Thursday, December 13, 2007

Book Signings – Going Virtual?

Publishing and book marketing newsletters frequently mention the decline of the traditional author book signing tour as we know it. Articles are appearing on the subject too. Here’s an example of one that appeared in The Christian Science Monitor a couple weeks ago.

Of course there’s something to be said for meeting an author in person and getting an autographed copy of their book, but virtual book signings and tours have many advantages. For starters, anyone anywhere who is interested in the book’s subject or the author’s work can hop on to the Internet and watch the interview. How many people in one city will attend a traditional event versus those who can “attend” from their computer at home? Or, as the article above mentions, you might see a recorded message from the author in your local bookstore. If this is played in dozens of bookstores throughout the country, imagine how many more people can view the message than if the author traveled to each of those cities.

The Abraham Lincoln Book Shop has a nice Virtual Book Signing program set up where viewers can interact with the author and interviewer live during the event by emailing in questions and orders for the book. After ordering a copy, the author will even personally sign the book to you on screen. Pretty cool. Our books Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862 and The Maps of Gettysburg have recently been featured in these events. With travel expenses to think about and no guarantee of how many people will show at each event, this is a great way for publishers and bookstores to change with the changing industry.


jschmidt said...


Thanks for highlighting the "Virtual Booksignings" at the A. Lincoln Bookshop...Dan Weinberg is a gracious host and I really enjoy watching the archived programs; The Joiner/Smith program was one of the best yet.

I hope you will comment some time on booksignings at general bookstores...I've heard more than once that a "bookstore is the worst place to have a booksigning." One example considered a book on scuba diving. The rhetorical question was "how many people go into Borders each day looking for a book on scuba diving?" Not very many probably. On the other hand, many more people go to a "dive shop" each day...the point was that specialized signings - at museums, historical societies, reenactments, etc., are probably the best place to sell and sign Civil war books, for example.

Do You Agree?

Keep up the Great Work!

Jim Schmidt

Sarah Keeney said...

Hi Jim,

Thanks for your comments. Yes, the saying is correct. A similar saying goes “The worst place to sell a book is a bookstore.” Too much competition with all those other spines lining the shelves. Is a person more likely to walk into their local bookstore in Oregon and pick up a book on Shiloh, or snag one at the Visitor’s Center after a day spent at the military park touring the battlefield? The latter of course.

I’ll be sure to comment more on bookstore and non-bookstore signings in future posts. Briefly for now, I definitely agree. We have had great luck selling Civil War books at the park and local stores in Gettysburg during busy weekends. Same with selling copies of the Shiloh book at the park in Tennessee the week the book came out (which coincided with the anniversary of the battle and the festivities the park had already planned).

We have had good traditional bookstore signings too though. The key components for success here are advanced media coverage, a crowd the author can bring in via contacts, and a local connection the book has to the area.

Thanks again.


Steve Basic said...


While I like the options of virtual book signings, I guess am from the old school where going to meet an author, and asking questions was the reason you made the trek to do so. Tend to think in the computer age, we have gotten lazy, and hence why beyond the battlefields of the CW there are not book signings unless they occur at Round Tables.

Glad you are blogging, and I look forward to reading your comments along the road.

Hoep all is well.

Regards from the Garden State,

Steve Basic

BiblioScribe said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sarah Keeney said...

Hi Steve,

Thanks. Yes, the real thing is great. A handshake and a personal connection of actually meeting the author probably sells more books too. Now if only we could get the author everywhere we wanted to and be guaranteed a crowd . . . =)


Colt Foutz said...


Great insight and advice, as always.

What I'm taking away from this discussion is that wherever you can sign/meet/greet/spread the good word can be fruitful if you take the time and make the effort to draw an audience. I've found that any chance you get to read a bit from the book and also expound upon its contents with some personal anecdotes really makes the event special for listeners/readers and prompts them to reach for their wallets. We had a successful non-bookstore signing a week or so ago at the Cavaliers' anniversary corps rehearsal/social gathering. We tipped a few back, shook some hands, and when the reading portion of the evening started, we sat down to sell and sign books and didn't get up again for the next three hours.

Those personalized presentations, to a receptive audience, can go a long way toward moving books.

Anyway, I look forward to reading more here, as always.

Colt Foutz

Sarah said...

Thanks, Colt. Yes, giving the audience more than just a straight reading (extrapolating on the stories, giving background information, and sharing the "insider's scoop") is much better than just reading straight from your book, head bowed to everyone as you scan the lines, the whole time.