BOOK SIGNING HORRORS — OR NOT?

How many of you have attended a book signing?  Most authors have, of course — their own at least.  And others? It depends on your interest in the author and book on display.  Right?

What did you enjoy about the signings you have either attended or participated in?  If you are an author, what went well and what went terribly wrong?  Have you had signings like many of us where few or (shudder) NO books sold and you just sat there grinning and grinning through the deadly allotted time.

Well now, let’s see if we can brighten things up.

Of course the first problem for an author is booking a signing.  These days many bookstores are reluctant to hold them.  Why? Takes too much time to plan, and publicity can be costly. Then, at the scheduled time, nobody comes.

Is there any way around this number one problem?  I do have some ideas after years of experience, and a couple of those deadly nobody came events.

How do I make myself appealing as a special event for any bookstore, Barnes & Noble or Indie? Here’s one way I got into a B&N for a very successful book event only a few months after I’d been featured in the same store.  June was coming up. One of my novels is A WEDDING TO DIE FOR.  I approached the store manager about a wedding special, suggesting we feature my novel and a display of all the bridal magazines and wedding planning books the store stocks. He bought the idea and ordered my books.  I got out some lace yardage left from a niece’s wedding reception table covers, and made a cover to fit one of the bookstore tables.  Day of event I dressed in my frilliest suit, fancy white blouse, and a big white straw hat floating with net and lace for the occasion.  I did not sit (never do at signings), but stood, book in hand, welcoming all who came in the store, pointing out books available, and showcasing my own novel.  (Can a shooting, a bombing, and the murder of a florist stop a wedding?)  And I sold a lot of books, mostly my own novel.

You get the picture.  Don’t offer a signing, offer an event!  At other events I have talked, taught, and explained. For my newest novel, A FAIR TO DIE FOR, a bookstore held a mini-craft fair to accompany sales of my book.  At a library several staff members brought in their own craft projects to display, and I took the “Fold ‘n Go” dollhouse I have been creating furnishings for. (Did you know that, in some Cheerios packages, there are a few smaller, browner, Cheerios?  Those became donuts on my dollhouse breakfast table.  Used dryer sheets were sewn into curtains hung on popsicle sticks –and so on.  The dollhouse was, by the way, given to me by a bookstore owner after she’d used it in her Christmas window.)

During a city-wide festival I have mugged at passing crowds from a huge bookstore window while surrounded by posters for my books and the books themselves.

In gift shops and bookstores I try to learn as much about the stock as I can before time to sign, so I can answer questions beyond “Where are the restrooms?”  My work background is in retail sales, so I know how to wait on customers when staff is short.  I also know how to straighten stock when that fits the venue.

In essence, I am ready for whatever it takes.  And all my signings are fun–especially for me.

Tomorrow I begin a series of sales and signings (books for Christmas gifts)  in several stores that are part of a grocery chain in my area.  These last all day, and, I admit, are hard work since again, I rarely sit. I talk to a lot of people, many of them obviously lonely and eager for someone to chat with. And, y’know, after I have heard about grandchildren, upcoming plans, current problems, my new friends frequently think of someone they’d like to give a book to!

I have appeared in all the places I mentioned here more than once — some of them several times, often by invitation. So, as you can see, the “How can I help you?” approach works well for everyone.

Readers, what kind of events are authors in your area planning?

http://www.RadinesBooks.com

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3 Responses to “BOOK SIGNING HORRORS — OR NOT?”

  1. Patricia Gligor Says:

    Radine,
    My background is in retail sales too. As a matter of fact, at the recent book launch event for “Unfinished Business,” my publisher commented that I am “an expert salesperson.” I’m not sure about that but my experience in retail has helped me to be more outgoing and to keep the needs of the customer first in mind.

  2. kaye george Says:

    I’ve done a couple of “events”, but some plain signings have been more successful. And I have horror stories from both events and signings–and great success stories. Hey, it all depends, right? December is a GOOD month to sell books, that I know!

  3. Radine Trees Nehring Says:

    Right, Kaye, not all of any type book-selling presentation is guaranteed to be a success. I should have made it clear that I was writing only about some of my own experiences. One thing that also works well in my area (Arkansas/Missouri/Oklahoma), is a multiple-author event, not necessarily at a store, but possibly at a festival of some type. I think that works well many places, as I see festivals recommended fairly frequently on the writer-appealing Internet. But–a couple of times, those have really bombed for me!

    Thanks for your comment.

    Patricia, I have been thankful many times that my work experience before full-time writing was in retail sales. What you describe works for me, too. My job wasn’t high-paying (no benefits, either) but I am grateful for it now. I did enjoy the public interaction.

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