Ever been to a book signing?  I hadn’t.  In fact, the only thing close to a book signing I’d ever seen was part of an episode of Frasier, where the main character is quite taken with an author and the two of them leave the book signing event to go spend time together.  I’ll admit, the area where I live, the Peace River Country of northeastern BC, does not see a lot of book signings.  Even when there was a local book signing, I thought, “who?” and didn’t bother to attend.

Then my first novel, Been Blued, came out and there was an expectation that I would do a book signing.  I thought, “Why?  No-one seems to go to them, nobody seems to care.”  But I realized I was already doing quite well with selling my book, and since I enjoy a bit of local popularity–which most likely comes from being in retail, and being good at it–I thought I’d give it a try.

People here have been wonderful!  The mall was excited, and one store in particular wanted me in their store to do the actual signing.  I had the use of the mall’s parking lot sign, which helped me sell more books after the event, too.  I contacted the local TV station and the local newspaper.  The newspaper did a front page story on me, which took up a third of page 2 as well.  They announced the date of the book signing, while the TV interviewer showed up at the signing and did another segment in the Pouce Coupe library.  I put up signs on all the regional bulletin boards I could think of.

When I emailed my publisher’s contact about having signed a total of eighteen books, he informed me that a successful author with a big name publisher can consider twelve books a success.  Been Blued is my first published title, so I’m left thinking something must be inherently wrong with the way book signings have been conducted.  I’m thrilled to have done 150% ‘over average,’ with my first title, but come on…’twelve is good?’  For authors who are actually well-known???

So I have to wonder, where’s the sparkle and pop in book promotion?  First, it should come from the author.  If your book is exciting, well-written, and fun to read, people won’t care if you used a traditional publisher or a self-publishing company.  Nor will they care if you took twelve years or six months to write it.  All they want is a really entertaining story with characters they can sympathize with and relate to…that’s part of the reason Jerod is bald, and it bothers him!

If you went with a publisher who has a ho-hum attitude towards marketing, all I can suggest is that you take action and do some marketing and publicity yourself.  (Make sure you know what you’re legally ‘allowed’ to do first!  The idea is to sell your book, not get sued by your publisher.  Unless I miss my guess, your publisher will be quite happy to hear you want to help sell your book.)  Keep reading blogs about writing, or go to the various book marketing sites on this wonderful thing we call the Internet.  Google your questions…you’d be surprised at how effective that can be.

There are a few things I’d recommend, wherever you do your book signing.  Presentation is really important.  Why would someone approach your table if it’s just you and the book?  Use props that fit with your novel or genre.  I used a big world globe for Been Blued, along with irridescent stars and comets (confetti type stuff,) a few space shuttles, and a clear riser with different heights to create a sense of ‘space.’  I also printed out dozens of the ‘just published’ and ‘meet the author’ templates my publisher, iUniverse, emailed to me; most of them got taped to the sides of the table, but it didn’t hurt to place a few at random on top of the table.

Ensure you can afford to lose whatever props you use, especially small items.  You don’t want to be in the position of refusing when a child wants to own an item on your table.  Small kids sometimes don’t have parents smart enough to explain why they shouldn’t just take an item that appeals to them.  (Make sure you never leave computer stuff unguarded, not even for a moment!  Take it with you.)

One very important thing to put on your table is a sign with the price of your book!  I worked for a company years ago that told all its staff, ‘if it’s not marked, it’s not on sale,’ ie, if people don’t know the price, most of them won’t ask, they’ll just walk away (even when it’s something they really want.) 

If you’re a woman, take a belt pack instead of your purse.  It’s much easier to keep track of and won’t get in the way when you’re signing.  It might sound silly, but take lots of pens because you never know.  Even better if you’ve got promotional ones to give away–you might even ‘trade’ some publicity with another company: they give away your business card or bookmark and you give away their promo pens.  Be creative.  (You’re an author, you know how to do that!)

I’m not sure if timing makes much of a difference with being in a retail venue.  I’m planning the signing for Martian Blues for Valentine’s Day this year, if they’ll let me.  If not, it will be a week later.  Either way, it’s close to Valentine’s; my contact said, “Valentine’s Day?  Are you sure that’s a good idea?”  I responded, “Why not?  They are very affectionate Martians.”  (My characters are a bit like my real family.)  Since there’s no Martian holiday to take advantage of–that I know of, at any rate–why not use human ones?  A friend of mine grabbed my daytimer when I left it unattended a few years ago, and wrote in some fictional holidays…unless there really is an International Star Trek Day.  If you know of one, let me know, and where I can verify that.

If you’re going to be there longer than a few hours, arrange for food and water.  The store I signed in didn’t mind that I ordered in pizza.  Make sure there’s a washroom nearby…one that isn’t employees only, because you’re probably not store staff.  Have business cards handy; several of the people who don’t buy your book will want to ‘check it out’ later on.  If possible, set up a web site before the signing, so people who didn’t expect to find you there have another way to get your book when you’re gone. 

Bring something to do, preferably something that makes people approach you even if they’re not familiar with you.  I carry around an iPAQ, a handheld computer with a fold-up keyboard…the small size fascinates people.  And of course, be your usual charming self, if I’m not assuming too much.  Dress up, but not so much it makes you uncomfortable…people kept thinking I was now a manager in that store, so they kept asking me where things were.  Hey, once they’re talking to you, you have the opening you need; answer their question and then tell them who you are.  How else will they learn about you?

Hopefully, you’ll be successful.  The store I did the first signing in wants me back to sign the sequel, since they had a good experience.  I can’t stress it enough…be easy to work with, and you’ll get much further than some rude egomaniac.  Polite, accomodating, egomaniacs are quite acceptable.

Thanks for reading.  🙂

Phyllis K Twombly

About Scifialiens

Author of the Martian Symbiont series: three titles, so far; Been Blued, Martian Blues, Martian Divides. Currently writing screenplays. 'Mating With Humans' can be found on her Stage32.com account. Enjoyed writing from the start. Also a Star Trek and Doctor Who fan. Canadian so far. Paternal grandparents were American. Feels more at home in the States. Loves dogs and most other animals. Loves cats from afar--allergies. Plays flute and saxophone; 'messes with' keyboard and electric guitar. Single so far. Not really looking at the moment. Age: irrelevant. Not to be confused with the fictional comic book character, Phyllis Twombly, who lived for 600 years in the American Midwest.

One response »

  1. I go to book signings occasionally, and I can totally agree. If the author is sorta “ho hum” at the beginning of the signing, I usually just leave. If they are excited, I stay and usually end up picking up a copy of the book. Good advice! Thanks.

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