The public concept of bookstores used to be fairly straight forward – you would go to a bookstore to buy books. Now they invite you in with the smell of great coffee, an indie soft rock artist playing in the background, and activities for the kids. It seems as if this is all to create an improved environment for the good of the customer, but really it increases the time people stay, play, and yes walk out with a handful of books. When it comes to the topic of book signings, the question the manager will be asking themselves, but rarely you, is this: will you be making the bookstore money?
There is a magical combination of things a bookstore manager is looking to hear when being approached for a book signing by a local author:
1) Your book is available to order, or better yet, has a sales history at their particular store.
Many authors want to jump straight into a book signing with a store that has no history with their book. Before going for the book signing ask if the store will stock a few copies of your book on a trial basis – and when they do – make sure that every copy is sold. The goal of this operation being twofold: to have the store stock your book on a regular basis and to show them that a larger event involving a higher quantity of books will be successful.
2) You have a quality book that their demographic of consumer will be interested in and likely to buy.
When I was a bookstore manager I had a mid- list author approach me about a book signing of her erotica title. I looked the book up (no sales history with our store), but even beyond that I knew that her signing would not do well. Why? Because my store’s top selling categories included spirituality and religion, teen, and children’s. I am sure that her book was great, but it was not a great fit for our fairly conservative customer base. I suggested she try the bookstore downtown.
3) You will do the heavy lifting.
This is where you as the author can shine. Let the store know that you have posters to put up the day of the event, bookmarks to hand out, and bookplates to sign in case there is a higher demand then there are books. Don’t expect the store to bring in the crowd, let them know the number of people you are inviting and expect to attend, that you are posting the word about the event around town, either with physical flyers, community postings, a blurb in the community calendar, or via your blog or social media sites
Here is the reality that stores interested in presenting a warm community and literary image aren’t likely to offer up to you: If you can convince the store that the traffic will significantly increase, that sales will result, and that all you are asking for is a table and space to sign, you may just find yourself behind that table with a pen in your hand.