Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.


[ Originally posted: August 14th, 2008 ]

How would you like to sell more copies of your book? Would you like to read excerpts from your book to a captivated audience?

Book signings at local bookstores are one of the cornerstone of an author’s post-publication foundation. But how do you set them up?

Organizing book signings, readings, and public appearances is one of the most important parts of a successful marketing campaign.

A book signing or reading is a bookstore event that features you and your latest book. This is your opportunity to meet potential buyers face to face. Plus it adds a personal touch to your promotion efforts.

Many customers may feel more motivated to purchase a copy of your book if they hear it explained or read from your point of view. And the opportunity to get a copy signed by the author doesn’t hurt, either!

Independent book stores and larger chain retailers both organize book signings. Your chances for finalizing an appearance are greater with the local independent stores. They have to compete with larger chains and are therefore more willing to support local (and self-published) authors.

In order to pinpoint potential book stores, check your local newspapers or see if book retailers in your area offer a “calendar of events” or post upcoming events on a public bulletin board.

By asking around for the owner of the store or the communications manager you can typically find the appropriate person with whom to propose your book signing. In many cases, both the large and small retailers will have their events planned weeks or even months in advance. Plan early.

When you have a list of people and/or stores you plan on contacting, prepare your pitch. Have a small script that outlines what your book is about and why people would be interested in meeting you or reading the book. The store manager or PR person will most likely ask. After all, they are not there just to help you. They are there to make money selling books. Tell them why your book will make their store money.

If your subject matter is timely, all the better! Remember, this is the point during which the store manager or book buyer will be screening your presentation skills, either over the phone or in person. If they are not captivated by your presentation, they will have very little faith in your ability to captivate a crowd. Be extroverted and dynamic.

It also helps to be concise. Understand that these are busy people. You want to sell them on your event fast. Have your press release and/or sell sheet ready. It’s helpful in case they ask for a copy or if they ask about specific information about the book. They may want to know the retail price, the discount, and the ISBN number immediately so they can order a review copy themselves prior to deciding.

Provide them with your web site address. They might be impressed enough by your initial marketing initiatives to go forward with the book signing.

Offer to help them with promotion, especially if you’re targeting smaller book stores. They will be more interested in offering to host an event if they know you will be absorbing some of the burden of marketing it. Tell them all your friends and family will be attending the event (and then make sure to invite your friends and family!), and if it’s within the scope of your marketing budget, offer to advertise in the local paper at your expense. Remember, the easier you make it for the book store owner or manager, the more likely they will say yes.

Follow-up with prospective book stores who have not confirmed dates. Selling yourself and your book is a number’s game, and as any salesperson will tell you, the amount of contact is directly proportionate to the amount of sales. So be persistent without being annoying. If you experience three or four unsuccessful attempts with a particular store or person, move on to another prospect.

And don’t forget your signing pen….

by Kelly Schuknecht

Looking back eight years can reveal a lot of holes in any article, but I’m fairly certain my original treatise on searching out opportunities for book signings has aged as well as is humanly possible for a blog post (by its nature, a medium that fosters timeliness) on the subject of self-publishing (a moving target in and of itself).  That said, I think there’s room for improvement, expansion, and a bit of an update.

What does 2016 Kelly have to say about book signings that 2008 Kelly didn’t know or didn’t think to share?  I’ll give you a clue: venues.

book reading

Traditionally, book signings have been carried out at a narrow and very specific range of venues.  And by that, I mean bookstores.  But in the silicon age, when internet sales are king and even the biggest box bookstores are facing mounting challenges to keeping their doors open, what can self-publishing authors do to launch a book tour?  I simply don’t accept the mindset that limitations present anything other than opportunities for a little creative thinking.

In that mindset, here are a few alternative venues I think you should consider for your book signing:

  • the LIBRARY : libraries and librarians are among some of the most powerful advocates an indie author could hope for, and most libraries offer space or a choice of spaces to host events. My local library ordinarily only allows not-for-profit uses in its meeting room, but when an author comes to town, they never fail to make an exception.  In fact, now that I think about it, the last author to travel through didn’t even have to bring his own books–the library partnered with a local bookstore to spread out the cost (and yes, a little of the profit) of those for-purchase books.  Since you will probably want to sell books as well as sign them at your event, it’s well worth exploring what options your local library has to offer, and pick the right situation for you!
  • the CAMPUS : this one can be a bit tricky, simply because there are so many different ways to set up an event at a local school, university, or church campus.  Many schools host fairs and other such events where you might be able to purchase display space for an affordable fee, and many might welcome you for a reading or roundtable discussion in addition to a signing–perhaps even as a featured guest in a classroom environment.  It’s worth not just checking with school administrators like the Principal (in the case of an elementary school) or Pastor (in the case of a church) but also with the head of the English or Creative Writing faculty (particularly in the case of a college campus).  The university library or bookstore may also prove a fruitful option to pursue.
  • the CAFE : restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and cafés have long been a second home for authors seeking refuge, but they also have a legacy of making room for authors as performance spaces. Giant chains like Starbucks are a little leery of hosting events, but local joints tend to pull together to feature local authors–and are often far more congenial when it comes to pricing (if they charge anything at all).  Check with your local havens to see whether they might be interested, and don’t forget to mention that a signing will very likely help drive traffic to their store–especially if you and the venue pool together marketing resources.
  • the SPECIALTY RETAILER : if your book touches upon something distinctive that a local store perhaps caters too–say, if your book is set on the French Riviera and you happen to have a French bakery or a wine merchant featuring high-quality French wines–you should at least pose the question of whether they’d be interested in hosting an event.  In the case of specialty retailers of the expensive variety, you may have more complicated logistics to work out: who foots the bill?  Can you split the cost, or at least get a discount?  If you set up the event along the lines of a “wine and paint” party, it’s expected that everyone who attends pays a bit into a central pot of money to cover the night’s bill.  This may not leave a lot of money left over to generate a profit–but book signings are as much about raising awareness as they are about raising money, so it still may have a part to play in your larger marketing campaign.
  • the GUERRILLA LAUNCH : the best part of the guerrilla launch is that nobody pays for parking or for the event venue, because the whole point is to generate interest via a “flash mob” mentality.  Set up a viral campaign on Twitter, Facebook, email, SMS, and everywhere else you have a thriving following, and pick a time and a place to show up.  The more interesting or offbeat the place, the better!  A local mall is a good starting point, but many authors choose local landmarks of interest as well.  If you’re hosting it on public or private lands, I advocate for checking with whoever manages the land–generating controversy may land you a little extra buzz, but ultimately you’re looking to set up a sustainable practice that can be replicated over time.
  • the INTERNET : the internet is not, contrary to some thinking, the death of the classical literary career–and anyway, self-publishing is all about meeting readers where they are at and freeing up authors to use their full set of skills to capacity!  There are many ways you might host a digital signing, even though that might sound counter-intuitive, and a live drawing or giveaway is a fantastic twist on the time-honored signing tradition.  And that’s just one thought I had this morning; I’m sure you can think up an infinite variety!


poetry reading

Thanks for reading!  If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

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