Even after years of offering my books for sale at every market imaginable, I still get butterflies in my stomach the day before I’m heading off on my literary adventure. I think through every set-up possibility, every book stand, flow of traffic, and piece of swag I want to offer.
Preparing for your book event will be different for every place you go, but it’s good to be prepared. Some book signings will go splendidly and some won’t… that’s why I suggest trying several different types of book events before throwing in the towel completely. You will have feast and famine days—that’s just the way it goes when you’re selling stuff—but there are ways to make the most of each event.
- Obtain as much information as possible about the event. How much space will you have? Where will your table be located? (If possible, visit the place ahead of time to get an idea of the layout.) What age group/types of people frequent the place you’re visiting? Do you need to bring your own table/chairs? Do you need cash for change and/or a way to take digital payments, or do customers pay at a register?
- Overpack. Bring snacks and water, an extra cell phone battery/charger pack, pens, cardstock in case you need an impromptu sign, book holders/displays, boxes wrapped in pretty paper to create levels, tape, scissors, and of course your books.
- Speaking of books, don’t overspend. If possible, compare notes with other authors to see how much they sold at the same location. We recommend you bring 10-20 copies of each book unless you know tons of people will be coming. There’s no need to buy boxes and boxes of books.
- Your covers should be enough to get people’s attention and suck them in, especially your target audience. But a few oversized, laminated posters of your book cover doesn’t hurt either.
- Offer swag, but don’t go too crazy. Bookmarks or business cards and some type of candy is really all you need. We don’t recommend cookies or beverages unless you are outside because kids are going to come by and they are going to be messy. Have consideration for the place of business or event that has so graciously allowed you to come.
- Get the word out. Create an event on Facebook, and consider asking the place of business if you can put up posters or create little bag stuffer inserts. The key to making sales, though, is to find a venue that tends to have a huge amount of traffic in the first place. The more traffic, the more likely you are to make sales.
- Offer a small giveaway. Gift cards are the best giveaway prize because they can be transferred digitally, and it’s nice to purchase a gift card from the business that’s hosting your signing. A giveaway is a great way to get someone over to your booth, and you can collect e-mail addresses for your newsletter. Just make sure it’s understood that’s what you’re going to do with their information.
- Greet passerby with a smile to get their attention. “Would you like to enter a giveaway for a (business name) gift card?”
- But don’t talk too much. Once you have the person looking at your book, you can offer a very short pitch on what the story is about. But when they start reading the blurb, let them read it. If they want to know more, they’ll ask.
Book signings can be an awesome way to connect with readers in person and see real-life reactions to your covers and subject matter. We’d love to hear your best book signing tips in the comments!