How to Host a Successful Book Signing
Organizing book signings, readings and public appearances is a vital element of an author’s marketing campaign as well as an influencer on the author’s level of success. Your position when planning an event is to sell to the public that you are the author, this is the book and here is where you can find it.
In your efforts to set up a book signing, prepare and establish a plan before introducing yourself to bookstores and your potential readers.
- Set Your Stage — Use creativity when exploring your options for the venue of your book signing. Bookstores appeal to a broad segment of the public and allow you to build relationships with local bookstore owners. Now think of your target audience — your niche — and where the most relevant location is to reach this audience. Is your book about gardening or horticulture? Hold a signing at a large garden supply outlet. A children’s book? How about a child’s boutique? Mix your efforts in order to reach your target and open-ended audiences.
- Brag Material — Present yourself and your work in a professional way by providing potential book signing locations with a reference to who you are and an example of your work. You can create a book signing portfolio to leave with potential locations for review and possible use. This portfolio may include your author bio, photo, book summary, excerpt from your book, print out of your book cover, web site, and a press release. Include a mock flier advertising your book signing at their location, which if they decide to host your event, could then be placed in the bags of customers.
Once you have scheduled your book signing events, you will need to begin your pre-planning for each presentation.
- Coordinate with your book signing location —Offer to help with promotions. The location wants to bring in traffic while you want that traffic to notice you. Bookstores, as well as other locations, will be more apt to host an event if you contribute to the marketing. Maybe advertise in the local paper at your expense or provide the created materials from your book signing kit. Post your event on your website.
- Build awareness for your book signing—Explore all avenues. Mail out post cards inviting or reminding anyone you know to attend your event. Make sure you personalize anything you send out with your real signature or short note. Provide a sample chapter and author information to your local newspaper, magazine and radio station and ask for an interview before your book signing. Offer to meet the photographer of a newspaper or magazine for coffee, as your picture will help readers recognize you at the event. You can also fax or e-mail a press release to the local newspaper and radio stations.
- Reach out to the community for support—Connect with other local retailers by personally introducing yourself and explaining what you are working towards. Ask for their support in allowing you leave fliers for their customers or placing a placard in their window. Whether it is a doctor’s office, coffee shop, or a store more related to your target market, get creative. Contact the local Chamber of Commerce, arts society, or any other group pertaining to your book’s topic.
- Preparation—Practice your selected read aloud excerpt, familiarizing yourself enough with the routine to make eye contact to your listeners. Prepare a list of questions for the store manager which can be used as interjections by employees to help stir audience interest and participation if needed. Prepare a list of questions you can ask your audience — Who among us is a writer?
- Ask a friend to help assist you—Hopefully you and the location staff will be busy with customers. A friend or family member acting as your assistant will help to keep a professional flow. Your assistant can hand out bookmarks and freebies, replenish your books when they get low, ask customers to join the mailing list, make announcements to invite customers to the table and take pictures of the event for future promotional use.
The day of your book signing…
- Opt-In list—Place a sign-in sheet or guest book on your table where your audience may provide their information and email addresses to receive special promotions and upcoming information. You and the location staff may use the list to inform readers of news and events.
- About you—Bring bio cards and fliers about you and your work to display on your signing table. Be sure the information lists all published titles, where your books can be purchased and a Web site where readers may go to for more information or to purchase your books. Include that you are available for public appearances and speaking engagements and list your appropriate contact information.
- Promotional giveaways—Be sure to bring relevant promotional items such as bookmarks and pens to give away to your audience. Add a headshot to an unpublished short story or excerpt from a new piece, sign it and offer a free sneak peek into your upcoming work. Have a drawing for a tote bag with your autographed book inside. Any small item is a reminder of the event.
- Follow up—Donate a copy of your book to the location of your book signing. If they are going to purchase copies to sell, offer to sign those as well. Remember to send a thank you to everyone involved — the event location for hosting your signing, the opt-in audience for attending and any press (reporters, photographers, etc.) that contributed to news regarding your event.
All of your efforts cannot guarantee a flawless event, however, your preparation will radiate self-confidence and your retail buyers, reading audience and industry participants will acknowledge your professionalism.