January and February are not book signing season months, but in keeping with the “New Year, New Start” tradition, below are some helpful tips on book signing events. They are from Sandra Beckwith’s newsletter Build Book Buzz. Additional tips and programs can be found on her website here.
1. Don't approach a bookstore to discuss a signing unless you've written your book for a wide consumer audience (vs. an industry or other type of niche - lawyers or rock climbers, for example). Many bookstores won't host signings when it's clear that the audience for the book is too narrow. Ask yourself if there's a better place to meet your niche audience face-to-face.
2. Plan an event, not a book signing. The book signing where you sit at a table and try to make eye contact with shoppers is increasingly passé and often a waste of time. You need an event where you can speak to and engage your target audience, whether your book is fiction or nonfiction. My goal buddy Marcia Layton Turner is doing a Barnes & Noble book signing later this month for her newest title, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vision Boards, but she won't be sitting at a table near the entrance. She'll be in the function room teaching people how to create vision boards before they try it themselves with materials Marcia and the bookstore provide. "I'll share the message of the book and show how to apply it," she says.
3. Consider non-bookstore locations. Go where you'll find your audience - it might not be at a bookstore. When Irene Levine introduced her community to Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend, Irene's hair stylist hosted a book signing at her salon. They invited lots of friends - who brought friends. Borders was on hand to sell books to about half of the 150 attendees. Be creative - if your book is a vegetarian cookbook, schedule an event at a natural foods market or the produce section of a supermarket. Your new mystery takes place at a museum? Talk to the most popular museum in your area about hosting a presentation and signing.
4. Market to warm. Are you an active member of a supportive group? Jackie Dishner, author of the regional travel book Back Roads and Byways of Arizona, sold more than 60 books at her signing at the weekly meeting of her businesswomen's group. Members knew she was writing the book and welcomed the opportunity to celebrate its publication with her. Do you belong to a similar group that might support you? For whatever reason, people like to say that they know an author. A signed book is proof of that connection.
5. Do your share to get the word out. Don't expect your event host to do all the promotional work - collaborate so you reach as many people as possible. Contact the press, send an e-mail to locals in your address book and ask them to forward it, and use social networking tools such as Facebook events and Twitter to spread the word.
6. Don't just sign your name. When I sign copies of my humor book about men, WHY CAN'T A MAN BE MORE LIKE A WOMAN?, I write the person's first name, add "It's all true!" and sign my name. For Publicity for Nonprofits," I use "I'll see you in the news!" People like that additional touch because it feels more personal.
7. Be prepared to invest time. Planning, promoting, and executing a successful book signing takes time, thought, and effort. It will all be worth it, though, as you watch those cases of books under your table empty and your hand gets tired from writing with your favorite pen.