How to Structure a Successful Book Signing

by | Feb 3, 2016 | Book Marketing Basics

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I want to address the seemingly dying art of the book signing since we live in such a virtual world. We have Google Hangouts, Skype video chats, and so many other ways to virtually spending time together. Now more than ever, it’s easy to keep in touch with friends and family near and far. Our marketing efforts have adapted to fit this virtual world, but nothing has completely replaced the feel of in-person events. According to a Harvard Business Review study, chefs who cooked for people they could see had a 17% higher satisfaction rate than those who could not see who they were cooking for. Seeing someone in person, like at a book signing, brings a connection that virtual events cannot simulate.  While I love doing video events, I am always eager to do something live; nothing can replicate the feeling of connecting to your audience and reader quite like a book signing!

It makes sense that despite the fact that many bookstores are closing, authors still want book signings and events. The decreased number of bookstores means that calendars fill up quickly for events, and space is even more precious than it has ever been in the past. So how can you get a book event in a cluttered market?

First off, make sure you understand what characteristics contribute to a successful event. Book signings are critical space for bookstores, and they need to do their best to ensure that if they bring you in, there will be some value-added for them (i.e., that the folks attending will buy your book as well as another title or two).  One of the biggest reasons that bookstores turn down authors is because they aren’t confident that they will drive a crowd into a store. Here are a few tips to consider when pitching a store:

  • Often stores have Community Relations Managers (Barnes & Noble has these) and while it used to be that each store had their own, now a single manager may manage five different store’s event calendars. These Community Relations Managers will organize all store events, and they are your best point of contact. Similarly, in independent stores, the store manager will often coordinate these. Regardless of who is managing this process, they are really busy. Make sure to emphasize in your pitch that you plan to aggressively promote the event to your local mailing list as well as to regional media.
  • Don’t exhaust the local population. Bookstores shy away from hosting an author who has several local events close together, because they worry that you’ve exhausted the local audience potential for their store. When coordinating events, look for stores that are a reasonable distance from one another. I would say a 45-minute drive or more.
  • Combine efforts: some authors like to have another person at their signing to drive additional interest to the event. Having another person there will allow you to bring in more people, as a result of your combined publicizing efforts. It also allows you more freedom with what you can offer the people you bring in. For example, you can elevate a simple book signing into a book discussion or workshop, hosted by one author, while the other author is signing. It’s a great way to not only draw a crowd, but keep them engaged for longer. Often it’s easier to get publicity when there’s more than one author present. This type of book signing works well for unknown authors if you have a specific program or want to have a book signing that lasts all day. Many bookstores now offer a night that celebrates new authors, so ask them if they do this, and how you can participate. Often you’ll find that they will pull together as many as seven authors. While this may seem like a lot, it’s really a fantastic way to drive a larger crowd to the event.

A critical element of planning an exceptional book signing is learning how to structure a book signing to benefit you and your host. An aggressive publicity campaign on your part, strategic geographic outreach, or a partnership with other authors, all contribute to a successful event.

How to Have a Successful Book Signing is the first in a 3-part series, so be sure to also read the two following posts.



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