Book signing insights

Everything in life provides a learning curve and yesterday’s booksigning was yet another one.   My experience with these events has taught me a few things for authors who are self-promoting. Ten tips:

  1. Don’t assume that your advertising flyers are posted – provide them at least 2 weeks ahead for posting on the doors of bookstores, but then check back to make sure they’re actually up and visible.
  2. Call the local newspaper 3 weeks ahead and ask if a reporter can take a story over the phone, via email or in person.  Sometimes just a clip is provided, but sometimes you’ll get a feature story! In New York the Times Herald Record ran a story and 2 clips during the week of my booksigning at Borders.  Other cities have provided either one.  Write down the name and number of who writes on your behalf – keep the info as contact for future events in those cities!  Email a thank after your event, the reporter’s time is valuable and it’s nice to be appreciated!
  3. If the bookstore manager you 1st spoke to about having a signing isn’t available when you call, call back and call back again.  The more employees/managers that you place in the loop the more chance that information, and even your flyers, get lost.
  4. Be specific with the manager. If they say they’re willing to do a consignment sale, ask if they have the paperwork on hand and ask for the details of the split and who will handle this on your signing day.  This glitch cost me an hour and the loss of 2 buyers recently – w/o paperwork your books aren’t in the computer system and customers can’t purchase your books!  However, consignment arrangement has worked smoothly at 3 bookstores & sales were great. 
  5. Never assume bigger name bookstores mean more traffic & more sales.  Location, location, location is the key! My recent event near the beach w/spring break visitors brought this lesson.  Another event at the end of March might negate this though, being a family-oriented beach destination vs spring break (college) destination.
  6. Plan ahead by visiting the bookstore to look at the set-up so you can negotiate the best place for your table’s visibility.  I’ve had two stores preset tables that were tucked away.  After explaining my need for customer interaction and my desire to be  more visible, managers placed me front and center! 
  7. Have a banner that highlights your table and your books – and you! Tools that make the signing more attractive: table cloths, framed picture that highlights dedication to your subject matter, special pens for the event, etc.  Your books should be the biggest highlight on the table though!
  8. Interact with people, greet them and smile – even if they don’t stop to talk! I’ve found with my subject of cancer people are sometimes avoidant or uncomfortable.   I’ve actually seen people look fearful and avoid my table – I want to say to them, “like my books say—you can’t catch cancer!”  I even had one person tell me that she “couldn’t bring [your] books home, it might scare the grandchildren to talk about cancer.”  After talking with her more, turns out she had 4 family members die from cancer & noone ever discussed the disease, talking was discouraged.  She didn’t buy a book, but perhaps she got a new frame of reference about cancer from our chance meeting.  Every contact is a blessing – whether it brings a sale, hope to someone else, or contacts to other events.  My recent booksigning brought a request to meet w/a school superintendent to hold a major event for parents, faculty and students. 
  9. Reactions from others are motivators if you don’t take them personally, whether positive or negative.  People who are avoidant or fearful just motivate me to keep writing, keep speaking and keep spreading the insights that I aim for my books to provide.  If people talk about cancer, they become more aware and less fearful; instead they become helpful and more loving towards those who must make the journey through it!!  Seeing cancer through a child’s eyes simplifies the topic, alleviating fear and confusion and that makes my books beneficial to all ages!
  10. No matter what happens, no matter what the glitches at an event, be patient and grateful in all things!  Every bookstore has made up for errors and inconveniences caused on their part.  They’ve given me a bigger split on sales, given me all the sales w/o collecting a share, helped me network to regional contacts for their stores (major names!), given me and my crew free cafe drinks…and more.  That advice applies no matter how small or large the bookstore or event elsewhere.  Bless others and you will be blessed!

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