How to Have A Successful Book Signing
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“Success” is an entirely subjective notion. If you are expecting me to give you the 100% bonafide “no win, no fee” list of things you have to do at a book signing in order to sell a bajillion copies of your book, then you’ve come to the wrong place (psst – there is no such list). But what I can do is give you a fighting chance with a few pointers.
Us writers are usually such a solitary bunch. For some (myself included) the notion of going out into the real world and meeting people in order to talk about and (hopefully) make a sale, is a terrifying prospect. If you’re not a deeply introverted writer, and not terrified by the mere prospect of a book signing, then you’re already one step ahead. My first suggestion for the ticklist is a wingman. I don’t care who. Your best friend, your lover, your mother, your child, your pet gerbil, someone you’ve never met in person before*, whoever you want, just don’t go it alone. If nothing else you’ll need someone to chat with during the slow moments in the day (and unless you’re G.R.R. Martin, or J.K. Rowling, there will be slow moments). They can also direct traffic if it gets busy, or hold the camera for an author photo!
*My “wingman” at my first signing was a lovely lady named Nici, who I’d only ever “met” on facebook, until I talked her into spending the weekend attending my book signing. It was perfect. She was perfect, the opposite to me in her ability to actually speak to complete strangers, and as a bonus she had read my books and was a fan. She did all the selling while I sat there like a silent chump, and just about managed to stick my signature on the copies sold and take the cash.
The next thing to think about is your setup. If you are attending a book signing with a whole bunch of other authors, each with their own table – sometimes known as a book event – then you need to stand out from the crowd. Check out this great post from Heidi Angell on Five Tips to make your Book Event More Successful
Even if you’re on your own with a table in the corner of your local bookstore, you need to look appealing and inviting. You want people to glance at you, have something catch their eye and then want to walk over to find out more. In this instance the book is judged by the cover – if you consider that you and your table are the book. You don’t have to go overboard, but presentation is everything. I went with decadent purple colours and picked up a cheap but sexy looking table runner. I had a few steampunk items – some decorated top hats, and a pair of handcuffs and a fork laid surreptitiously on the table… why the handcuffs and a fork? You’d have the read the books to find out! That was our tagline whenever people asked, and that is the hook.
Other items such as business cards, a banner, a bowl of sweeties all add to the attraction.
Alright, it’s not a literal exam, but you MUST be prepared. Those wily readers will ask the most unexpected questions, and it’s never a good look to stand there with your mouth open while you search the old brain box for something – anything – that might sound like a reasonable answer. You’re there to sell a horror book? Be ready to liken it to the writings of a more well-known author. Don’t give me that schtick of “my writing is so original blah blah” – readers don’t want to hear it. They want to know if you have the nerve of Stephen King, the depth of world-building to almost (but never better) Tolkien’s, something quick and snappy which will give them instant gratification and hopefully make them want to dig deeper. If you wrote a book on trains you’d better be an expert on the subject – or at least have enough knowledge to fake it well. Try to think about what you – as a reader – would ask your favourite author about their book, the question that you’ve never heard asked in interviews. Speaking of which, study a few author interviews, there is a pattern to the kind of questions that people ask, practice answering those questions yourself as if you were being interviewed, and then you’ll have the perfect answers mapped out when that one awkward person who is just out to test you and make you feel like a fool comes along (and those people do exist – rise to their challenge)
Above all, be personable. You are there to sell your product, but don’t go for the hard sell, and don’t be disheartened if after twenty minutes of chit chat that nice lady you thought was a shoe-in for a purchase walks away. No-one is obliged to buy and your book signing isn’t a failure if you don’t make any sales or sign any books. Why? Because you’ve already succeeded in doing what most only ever dream of. You wrote a book. You got it published, and you got yourself a damn book signing. That in itself is a success and anyone who says otherwise is a fool.
E.C. Jarvis is a British author working mainly in fantasy and erotic romance genres. For the last thirteen years, Jarvis has been working her way through the ranks of the accountancy profession in various industries. During ten of those years she has also been writing.
Since 2015, she has completed six full novels, and published several short stories in various anthologies.
She lives in Hampshire, England with her husband and daughter and cat.
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