Making the Most of Your Book Event

booksigning

Book events are enough to give the heartiest of writers the heebie jeebies, and it’s because few know the mixin’s of a successful event, so I thought I’d share some of the foolproof goodies.

But before I get into that, it’s vital to decide whether you can pull off a book signing. This isn’t a case of “If you schedule it, they will come.” This is about showcasing you and your book, so an event will only be successful if a lot of people know you, or you have a compelling reason for people to attend. For example, when I wrote The Writer’s Essential Tackle Box, I alerted writers groups in the cities where I was planning a book event. I sent out a TIP sheet that talked about the book, and what I’d be talking about at the event. I never had an audience under 50 people.

In another example, my bud, Annette Dashofy – author of the wonderful CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE – knows everyone in Pittsburgh. Or it just seems that way…and they all came to her author event at Mystery Lover’s Bookshop. We were crammed in like little sardines, and we had a blast. Since so many people know her – and adore her – they were eager to come support her on her big day. Predictably, the store sold out, and Annette had to fork over two cartons of her own stash. Huzzah!

Now, you could be like my friend Jim Misko, who is the most outgoing, I-love-ya-man author I’ve ever seen. He goes into Costco and sells a ton of books to total strangers because he’s just so damned friendly and fun to hang around.

Wherever you fit, you need to plan your book event thoughtfully.

  • Be a big mouth. I’ve gone to book events where 3 people showed up. It’s painful and depressing.  They won’t come if they don’t know about it.
  • Give ‘em a compelling reason for coming to your signing. Whether they’ll learn how to cure cancer or make really good homemade wine, capturing someone’s imagination is a powerful tool. When I did events for my novel, DONOVAN’S PARADIGM, I tossed out the whole, “Have you ever considered if your doctor’s belief system can impact the way he/she treats you?” Hmm.
  • Read from your book. You want to give the audience a sense of your story, but keep it short and sweet. Audiences can doze off fairly fast, so choose a scene that sparks controversy or demonstrates an emotional impact—this gets the audience slobbery for more. Be sure to set up the scene.
  • Talk about how you came to write the book. It’s fun to hear the “story behind the story.” Was there a particular person or incident that inspired your book?
  • Do a Q&A. I know this can be scary…”What if no one asks a question?” Pah, don’t worry about it. Mix this in when you’re talking about how you came to write your story. And be sure to repeat the question before you answer it. Not everyone will hear it, so repeating it is good manners.
  • Figure out how and when to end the Q&A. It sounds simple, but this can go on for too long, and you won’t have time to sign books. Most events last about 2 hours, so plan accordingly. Decide who’ll be the bad guy – you or the bookstore.
  • Always thank the bookstore! They worked hard on your event, setting up chairs, advertising, ordering books, so be sure to thank them in front of your audience. And bring them something yummy. Back when I was doing personal book events, I always brought goodies for the bookstore workers – cookies or cupcakes. They loved it.
  • Bring food and drinks for your audience. Food is a great ice-breaker. People attending your event may not know each other, but munching on a few pretzels or cookies, while sipping a pouty white wine or mineral water relaxes your audience. For example, I always do a book cover cake for our authors’ first book events. If you enlist some good buds to cut up the cake and pass plates out while you’re busy signing books, your audience will stick around…and invariably buy more books, which makes the bookstore love you.
  • Bring extra books. This is key. If you have a big turnout, you’ll sell out because attendees tend to buy more than one book to give as gifts and such. If you have an extra box or two of books in your trunk, you’ll satisfy all your readers and make the bookstore very happy. WARNING: It’s common for bookstores to order around 30 books because they don’t want to have any extra stock that they may have to return. Be a good Girl Scout and be prepared!
  • Relax, breathe, and have fun. Book signings can be a lot of fun if you’re prepared.

How ’bout you book signing event veterans? Do you have anything to add to the list?

4 Responses to Making the Most of Your Book Event

  1. ericjbaker says:

    Great post today! Being the control freak that I am, I’d probably bring a van full of extra copies. I’ve wondered about the excerpt reading bit. Not that I find it terrifying or anything, but is it obligatory?

  2. Great post. I will offer this bit of advice, no matter if 3 or 30 show up, give both groups the best event of their lives because you never know who those three people will talk to after you’ve made them feel like the center of your universe at your book signings. I have formed some very tight bonds as a result of a book signing that didn’t yield large numbers. Quantity is great, but if those 30 people buy their book and go home and say nothing, and those 3 go out and blog, Facebook and Tweet about your book…well, you do the math. So, I said that to say, don’t be disappointed if you have a small crowd. Work the crowd that you have, large or small.

  3. Angela, you’re absolutely correct about giving a quality event regardless of how many show. I remember one of our authors having a smaller than usual crowd at one of his events…but it turned out to be a goldmine, because there were several people in the audience who wanted him to do events for them – and those were huge.

  4. Val says:

    Great tips. I love the wine idea!

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