Book Signing…Yay or Nay?
By Sharon K. Connell
This past December (2018), I had a book signing event at a very charming local bookstore here in Houston, Texas. Normally, I don’t do book signings because frankly there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day for everything else I need to accomplish. Still, something prompted me to check into this little bookstore when I met a young lady named Whitney at a conference put on by my writing group.
Whitney had come to the conference to represent River Oaks Bookstore, and sell books written by the members of our group, plus others from the store.
Why I asked Whitney if the store allowed independent authors to have book signings there I’m not sure, but I’m glad I did. Here are some of my thoughts about my book signing, which took place December 13th.
First, let me say that this store is exactly what I think a neighborhood bookstore should be.
The employees were just as charming as the shop. In fact, the store reminded me of The Shop Around the Corner in the 1998 remake (You’ve Got Mail) of the movie Shop Around the Corner. The atmosphere was cozy, and everyone was helpful. The following picture is from a children’s reading day. I included it to show you the inside of the shop.
At my signing, I soon realized customers felt at home when they came in to look for books, partly because of the loveseat and chairs placed around a coffee table with cookies for the taking. They also served coffee, punch, and wine the evening of my book signing.
Now if you are looking to have a book signing in a bookstore, and you’re expecting to rake in the bucks just because you’re there to meet and greet the customers who are looking for your “someday-famous” autograph…don’t. A book signing, even in a bookstore, is a hit or miss event. You nor the store can guarantee a flood of customers, nor can one guarantee that the customers will be looking for your type of book when they come in.
However, if you’re looking for name recognition, introducing yourself as an author, the chance to talk to readers face-to-face, and a chance to learn what readers think and are interested in, this is the event for you. I can’t tell you how much good information I gleaned from just listening to the customers talk to one another as they perused the bookshelves, asked questions about my writing, and made comments about my books and others on the shelves. It got to the point where I had to pull out my notebook and start scribbling information based on what I heard. A writer can learn so much by listening to readers.
Okay. Now to the nitty-gritty of the subject of book signings in a bookstore. What I did was talk to the person in charge of scheduling the event at the bookstore. I found out what was expected of me, and what I could expect from them. We discussed preparing for the event, their percentage of the sales, and what would happen after the event ended. I found River Oaks Bookstore to have a professional setup for book signings. They do them every week of the year, year round, and sometimes more than one a week. What I’m saying here is this. Make sure you choose a bookstore that knows what they are doing, and who has a steady stream of customers, as a rule. Remember, no one can guarantee a good turnout on any particular day.
An eye-catching advertising poster was made by me through Vistaprint, according to the specifications given me by the bookstore. (See picture above) It showed the main books I wanted people to know would be available. It was hung in their front window. As soon as I had the poster ready, it, along with my books and an inventory sheet, was delivered to the bookstore.
While I was there at the bookstore to drop everything off, they showed me where I would be signing the books. On a large wooden table right in the middle of the store. I was going to be the feature of the day, or evening in this case.
Between that time and the time of the actual event, I had to decide how I wanted to lay out my display. Little giveaways were collected for the event to draw attention to my table, lots of things to hand out to kids present, and I made up a drawing prize, a tall ceramic mug with the picture of my new release on it. The mug was filled with Hershey’s kisses and wrapped with cellophane, tied with colorful ribbons. For every book purchased, the customer filled out a card and dropped it into a bucket. At the end of my signing, I had an employee pull out a card. Even if the person wasn’t still in the store, their name and email address was on the card on one side, and an invitation to subscribe to my monthly newsletter with a box to check on the other side. If not present, I planned to leave the mug in the store for them to pick up. In this case, the person whose name was drawn was still in the store.
Since the season was Christmas, I opted for a Christmas display. The only thing I forgot was the wrapping paper to wrap around the legs of the table so I could hide the boxes, as you can see.
The next step was advertising. Every day, everywhere, several times a day. I promoted my book signing and the bookstore as much as I could.
Like I said, if you’re looking to make a ton of money signing your books and you are not as well-known as Jane Austen, J.R.R. Tolkien, Shakespeare, or modern day authors like James Patterson, JK Rowling, or Steven King, you will be disappointed, even if it’s a great selling day. But, if you want your name to get out there, you want to be known as a real author, and you want the experience of dealing one-on-one with the readers, don’t pass up the experience.
Personally, I’m not planning on a lot of book-signings. As an independent author, I’ll rely on the advertising I do each day to promote my books, but I do plan to go back to this wonderful local bookstore and sign up again when my next book is released. I had a blast. And I’ll get to know the store better, as well as their customers.
Where to reach Author, Sharon K. Connell
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/sharonkconnell
Author’s book page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/averypresenthelpbook1
Author’s Page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChristianRomanceSuspense/
Group Forum on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ChristianWritersAndReadersGroupForum/
American Christian Fiction Writers: https://www.acfw.com/
Houston Writers House: http://houstonwritershouse.net/
2 Elizabeths Literary Magazine: https://2elizabeths.com/
CyFair Writers Group: https://www.meetup.com/CyFairWriters/
His Perfect Love http://amzn.to/2iCMALI
A Very Present Help http://amzn.to/2yuF4eE
Paths of Righteousness www.amazon.com/dp/1732923701
His Perfect Love by Sharon K. Connell https://youtu.be/e3tRr6mLzZk
A Very Present Help by SharonKConnell https://youtu.be/wYyoOE5IzS0Music by Chris Trosclaire
Paths of Righteousness by SharonKConnell https://youtu.be/bBC25TioE9c