Author Marketing – Book Signings
Book Marketing – Book Signings — Audio version
Book signings can strike fear into new authors especially. Here are the tips for finding the right places and boosting your confidence to do them well.
It seems there’s nothing quite like the personal touch – meeting the author to gain interest from people.
Starting out, I had no idea what to expect when selling a book. The major bookstore chain, Waterstones, allowed me to do book-signings across the Southeast of England, and I was told I broke the record for sales for a first-time author. I had a great time, and one of the stores even invited me back two more times!
Emboldened by the results, I found no end of places to mercilessly tart myself in front of prospective readers. Some locations took more courage than others, but all were fun when I got the hang of them.
Locations for book signings
- Bookstores. Well, of course, we can hardly leave these out. Typically worth 25 to 50 copies in a day. Make it clear you’ll do the prep work. Ask if you can have a floor-standing bookstand (or a shelf if not) and take a snap with your mobile before filling it with your books facing out. Replace their books exactly as you found them when done if you want to get invited back for book two!
- Schools. You’ll be surprised how many schools love having authors in. There are two options here: a standard signing in the school library, or giving a one or two-hour session for the kids in place of an English lesson or after school. For the latter, tell them how to write a story, ask them for a character, a setting, a genre and create a short-story with them. They love it. Learn to do this well and not only will you sell handfuls of books at the end, but eventually you can even charge. One author friend of mine earns £200 for half-a-day or full-day plus book sales.
- Coffee-Shops. This one takes some courage, but with a bit of charm you can walk around tables and talk to the punters (get shop owners permission first of course). Typically, I’ll knock out fifteen sales in three hours, but just as important, it creates quite a stir which coffee shops love. I found the best time was from 10:30am to 1:30pm. Singles and doubles work best; groups of five or more you can’t provide ‘personal engagement’ and pack mentality means individuals don’t tend to buy.
- Conventions. These can be a great platform for sales. Find events in your genre, get a stall and set up. Typically you will pay £25 and up for a table. Expect to peak around ten copies per hour for your first book. It can vary quite a bit though.
- Shopping Malls. Get yourself a table for a day, and in the right place you can sell fifty+ books if there’s good footfall. Best opening line I found to catch people who hover for a moment as they go past – “Do you read much?” Follow up by asking about their reading habits. Eventually, they ask “so what’s your book about?” and pick one up.
- Business networking. This may seem a bit of a strange one if your book is fiction, but you’re going to be a change from the normal people they meet, and you should understand this – you’re a business person, running a business and selling a product. You can sell dozens this way. Of course, if it’s a business book, then this is a must.
- Book Launch. Can take place in a bookstore, or you can DIY it in a hall somewhere. Do some research on venues to help decide. Generally speaking, don’t spend a fortune as only friends, family and colleagues are likely to turn up, so gauge your budget accordingly. Typically you will sell no more than one book for every three people who attend as some only come to support you, and some come as a couple and buy one book between them.
- Specialist haunts. Hunt for places where your readers flock. For me with a Lord-of-the-Rings-style fantasy I looked for real-life role-playing locations. If you get the right place you receive ready-made respect that smooths the sales process and gains instant fans. Although such places can be hard to find, sales make up for it. You can sell dozens of copies in a few hours.
Top Tips for Engaging People at book signings…
- Use an open, friendly manner (no aloofness here), be honest about who you are, and what you’re doing.
- If it’s your first book – say so, and tell them a (short) story of how you became an author. Include your trigger point that put you on the path.
- Sign copies for people with their name correctly spelt – always ask, you can get some really funny ones.
- Above all, your job is to engage, so walk the floor, don’t sit back and wait, create a connection with them. Ask them questions about themselves, be attentive.
- NEVER TRYING TO SELL. You’ll do far better by explaining “I’m a local author with my first book”, than trying to push the book.
- Hold your book casually in close to your body, with the back facing outward, it promotes a soft sell and it creates a bit of intrigue for the client. Only hand it over when asked.
- Research for the other genres people like, that like your genre. For example, for my fantasy books I know it’s almost pointless approaching women in the chic-lit section, men in the military history section, or anybody looking at biographies. Crime is about 70/30 against. However, technical geeks love fantasy, so anyone in the computer section is a target. Obviously, people looking in your own genre is best.
- Friends in pairs are often better than singles. They tend to feel more relaxed, and have a laugh with you, creating a positive atmosphere. They often agree between them to buy one copy and both read it, or if one says yes, the other is encouraged to buy as well.
Here’s my essential checklist for book signings:
- Buy a nice pen, don’t cheapen signing a book with a Bic. And take spares!
- Have enough books for both selling and display (at least a hundred).
- Take plenty of the right change. If your book is £8.99, have a bundle of £1’s and p’s (and a tenner or two, for people who have a twenty).
- Have something to give away with details of how to buy the book online. Not everyone buys on the day.
- Buy one of those small receipt books if you have a business book. Business people can claim the purchase against tax.
I also recommend a simple piece of merchandise – the bookmark
Have the design based on your book cover. People love them, it’s a great way to advertise and keep you in mind. Gloss finish works better than matt, and have them sturdy not flimsy.
You can either:
- Give one to each person who visits you, even if they don’t buy.
- Sell them for between 50p and a £1 (but give them away for free to anyone who buys a book – they like that).
A general tip is to suggest to the printer they can advertise on the bottom of the bookmark. You can get some worthwhile printing deals.
I cannot reiterate enough the need to engage vs trying to sell to first-time buyers. Build fans, not clients. You’ll sell a lot more and create a growing following for follow-on books.
Although not directly the subject of this post, make sure you have at least one social media page running as an author, where they can follow you after meeting you. Facebook pages work well for this.
Well, good luck. If you follow the above you’ll get a much better response for your efforts, and more sales. I sold a thousand copies this way in six months from my first book.
How do you fare at book-signings?
Miles changed careers in 2008 from Senior Systems Designer in aviation to become a self-published fantasy author. His first book hit No 1 on Amazon for Epic Fantasy and knocked The Hunger Games from the top slot in Waterstones. In 2010 he started a self-publishing business, and began creative writing meet-ups in Kent called NAGS which have been running bi-weekly for four years.
He now writes, runs NAGS, and teaches a range of frank and honest courses for new authors on creative writing, self-publishing and book marketing, including for the Canterbury Christchurch University and North Kent College.
“It was great having Miles teaching to us today.
It’s given me some fantastic things to
think about – a very inspiring speaker,
thank you for a brilliant session.”
Emily Dorsett Beard
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