December 2012


Welcome back for my third and final installment of How to Have a Successful Book Signing. I hope that Part 1 and Part 2 were able to offer some insight and ideas that perhaps you haven’t thought of before. This final post will assume that, because of the previous marketing ideas, you’ve been able to drive customers to your signing, and now it’s all about what to do when they’re standing in front of you.

Here are 5 tips for turning a prospective customer into a buyer:

1. Plan your table location and presence. Make sure your table is immediately noticeable when customers walk through the door and that it is angled in such a way that you can make eye contact with them. Decorate your table based on the theme of your book if at all possible. If that doesn’t work for your book, then at least make sure that your table is eye catching, colorful, and looks professional.

Know that many, if not most, bookstores will not have tablecloths or anything available to place on your table. Come prepared with a tablecloth to fit the sized table you will have, along with any other decorations you want to add. Your table can be as simple or elaborate as you care to make it, but the important thing is that people notice it.

Don’t forget to have several pens on hand for signing (test them first to ensure they write smoothly and don’t smudge), an ample supply of your books, at least two books stands for displaying your books, a plate of cookies or other goodies to help bring people to the table (food ALWAYS gets people’s attention), a stack of your business cards, your book’s postcards, and giveaways (see point #2).

2. Give something away. If you have enough time prior to your event (3-4 weeks) you might want to think about having some products made with the name of your book and your website on them. Small, inexpensive giveaways, such as magnets, pens, or keychains work well. If possible, work within the theme of your book for a more unique product. Your publisher may have some fun and creative ideas or might work with you to get a book-themed product made.

There are a ton of companies that specialize in these promotional products. One I’ve used before is called PromoDirect. They have an entire assortment of giveaway products. The key to choosing a product is that it is either unique and clever, or it is something very practical, which will more than likely get used. You want potential customers to have something to help them remember you and your book after they’ve gone, so it helps if they can use it every day.

3. Be proactive. You won’t make many sales if you spend all your time sitting behind the table. I know this can be tough for introverted writers, but you’ll really need to put your sales cap on if you hold a book signing. Try to meet customers as they come through the store’s door or as they walk near your table. Introduce yourself, shake hands, and tell why you’re there.

You should have a 30-second “elevator speech” ready to say to each person you talk with. You want to mention: 1) the title of your book; 2) what the book is about; and 3) why they need to buy it (Would it make a great gift? Will it help them in some way? What problem of theirs will it solve?). After your brief speech, offer them one of your giveaways to take with them. Then, if they don’t buy, give them your card and a postcard in case they change their mind! Just don’t let them leave empty-handed.

4. Always hold a copy of your book. As you approach customers, carry a copy of your book with you. As you begin speaking with them, hand them the book. Point out certain features of your book, like all the resources you’ve added in, or end-of-chapter add-ons–anything you consider to be a benefit of your book. At the very least, open up to the Table of Contents and discuss the book’s organization or what they will find in your book.

The point of this exercise is two-fold: to show, not just tell people about your book, and to allow them to see it for themselves; and to get them to hold it and browse through it. Every good salesperson knows that a potential customer is more inclined to buy something once they touch it and hold it.

5. Plan to read from or discuss your book. Set aside a few minutes of each hour or half hour to either do a short reading from your book or to discuss parts of it. You should have a sign of some kind to announce when the next reading will be. As you talk with customers, encourage them to come back for the reading or discussion. Note: readings work best for fiction, and discussions or Q&A work best for nonfiction!

The purpose of this is to get people involved in your book in an interactive manner, just like when you hand them your book. As they talk about it with you, ask questions, and actually hear it read, they now have made an investment in it, which helps bring them one step closer to wanting it–either for themselves or for someone else.

I hope you’ve picked up a few tips and ideas that may help you as you embark on book signings. I’d love to hear from you regarding what has or hasn’t worked or what you would do differently the next time around.

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Welcome back to learn more about getting people to your book signing! Last week in Part 1, I discussed various locations where you can hold book signings (aside from the usual book stores), and how to effectively use flyers, postcards, and social media to help spread the word. Today I’m going to look at two other important avenues to help get the word out about your book signing. After all, if you can’t get people to come, you won’t sell any books! So, first things first:

1. Tell the media: Aside from using social media, don’t forget about traditional media. Newspapers, radio, and local magazines still exist! Spend some time researching what media outlets or community organizations have local calendars of events, and ask to get put on their calendar. In my city, our local newspaper has both a print and online calendar that anyone can get added to for free. These things are out there, so take advantage of them!

Again, think about your target readership and what calendars they may be looking at. If you just wrote a cookbook, maybe there are local or regional specialty stores where cooking enthusiasts shop. See if they have a calendar or bulletin board for cooking events. A store like this may even want to host your book signing!

Depending on the nature of your book, you can also talk to local papers about doing a PR article for you. Send them a press release about yourself, your book, and the date and location of your book signing, and ask if they would put it in their paper. This works best if your book coincides with a holiday, specific time of year (back to school, for example),  or other special circumstance where it can be promoted in conjunction with another event. My book, Grandparenting Through Obstacles, for instance, came out right before Grandparent’s Day, so that was the angle I used when trying to promote through the media.

Also consider using radio to help drive people to your site. I’m not suggesting buying ad time, unless you have the budget for that, but rather trying to promote through radio interviews. This is normally the kind of thing a professional PR person would do for you, but you may just have to do it yourself. Send your local radio stations–those that you know conduct author interviews–a copy of your book to review (this needs to be done well ahead of your book signing), asking if you could interview with them.

If they like your book and your topic, they’ll probably say yes, as most of these stations are in need of new authors and new material. During your interview, make the listeners aware of your book signing and any other promotions or appearances you are doing.

2. Tell everyone you know–and even those you don’t! Of all the things you can do to get people to your book signing, there is none as effective as good ‘ol word of mouth. Start with your friends, family, and other writers you know. And don’t limit who you tell to only those who live near you or the location of your signing. You never know who these people might know who do live near you and would want to support you.

After sharing your news with everyone you know–and asking them to share it as well–start passing out those postcards! As I mentioned in Part 1, keep postcards and flyers with you at all times so you can talk up your book signing and leave people with some information about it. You don’t have to be an outgoing person to do this.

As you naturally strike up conversations with others during your daily routine of going to work, running errands, or helping at your kids’ school, ask people if they know of anyone who might be interested in the topic of your book and if they would mind passing along a postcard to that person. This way you’re not pushing yourself or your book on them, but rather trying to promote it through them. You’ll never know if you don’t ask!

Now that you’ve done all you can to get people to your signing, what do you do once they’re there to help ensure they buy a book? While there certainly are no guarantees that those who show up will buy, there are some specific things you can do to make book sales more of a possibility. Please come back next week when I will talk about 5 “tricks” that will make prospective customers more likely to buy.

It’s getting tougher and tougher nowadays for a first-time, or even somewhat-known author to secure a book signing at a local bookstore. And, even harder if that bookstore is a major one, like a Barnes and Noble or Borders. In general, the bookstores don’t see a big return on their investment of time and effort to have you sit in their store and bother their customers. Book signings used to be much more glamorous and exciting than they are now–unless you’re a bestselling author, in which case, you can pretty much do whatever you want!

With that said, however, there is still a place for book signings–it just might not be where you expect. And, wherever you end up setting up shop, there are things you can do as an author to make the most of your book-signing experience–things that will translate into more books sold and possibly invitations by the store manager to come back for future signings. I cannot guarantee that doing the following will help you sell a ton of books, but I can safely say that to not do them will certainly hinder your sales.

1. Location, location, location! As I mentioned, the larger chain stores have really turned up their collective noses at book signings held by no-name or little-named authors. It just hasn’t paid off for them. So a better route to go is to seek out your local mom-and-pop, privately held bookstores. They may not be big, but in a tight-knit community, word spreads. If the bookstore is a popular one, you should have a good-sized crowd come out to see you if you have a book they’re interested in.

Then, go beyond the bookstores. Think about your target market and where they gather, then go there. If you’ve written a children’s book, try to get into schools and libraries, or maybe even toy stores that are willing to sell your book. Or, look for parenting organizations in your city and find out where they meet. If you’re a fiction writer, go where literary clubs in your area meet, or hold a signing at your local college. If you can’t find a place where your target market gathers, you can always check into renting a room (often you can get them for free; if not, the cost is usually minimal, like around $50) at a library, community center, a YMCA, etc. If you do enough PR (which I’ll talk about next), the town will know how to find you.

2. Get the word out. Even if you are able to get into a Borders, you need to be prepared to do most of the PR work yourself. I held a book signing at a Borders store a couple of years back, and the extent of the help I received from them were posters hung on their doors! If you weren’t coming to the store anyway, you’d never know I was there!

The extent and mix of PR work to do for a book signing will depend on how much time, money, and effort you want to put into it. My experiences have been that the more I’ve invested, the bigger the pay-off has been. Of course, this may not always be the case. At the very least, I would suggest printing flyers and/or posters (most of this you can do yourself) that include a picture of yourself and your book’s cover, a blurb about the book, a review or endorsement of your book, and the time and location for the book signing.

Put a stack in your car and take one into every restaurant, store, coffee shop, dry cleaners, and so forth that you enter. Ask the owner/manager if you could hang one on their bulletin board or door or window. You’ll get more “yes’es” than “no’s.” You’ll want to do this about 2 weeks ahead of your signing so there’s ample time for people to see the signs, but not so much time that they become immune to the signs because the event is so far off.

Another great PR resource is the postcard. These are simply miniature versions of your flyers, which should include the same information. For those business owners who said no to your flyers, ask if you could leave some postcards on their counter instead. For that matter, even if they said yes to your flyers, you can still try to leave postcards so people can take them when they leave the store. I’ve had great success at getting postcards made through Vistaprint. The prices are good, and I’ve been happy with the quality.

Postcards are also great to hand out to anyone and everyone you run into. You can’t be shy in this business! If you want people to show up to your signing and buy your book, you’ll need to be proactive. Even if the person you talk to doesn’t seem interested, encourage her to take a card to share with someone else. Maybe that person doesn’t have kids and therefore doesn’t care about your children’s book, but perhaps she knows the head of the MOPS group at her church. You just never know until you ask!

3. Take advantage of social media. Announcing events like book signings are an excellent way to use social media. Definitely announce your signing on your website, through your email, put it on Facebook, Twitter, and any other virtual channels you use. Also include it on your blog and other blogsites you frequent, especially if your target readership hangs out on those sites.

Facebook has a nice feature for events where you can invite people from your email or Facebook contacts to your event. Take advantage of that, and ask your social media connections to help spread the word for you. If each person you’re connected to via Twitter or FB tells one other person, and those people do the same, you’ll soon reach a lot of people with your event info.

That’s enough for today. Please stop back next week because I have much more to share on how to get people to your book signing and then, most importantly, how to get them to actually buy your book!