35 Ways to Make Your Next Book Signing an Event!by Larry James
The Internet Writing Journal, January 2000
Here are some tips and suggestions that have helped me increase the number of books sold at a book signing. Many are my own, and some were suggested by other author friends. Each book store has its own distinctive personality. Although I do not attempt to do all of the suggested tips at every signing, it is important to adapt as many as you can to fit each store's personality. Believe me, doing so will increase the opportunity to sell more books.
DO - Write your own announcement for the book stores intercom. Make it short and brief. Give them several versions, because they usually announce that you are there several times. Don't hesitate to remind them to make the announcement again if it's been awhile since the last announcement. They will often get busy and forget. Every half hour should do it. If you do lectures or give speeches about your book and are in town for a keynote or seminar that is open to the public, include information about that too. Let the book store choose to include it in the announcement or not.
DON'T - Don't just sit at the table they have for you. Most authors do that. Be different! I always tell the person booking the signing not to worry about putting a chair behind the table. This will always get their attention. Let them know you will be the store's official greeter while you are there. Walk around the store with several copies of your book and introduce yourself to everyone.
If those you introduce yourself to show the least bit of interest, hand them a book. They will almost always take it. Tell them to look at it and bring it back to the table when they are finished. On average, I more than tripled my book sales at signings by implementing this tip!
DO - Have an attractive two color or four color book mark designed by a graphic artist and print thousands of them. You can give one to everyone who comes in the store. List a few endorsements on it as well as a brief paragraph of what the book is about. Leave your address off. Put the price and the ISBN on the bookmarks. Book stores often have their own book marks and are reluctant to have you give yours out if they think their customer is going to you directly.
I often will sign a book mark for someone who lingers at my table but does not buy my book. Remember your mission: "Spread good will!" Many people will come back to the store to buy your book after you have left. Send the book store several hundred book marks, and suggest that they include them in the bags of people who buy books before your book signing.
- BONUS TIP: I include book marks for all three of my relationship books plus a business card in every piece of correspondence that leaves my office. The utility companies send statement stuffers to you, so why not send one back? When paying bills, slip in one of your book marks with your check.
DO - Remember to call at least two months in advance if you want to be included in their in-store flyer.
DO - Go to Kinko's and have your book covers enlarged in color to an 11 x 17 poster, laminate them and have them put them on a poster type board with a stand up thing on the back. Always bring them with you to the signings! Anything else you can think of to call attention to your table is also GREAT!
DO - Ask them for a media list (radio, TV, etc.). Some don't have them, but the ones who do will usually share it or tell you where to get it. It makes calling the radio and TV stations easier. If they don't have a media list, ask them which stations they would recommend that might be interested in an interview. When they know you are also doing stuff to promote the signing, usually they do more too!
DO - Ask for a community list, i.e., Chamber of Commerce, Society of the Arts, etc. Send them a news release about your book signing (and seminar or keynote, if applicable). You never know where your speaking engagements may come from. Check first with your meeting planner to get permission, then add a personal note to the news release inviting them to come and hear you speak.
DO - Although the stores send news releases, send your own as well. This increases the chance of getting coverage.
DO - Call the radio and TV stations no less than a month in advance and request an interview the week of the signing. Send them a news release about your book signing. Give them a special invitation to attend your book signing, and if you are in town to do a keynote or seminar, invite them to attend at no charge. Remember to send them a promotional copy of your book.
DO - Put several of your books "face-out" when they aren't looking! I often will also put the books of my author friends "face-out."
DO - Send them your endorsements. Print them in an attractive large font and on a white piece of paper. They will often use them on posters, etc. Also send several book "covers." Request that they put up a special display, including poster, at least a week in advance of the signing. Most do, but it doesn't hurt to ask.
Send your picture (color is best) to join the book cover on the poster. Sometimes they use it, some times they don't. At least it gives them an option. Offer to send any additional information they may need.
DO - Talk to people. Many people think because you wrote a book, you are unapproachable. Prove them wrong. It builds relationships. Be exceedingly FRIENDLY! Booksignings are no place to be shy.
DO - Ask the manager how many books they would like for you to sign before you leave so they will have some on hand. NOTE: Generally speaking, they cannot return any books you sign, so always ask! If the signing went well or even if it didn't, and you impressed the manager, they will usually have you sign a bunch before you leave.
DO - Bring a camera and have your picture taken with the manager and other key people in the store. If you want to call attention to yourself, pay attention to other people. Most people don't do this. You may want to use several of the photos in publicity in the future.
DO - Have a Polaroid camera handy at your table. When someone buys your book say, "Let's have our picture taken together!" Have someone from the store take a picture of you and your new customer. Give it to them and sign and date the back of the picture. Suggest they use it for a book mark. This increases the odds that your book AND the picture will become more of a conversation piece.
DO - To help call attention to my book Red Hot LoveNotes for Lovers, I put a crystal bowl on the table and fill it with small, individually wrapped packages of "Red Hots." Dove chocolates are another favorite. People will stop and read the book poster (while they are unwrapping the candy) and look over your book marks and books. Ask them if you can take the wrapper. . . Contact!
DO - Especially in your own home town, take a sign-up sheet (name, address AND phone number) for those who may be interested in being on your mailing list. Don't have a mailing list? Start one! You'll be glad you did.
DO - If you are in town for a keynote or seminar, bring some seminar flyers to hand out. It doesn't have to be fancy, just who, how, what, when and where will do! Invite the Community Relations person to attend your seminar for free. Many won't take the time to come, but it's a nice touch!
DO - Call the local newspaper and request that someone come and take pictures for the "feature article" you will also request. Suggest that they interview the book store manager or community relations person. If they like you, they will almost always say great things you and your book.
I did this at a signing in Topeka, KS (my former hometown) and even though the article came out after I left, it was great PR, the store loved it, and follow-up sales were great. Remember to send them a promotional copy of your book.
DO - Get there no less than 15 to 20 minutes early and if you can, stay late. At a signing in Tucson, I sold more books in the extra 30 minutes after the signing than in the previous two hours.
DON'T - Don't complain if you don't sell lots of books. Signings make those who bought your book feel good, but they really don't sell lots of books while you are there, UNLESS you create a presence WHILE YOU ARE THERE!
I've sold as few as none to as many as 56 in a two hour period. According to book store managers, on average, book sales for a non-celebrity author will range from about 4 to 7. If you sell more, you're doing great!
DON'T - Don't show your disappointment if you don't sell very many books. It only creates bad will. Nuff said!
DO - Send the person who booked the signing a brief "thank you" note. I'm told that authors seldom do this. I've had several people call me to thank me for sending the note.
DO - Talk about other authors books; authors you know. I have a story in A 2nd Helping of Chicken Soup For the Soul and always ask the manager to put those books on the table too. I sign on page 18 under my name. I know my friends Mark Victor Hansen and Jack Canfield, the "Chicken Soup" guys, don't need my help, but the customers love it! My dear friend, Greg Godek's book, 1001 Ways to Be Romantic often shows up on my table. He mentions one of my books in his book.
DO - Come bearing gifts! Give the community relations person (or the person who booked the signing) a rose, small bunch of flowers or a tiny box of chocolates. They will not forget YOU!
DO - If you are coming from out of town, always call to let them know you have arrived.
DO - Talk to the community relations person and request a brief meeting with their employees prior to the signing to very quickly give an overview of your book so they can be aware and help sell it when people ask for that kind of book.
DO - I am a professional speaker as well as an author. If there is a book publishing association or National Speakers Association chapter or similar organization in the city of the signing, let them know you will be in town. Attend their meeting. If you know enough ahead of time, request to be on the program.
DO - When people stop by your autograph table, as you are introducing yourself, hand them a copy of your book. Many people will not pick up your book, but most will take it if you hand it to them. If they begin to read it, that's your cue to keep quiet. My book sales at back of the room and at book signings have increased significantly since using this tip.
DO - If you have a laptop computer, make arrangements with the book store for a phone line to the book signing table. Often a 25 foot phone extension wire from Radio Shack will work. (I bring my own). Display your computer in a prominent area and invite customers to interact with your website while you sign their book. ALWAYS hand them something with your URL printed on it. This is a sure-fire attention getter!
DO - Communicate with the bookstore by writing on postcards that show your book cover OR have numerous extra book covers printed and use the front part of the cover as an oversized postcard. While they do require extra postage, they keep your book in front of them as a constant reminder!
DO - MOST IMPORTANT: Have FUN! Let people know you are there to have fun, even if you don't sell any books. The manager of the store often feels worse than you do, because they are afraid you won't come back. Have fun! Create attention!
Some final words: It is important for you to understand that the purpose of book signings is not necessarily to sell books, but to make the book store customers AWARE of your books.
Another important point to understand is that books DO NOT sell themselves! People SELL books! It's equally important to spend some of your time at your signing to smooze with the people who take the money from the customers who buy your books. Get to know the staff at the book store. THEY can help you continue to sell your books LONG AFTER you have gone!
Book signings are an opportunity to build relationships with the book sellers. I consider book signings as an opportunity to SELL the book sellers on recommending MY books when someone asks for a good relationship book!
On several occasions, after handing the booksellers my 4-color book marks and telling them a little about myself and my books, the booksellers have actually bought signed copies of my books. If I happen to sell and sign a few books to their customers while I am there. . . I am grateful! I consider that a BONUS!
Several more things. . . as an author you should ALWAYS sign your books. Some people are too shy to ask for your autograph. Sign it anyway! Simply ask, "Here, let me sign that for you. Whose name would you like in it?" Always ask.
Never assume the book is for them. In the beginning, I wasted several books by assuming that the book was for them. I also always ask for the correct spelling. Even John can be spelled, "Jon, "Kelly: Keli, Kellie, Kelley, etc." If you sell your book by mail order be sure to include a blank on your order form for the person's name to whom the book should be signed. Remind them to PRINT the name. I also ask if they would like for me to write a date under my signature. Many people like to remember when they met you.
Authors often trade books with other authors. Remember to sign your books to them and ask them to return the favor.
DO - Ask the Community Relations Coordinator to make up some "Author Personalization Slips" (1/4 page sheets of paper with your photo and/or book cover on them with a message that says: "If you would like for (the author's name) to personalize your book for you, please PRINT the name you would like inscribed below." This will speed up the process and help keep you from having to ask, "What name would you like in the book?" or "What is the correct spelling?"
Come up with a special way of signing your name everytime you sign your books. For many years, I have signed books, "(their name), Celebrate Love! Larry James." Adding something special like, "Happy Birthday," or "Happy Anniversary," etc., will also make them very proud to show the book to their friends. Signed books are treasured much more than non-signed books!
Copyright © 1999 by Larry James. All Rights Reserved.
Larry James is a
professional speaker and author of How to Really Love the One
You're With: Affirmative Guidelines for a Healthy Love
Relationship, LoveNotes for Lovers: Words That Make Music
for Two Hearts Dancing! and Red Hot LoveNotes for Lovers.
In February, 1996, Larry joined the staff of Dr. John Gray, Ph.D.
author of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.
He was Dr. Gray's personal choice to host the popular
"Mars & Venus Chat Room" on America Online for nearly three years.
He is a personally trained facilitator of Dr. Gray's "Mars
and Venus Seminars."
Larry has appeared on ABC TV's "The View" with Barbara Walters and more than 400 radio talk shows.
He can be reached at: Larry James, CelebrateLove.com, P.O.
Box 12695, Scottsdale, AZ 85267-2695. 800-725-9223.