How to Do a Book Signing
Book signings allow authors to make personal connections with readers, which is what makes them worth doing. However, you can't expect the venue to do all the promotional work. Ensuring a good turnout is your responsibility. Success depends on attending carefully to every detail related to the event -- from the timing of your appearance to how you present the material. If you do the job well, you'll gain new fans who can't wait for your next time in town.
Contact Venues Early
Develop a mailing list of book reviewers, media outlets and venues that seem like a match for your work. For best results, allow event coordinators a two- to six-month lead time, particularly if you want to book an appearance tour, advises "Poets and Writers" magazine. Send copies of your book and follow up by email or phone to confirm basic details of each appearance, including dates, times and venues. Also, email fans or friends in the areas you're visiting and ask for their help in spreading the word.
Check All Logistics
Confirm details from event coordinators about how long you're scheduled to speak, the venue's location and additional steps you can take to promote the signing. For example, if the store publishes a newsletter, offer to write a brief article about your event, book marketing consultant Penny Sansevieri advises in "Publishing Basics Newsletter." To boost your promotional efforts, ask for the store's media contacts list. Also, be sure to ask about technical requirements for audiovisual aids and microphones.
Don't Skimp on Supplies
Always bring extra books, order forms, pens and promotional items like bookmarks, business cards, flyers and postcards that you can give away to readers. If possible, recruit a spouse, friend or relative to assist with these tasks, so that you can focus on your presentation. Prepare a guestbook or mailing list for customers to sign. This helps you build a fanbase and gives you a way to inform followers of your future activities.
Tailor Your Presentation
The audience and venue dictates your presentation style. An in-store reading requires a looser, less formal style than an academic lecture. In either case, bookmark or highlight the passages you plan to read, and recall anecdotes or introductions that provide context for the material. Read at a measured pace and allow sufficient time for questions once you finish. Practice your presentation, but be ready to customize the material for smaller- or larger-than-expected crowds.
Respect Your Readers
Keep patrons' needs in mind during your event. To keep the line moving during the signing portion of the event, choose three set phrases to rotate among the copies that you sign, novelist Mary Robinette Koval says on her website. This way, you can easily chat with people without thinking too hard about what to write. Buy a permanent pen with acid-free ink that doesn't degrade. Ask for spellings of names, even if you know the buyer. Staying mindful of these details shows that you take your readers and your work seriously.
- Build Book Buzz: Author Book Signing Tips
- Mary Robinette Kowal: Debut Author Lessons: 10 Things About Signing Books
- Poets & Writers: Book Promotion and Publicity
- Publishing Basics Newsletter: Planning an Exceptional Book Signing From Start to Finish
- Writer's Digest: How to Set Up a Successful Book-Signing Event
Ralph Heibutzki's articles have appeared in the "All Music Guide," "Goldmine," "Guitar Player" and "Vintage Guitar." He is also the author of "Unfinished Business: The Life & Times Of Danny Gatton," and holds a journalism degree from Michigan State University.