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The Ultimate Guide to a Killer Book Signing

I’m a little nervous.

photo by Iris DragonLike, butterflies in my tummy that sometimes feel a little more like angry pterodactyls.

Really, it’s more than nerves. It’s that unique blend of excitement, hope and a tiny twinge of sheer terror.

It’s a trademark sign that you’re about to host a book signing.

You remember when I told you about my book signing fail, right? Well, I’ve decided to get back on the proverbial horse this holiday season and have another one.

But this time, my excitement far outweighs my fears because I know I’m going to have a better experience.

Why? Because I learned from my mistakes (I know, what a concept, right?)

Seriously though, I learned so much from my traumatic *facepalm* experience, including what an idiot I was for not applying my marketing knowledge to actually plan and execute a successful event.

A successful book signing is not something you can throw together at the last minute. But it is something you can use to boost your sales and your fan base — if you know how to do it right.

So I thought I’d share what I’m doing differently this time around so you can rock your next book signing too!

1. Pick the perfect place!

photo by david orbanA great book signing begins with the absolute, perfect location.

But what makes one place better than another? It’s all about these three criteria:

  • Is it in a high traffic area? 
    • If you can find a spot that gets tons of customers on a regular basis, any additional traffic you can generate with promotions and such will just be icing on the cake. You want a place bustling with people so even if you only get every fifth person to stop and say hello, you’ll be successful.
  • Will their customers be interested in your book?
    • Gift shops can be great places for book signings, but only if the store’s customers fall within your target market. Even if your signing is at a bookstore, it may not be the type of store where your readers shop.
  • Are the owners/managers going to work well with you?
    • Ideally, you want to work with folks who *want* to work with you. Like we’ve discussed in the path, there are still some people out there who don’t get excited about working with indies. Even if their store is in a good location, you’re going to have a better overall experience with someone who genuinely wants you event to be a success (because it helps them, too) and will help you promote the event where possible.
  • Take Action!
    • Stakeout potential locations for your book signing (in a totally non-creepy way). What days/times is the store most crowded? What products/books to most people gravitate toward? Do they have a lot of book signings? If they do have other signings, reach out to an author who’s previously appeared there to ask them how it went (or better yet, attend another signing yourself!).

2. Promote the daylights out of it

Once you’ve nailed down your date and location, you need to promote the living daylights out of it.

Your promotions should have two purposes: 1. Get the information out; 2. Get people excited.

With that in mind, there are three *free* things you can do to achieve both goals:

  • Create an event on Facebook.
    • If you don’t already have an events tab on Facebook, get one set-up and add your book signing event. Tag the location, the host, and your fan page in the event promotion. Add a picture and make sure all of the pertinent info is on there — date, time and location. If your event is at a crowded shopping center, tell people where they can park or provide landmarks that will help lead them straight to you. The more details the better, make it easy for your fans!
  • Notify your email list.
    • Your mailing list contains your most dedicated fans — exactly the kind of folks you want to turn out for your event! Even if some of the recipients aren’t in your area, they might know people who are or be able to share the info on their social media accounts to reach a wider audience.
  • Send a press release to local news outlets.
    • Find a unique connection for your book to the community, whether it’s you as a local author, the book’s location in a local town, buying local gifts for Christmas or supporting arts/culture in the community.
  • Post a flier at the location.
    • This should be a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning — make sure you create a nice flier with your headshot, cover image, event details, etc. and post it at the location where you will be hosting your event a few weeks in advance.

3. Sweeten the deal

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again — everybody loves getting something for free.

photo by funky fat girl

It also adds incentive to increase your turnout and encourage people to buy the book instead of deciding to order it online cheaper or pick up the eBook instead.

Here are a few different bonuses you can offer fans at a book signing:

  • Add something for each book purchased.
    • This can be as simple as a bookmark (homemade or printed) included with every book. Or, you can ask your host if they would be interested in providing a store-wide discount to anyone who purchases a book. If they’re unable to do that, approach other local businesses in the area to see if they would like to include a coupon or discount. It’s a boost to their business as well, so it could be a really beneficial cross-promotion.
  • Raffle off a gift basket, each book purchase buys an entry.
    • Put together a basket of things that ties into your novel — for example, a romance or chick-lit novel could have a spa-themed basket or romantic getaway basket. Keep your target readers in mind and create something they would love, then include a raffle ticket with each book purchased. (Make sure you collect phone numbers or email addresseses so you have a way to get in touch with the winner at the end of the signing — you should have a clipboard to collect email addresses for your mailing list anyhow!)

4. Have an attention-grabbing display.

You’ve GOT to get people’s attention.

If you chose a busy location (like I recommended in #1!) you have to be sure you won’t get buried in a back corner somewhere. Everybody who comes in the store needs to know there is a special event going on.

How do you do that?

  • Make it look nice!
    • Your signing table should have a tablecloth (even if it’s just a colorful, cheap vinyl one from the dollar store) and a display for your book (like a tabletop easel or frame). Make it look as professional as possible, but keep with the feel of the store. If your novel has fun elements that could lend to unique table decor, do that, too. Anything (within reason) to make you stand out!
  • Have eye-catching signs.
    • Visit your local printer (or find one online) and get some signs made. You can go with a banner or sandwich board, or something printed on foam core that would stand up on an easel. If your signing spot is near the back of the store, you might want one sign near the front entrance and one at your table.

5. Be friendly!

Remember: The key to the Duolit marketing strategy is always to make friends, not sales!

When folks approach your signing table, strike up a conversation with them.

Be prepared to share your book’s logline or short elevator pitch, describing what your book is all about. Don’t push for someone to buy the book, just talk to them. Ask what other authors they like, see if you have some similar interests. If there’s a popular author who’s writing style or subject matter is similar to yours, mention the comparison.

Most importantly, whether someone buys a book or not, ask them how they heard about your signing. This will help you in the future to figure out which promotional spots brought you the most success and which ones you don’t need to worry about doing in the future.

Bonus Tip!

When it comes to marketing, you should always think outside the box.

In this case, instead of the traditional book store/gift shop signing, consider asking a friend to host a book signing party for you at her house. You might have a smaller audience than in a public spot, but it will be a quality crowd who comes just to see and meet you.

It will go a long way to building relationships with new fans, who might spread the word about your novel to their friends and family as well.

So, are you ready to rock your book signing?

If you still have some questions about how to host a special book signing OR if you have great ideas of your own for how to throw a killer book signing, let us know! Shout out in the comments or send us an email with your ideas.

  • Michael Mardel

    thanks for your gr8 ideas and good luck.

  • This couldn’t have come at a better time, as I’m having a reading/signing next week. Thanks for the great tips!

    • Perfect timing! (Great minds think alike, right?) Good luck with your book signing, definitely let us know how it goes!

  • Bette

    Awesome! Don’t know what we’d do without you two!

    • Aw, thanks Bette! We don’t know what we’d do without YOU either :-)

  • This has totally gotten me stoked!!!! What great ideas there are here. Thanks so much Duolit. I heart you guys!!!!

  • Very useful information that I hope to make use of when my next book is published.

  • J.P. Grider

    Excellent information. Thank you for posting this.

  • Great post. I am definitely in favour of having book events at private places vs busy commercial establishments, where most people walk right by you – unless they know you.