Book signings—any reading or other event appearances where you’ll also be signing books—can be an important part of your book marketing campaign. While online bookselling is booming, of course, many people do enjoy seeing authors live and in person, and it gives writers an opportunity to meet their readers—as well as to sell some books!
With a traditional publishing relationship, the publicity department often sets up the book signings, though authors are usually free to reach out to local and interested stores themselves. Note that a bookstore generally needs to be stocking your book before it is going to want to have you for an event.
If you’re going to reach out for appearances, note that:
1. Approach bookstores and other venues at least several months in advance.
Bookstores generally set their in-store event calendar a few months in advance. Many venues book even earlier to ensure to be able to list the event in their calendar, etc.
2. Be prepared "pitch" the bookstore event manager or event programmer
Anyone planning on hosting your appearance will need to know what book is about, why they should have you, and what you plan to do. FYI, unknown novelists aren’t generally considered for signings unless they can demonstrate their ability to bring in a crowd (see #1 below). However, if you’ve written a book to promote your business, you may very well be welcomed if your appearance/signing includes a program that might be useful to the bookstores customers and drive sales of other books. For example, a tax accountant’s book on IRS tips would likely be welcome at bookstores towards the end of March.
Local book festivals are great places to promote your books. Read about how to approach book festival programmers.
(If you’re shy read this article about public speaking).
For your signing, it’s important to:
3. Help spread the word
A bookseller is likely to have your event listed on the store’s monthly (or weekly) calendar. But as everyone (the store, the publisher, you the author) benefits from a successful book signing, it behooves you to help spread the word by letting your own networks know about the appearance. Put the signing on your author website, promote it on your Facebook page, Tweet it to your followers. Even if the signing is in an unfamiliar place, friends of friends might help spread the word.
And, if you’re self-published, you might go further and (if the store or event venue doesn’t customarily do this themselves), and get the event listed in local calendars, pin up notices in the other retail establishments or bars you frequent or even in the library. Ask permission, of course (and note that it’s bad form to put the notice up in a competing bookstore—and you don’t want to piss off any bookstores).
4. Make sure your books are arriving on time for the signing
Don’t laugh. Many an author has been disappointed by a carton of books gone missing. Check and double check that your books are arriving. Get tracking information and stay close in touch with the publishing and bookselling staff members who are responsible (this is usually the publicist and the bookstore manager or bookstore’s event coordinator). If you’re appearing on a weekend, make sure your books are arriving early (book warehouses are closed; shippers don’t always have weekend schedules); get the cellphone numbers of all people you need to contact if the books don’t arrive.
5. If you're reading, choose your passages ahead of time
Mark the passages well, and maybe select a range of possibilities depending on who shows up to your reading. That way, you're more likely to make sure your book appeal to whoever is in the audience.
6. Bring pens
Sharpies are the standard for many authors. Thick or thin—your preference. But have plenty on hand. Publicists generally bring some, too, but keep your own with you, just in case.
7. Go with the flow
In every book publications life there are bound to be bobbles and the moving parts required for book signings mean there are usually a couple. Every venue does book signings differently; some bookstore and event staffs are more professional than others, things don’t always happen as you would expect or would ideally like. Be polite, be helpful, keep your cool.
8. Bring promotional materials
If you’re signing at a large event when many authors are signing as well, it’s great to have bookmarks or other promotional items with you at your table to bring some of the reading public to you.
9. Thank everyone involved.
Make sure to write note to your bookstore or event “host.” It takes a lot of effort to mount these sorts of events and your thanks will be much appreciated. Plus, it will help you get fondly remembered when your next book is published.
Read more about tools to help market your book:
About online book trailers.
Your book’s title: the first marketing tool.