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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