This past weekend I assisted several authors with bookstore signings at a major retailer. I learned a lot. I think the authors learned a lot. Some things are beyond the author’s control like store traffic & weather. Some things may be in the gray area of control such as in-store placement, signage, and announcements. And some things are very much in the author’s control. As the author, you need to take control of your signing. Be approachable, active and be your own advertising agency.
Being approachable simply means smiling. Look inviting and open. Even if the crowd is light and the day isn’t going as planned, you need to keep the smile on your face throughout your event. Nothing turns away a potential customer like a scowl.
Being active means you need to seek out readers. Products, and especially books, don’t sell themselves. Don’t just sit there and smile, get out from behind your table and talk to shoppers, starting with those who are milling about your book’s genre section or those that have just entered the store. Engage them. Encourage them to read the back cover. Have a polished elevator speech and pitch the plot in 30 seconds – if you’re not succinct and confident when discussing your book, what does that say to your potential reader?
Being your own advertising agency means that you need to do your legwork prior to your signing. The store will likely not be of much assistance. Meet with them prior to the event and set expectations by telling them what you’d like for your signing. Suggest table location, provide a 25-word blurb announcement they can make periodically during your signing to let shoppers know you’re in the store, request they put your signing on their website and ask to put posters up in advance – in the entryway, near the restrooms (usually there is a bulletin board there) and in the café. Put flyers up around town – at the library, coffee shop and other places readers congregate. Send postcards, emails and post on Facebook and other social media. Alert local events sites when and where your event is. Inviting family and friends may not result in many sales as they likely already have your book, but having a crowd around your table intrigues people and makes them more willing to stop by and see what’s going on.
Whether your signing meets your expectations or not is dependent on many factors. Remember each time you do a signing you’re gaining knowledge of what works and doesn’t and most importantly you’re gaining exposure … so smile!