July 25, 2015 marked another milestone in my writing career…my first MAJOR book signing event! Over the years I’ve held several smaller events at my local libraries, but never at a major book store/retailer. It was a major success!
Now, I can’t lie…the closer it got to the date of the event, I was nervous, wondering how many people would show up and if anyone would pay me any attention. Holding a book signing at Barnes & Noble is nothing like chatting on social networking sites with people who have already read my books. This was a straight up, face-to-face event…a chance to meet die-hard readers who were coming into the book store to buy books from authors they know… National and New York Times Bestsellers.
And here I am, a ‘new-to-you’ author with four books under my belt that are new to the Barnes & Noble book shelves.
So in order to get potential readers to stop by my table long enough to learn about my books, I had to sell myself.
Thank God I love to chat! 🙂
The event started with my supportive family and I arriving at the location armed with book swag and table decorations. My mouth dropped open when the manager pulled out a cart filled with my books! I honestly have never seen that many copies of my books EVER! The books had already been on the shelf, but for this event, the store ordered more so that no one would have to walk away empty handed. Once I got over the shock of it all, I felt like an New York Times Bestselling Author who was getting the star treatment! (Yes, I am putting that positive energy into the universe!)
Once the ‘stage’ was set, it was time to sit down and ‘sell’ myself and my books.
First of all, we were sitting at the entrance of the store, meaning everyone saw me the minute they walked through the door. That gave me a chance to smile and invite (entice) potential readers over to see who I was and what I was selling. And this my friends is why it’s important to know your story. Have you heard about the 30-second elevator pitch? Well, you pretty much need to have one, or two, or three for that matter, to choose from based on your potential readers reactions. Since I was sitting at the front entrance of the store, you couldn’t miss me. (Thanks so much to Amy, who knew exactly what she was doing when she chose the place for the table!) Some people looked over, read the EVENT sign, and came over, curious as to what was going on. Others gave me a passing glance and paused long enough to look at the table before walking further into the store. Others clearly averted their eyes in the opposite direction, their minds set on coffee or getting set up on Wi-Fi. Once I realized how customers were coming in to the store, I developed a plan.
The Curious: Those readers I spoke to, welcoming them to the store as if I knew they were there to meet me. I kept my voice confident, looked them in the eye, introduced myself, and shook hands. From there, I gave a very brief synopsis of the series and said just enough to make them ask a question. Then I jumped in and sold it!
The Pausers: Anyone who took two seconds to look my way got a bookmark with my information and book covers as I introduced myself. I kept it short and sweet, and let them decide if they wanted to know more. When they did, I gave them my sales pitch (about the series, not a book in particular). I handed them the first book, backside up, and let the blurb do the work. If the cover of the first book wasn’t what drew their attention the most, I handed them which ever book drew their attention the most. Any questions that followed, I answered.
The Non-Interested: For them, I just said a quick hello and offered them a bookmark with my info and asked them to visit my website for more information when they had the time.
Handling the customers that way made it darn near impossible for anyone to not notice me. In fact, one of the biggest sales I had of the day came from a customer who didn’t appear to be that interested, but accepted the bookmark. Five minutes later, she came back, asked to read the book cover, then said she wanted a copy of each book!
See, you can never judge a book (or reader!) by the cover (initial reactions)!
So, what other advice do I have for authors on how to set up a successful book signing?
- Get to know your venue! If possible, scout out the location to determine where you will be set up. The best location is at the front entrance of the store, or venue where you can easily be seen by anyone who comes in.
- Marketing is Key! Make sure you have plenty of swag/marketing material to decorate the table. It with draw readers attention because everyone likes something that is free. Colors are key! They can set the tone and mood! (I lucked out when I found the battery operated light-up butterflies! And they were blue, just like the butterfly on the cover of the first book in the series!) Don’t try and overdue it though. Simple and eye-catching, something that they can use, notice the info at a later date, and look you up. For me, bookmarks with my logo, top four places to connect with me online, covers of all of my books, and the locations where they can be purchased works great. Its large enough that people will use it as a bookmark no matter what they are reading.
- Inventory! Depending on where you are, you may either be responsible for supplying your own books (this may be the case if your doing consignment sales), or if you are at a store that is selling your books (they will most likely order them ahead of time), you want to be sure you have a sufficient amount. First of all, it just makes the table look really good! 🙂 Second, the subliminal message to readers tells them that your work must be good because there are a lot of them available. *Don’t stress about if you will or wan’t be able to sell your work! Doing so will show in the way you talk to readers. If your smiling with your mouth, but your eyes are saying “buy my book!”, readers will pick up on it and feel as if they are being forced to do so, and shy away.
- Personal Appearance! Think of it as a job interview for a Fortune 500 company. You want to put your best foot forward; look good, smell good. You want to have a smile on your face that will draw people to you. You want to look important, but not go overboard in being flashy or too casual. Overly busy patterns, colors, and gaudy jewelry can be distracting. Too casual and it seems as if you don’t really wanting to be there. First impressions mean a lot!
- Engaging Your Audience! Just like you don’t want potential readers to look at you and judge you before you have an opportunity to sell yourself, you don’t want to judge readers. Regardless of what genre you write or what type of characters you write, you never know who may be interested in what you have to offer. Treat each person with respect and you may be surprised at the reactions you receive!
So, that’s about all the advice I have to share as to how to have a great book signing event. This wasn’t my first rodeo, just my first major one. If it wasn’t for the countless other smaller events that I’ve had, I wouldn’t have been prepared with how to handle this one. So, whether its your first one, or 223rd, remember, the one key thing to focus on is SELL YOURSELF! If readers feel they can connect with you, then they will feel as if they can connect with your work. Remember, no matter what type of story your selling, a piece of you, your life, experiences, and personality is in it as well. If readers can connect to you, they are more apt to enjoying the story. If you rub them the wrong way, your work will do the same.
***Oh yeah, for anyone who is asking, “So with all that smiling and handshaking, how many books did you sell? I’ll tell you…nineteen in two hours. A majority of them were to first time readers who had no clue of who I was, nor have heard of me or my series. The readers were from various racial/religious/economic backgrounds, ages ranged from early 20’s to 70’s, and were both male and female.***
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[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”1″ gal_title=”Barnes & Noble Book Signing Event: Morrow, Ga. July 25, 2015″]
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