Book Signings: Some say they’re a waste of time, some don’t...
Unless your last name is Rowling, or you’ve just experienced the scandal of the season and shot to stardom overnight, your book signing may not be the most attended event of the year. Just ask Lisa Haneberg, author of “Two Weeks to a Breakthrough,” who hosted a book signing event at Barnes & Noble and didn’t quite get the experience she was hoping for...
“I stood at my table looking like I was waiting for something to happen or someone who might never come. The yellow of my helmet and jacket had become a lighthouse keeping passing readers away from danger. But Megan (the B&N customer service clerk) was persistent.
'Attention shoppers. We need your help. We have this author in from Seattle and she’s desperate for people to talk to. Do you see her in the center of the store? She’s wearing black and trying to act cool. You don’t have to buy a book. Heck, you don’t even need to be interested in her book. We just can’t bear to watch her fail so miserably and would like to offer a coupon for $500 off liposuction from the clinic across the street and a free cactus plant from The Green Thumb to anyone who will visit Lori Hamstrung at the table directly behind the customer service kiosk.”
The only customer who actually made eye contact with me was a young boy about eight years old. He told his mom he liked my helmet. She nodded and pushed him along. I have a contagious disease after all, I decided. It’s called author-selling-books-behind-a-table-itis and it is very dangerous.”
Just like Lisa, you may not even sell any books; on average, about 8 books are sold during a book signing. So, what is the benefit of a book signing event and how does the average author ensure people actually show up and buy their book?
Let’s think of it this way: to host a book signing event, you first have to write a book that people want to read, which takes times. You then have to find someone willing to publish your book, which also takes time, often more time than it took you to write the actual book. Then comes the promotion of the book, the distribution of the book, and so on and so forth. In short, it takes a lot of time to reach the point of hosting a book signing event. So, what do you as the author have to do to be sure people show up to your event? Well, there are a few things you can do...
Use a mailing list to announce your event
Even if you only have your own personal email list to use, send out a mass email to your contacts 3 to 4 weeks before your event date, letting them know of the upcoming event and why they should attend. Encourage them to invite their friends and don’t forget to send out a reminder email about a week before the event, and again 1 or 2 days before.
Invite the networks of people you’re connected to– coworkers, friends from the gym, old classmates, or people from your church, for example.
Inviting those who you see often and who you know well can be a great way to boost the attendance of your event. The people you know will be more apt to show up and spread the word, and having people there you know will make the whole experience more comfortable and casual.
Get local papers to cover the event
Write a short press release detailing your upcoming event and send it to local papers in the area of your event venue. Press releases are a great, free way to get coverage for your event and will reach a wide audience.
Make your event more than a book signing–turn it into a chapter reading or Q&A
Like we said, unless your last name is Rowling, you may not have a mile-long line of people waiting for you to scribble in their book. But, if you turn your event into more than just a book signing, like a chapter reading or a Q&A, for example, you may attract a larger audience.
Following these steps won’t guarantee you a hugely successful event, especially if this is your first book signing, but it’s worth a try. No matter what your attendance ends up looking like, besure to thank the venue for hosting you and all those whoattendedyour event. A helpful tip forfuture events: work on collecting emails at your book signings. Even if only a few people showup, those will be strong prospects to have on your mailing list for future events and opportunities.