near you, do come along and say hello. Authors don’t bite and we would love to see you – after-all we are holding the event to meet people just like you! Please don’t be afraid you will be pressured into buying something. We just want to engage with readers, share our love of books and let you know we have a book out at the moment.
Take a look at the books on show, just as you would in any bookshop, but unlike an ordinary bookshop experience, you will have an opportunity to chat to the author about all things to do with writing.
If you like a book, you can buy a signed copy. It’s fun and a signed book makes a unique gift. If nothing interests you, we will understand. Authors understand that readers have their preferences and we would rather you buy a book you will love, than a book you will hate.
My final thoughts…
I have always been a reader, but more recently, as an author, I have experienced the other side of a book signing event. I’ve learnt that, in the majority of cases, authors are not rich celebrities with a queue of excited fans forming in the streets. They are just ordinary people with a passion for books, hoping to meet like minded people. They might also be a dash nervous, a little excited and a smidgen worried that no one will come, so they will be glad to see you should you choose to drop in.