It’s been 40 years since I had my first book signing. From the What am I doing to do? To the let’s create a special event to private homes teas and brunches to launching in a bookstore to a conference packed with attendees … I’ve learn a lot.
I’ll never forget my debut appearance as a blushing newbie author. My signing was at a bookstore in Palo Alto, California on a Thursday evening in June of 1981. I had just been featured on Good Morning America and had no idea what to expect.
What happened was magic—the store was packed and 100 books were carried out the door in the arms of happy buyers. I was so honored … almost giggly with the evening’s outcome. Back then, there was no social media or email. Just plain “old-fashioned” postcard invitations sent out by the bookstore to their customers and the names and addresses I had given them.
No one prepared me or offered tips and suggestions on what to do. All I remember was smiling—lots—laughing and having a good time … and just signing my name. All I knew was that there would be a table that I would sit at and books to sign.
1. Your Venue
Will it be traditional, as in a book store? How about an alternative site? Think about a restaurant, an art gallery, an outdoors venue, a craft’s fair, a private home, a conference you are speaking at … where?
2. Think Props
Yes, your fabulous book is a key prop … but what else? Create a foam board with your book cover and do it in a couple of sizes and 8 x 10 that sits on the table to super-size that could be placed on an easel or taped to a wall. When space allows it, a pull-up floor vertical banner can be an eye-catcher. Oh, and print the cover on both the back and front. Why? Because your signing table may be placed where people can walk behind you. Why not give your book a boost and allow the cover to be visible from “the back” as well? Create a door hanger as a giveaway… plus bookmarks … foam boards of your book covers … toys that connect with your book … what else?
3. Think Seasons
A few decorations that are season centric add a sense of fun to your table. To encourage gifting to others—I have pre-cut ribbons for my books and give them to buyers—it just takes a few seconds to add a bow around the cover. Why wrap with paper?—find a ribbon that compliments one of the colors on your cover and –TaDah—the perfect wrapping.
4. Remember, Food Is a Magnet
Your book signing is a celebration. A plate of nibbles, like cookies or some special treat you are known for, are often a way to get casual table visitors to stop and engage with you. Cookbook authors know that a “taste from within” sells books. Learn from them. When I launched Snappy Sassy Salty-Wise Words for Authors & Writers, I had my local grocery store’s bakery create iced cookies for my signers. Yummers–and book buyers loved them! If appropriate, drinks could be offered at an outdoor event where it’s warm. Thirsty book buyers might welcome a cool drink of water. Cases of 8-ounce bottles can be found at a Costco or Sam’s and cost 10-13 cents each. Just might be the closer to buy a buy a copy of your book.
5. Decide What Page You Will Sign On
You have choices. Sometimes the opening end sheet or a title page—the most common on—is selected. If your title page is “crowded”, you may want to sign on the inside cover which offers plenty of open space.
6. Select a Signing Pen
Typically, most authors sign with any pen available. Don’t. Choose your pen and stick with it. Buy at least a dozen of them. Purple is my color. Sharpies are my choice. I carry at least three with me to signings—pens do run out of ink.
7. Pre-Sign Your Books
“What?” you say. YES—pre-sign them … and you will thank me big time. Granted, I’ve written a lot of books. At most of my events, several of the titles are offered. Having them pre-signed with my signature phrase and my name for that particular book speeds up the signing process and allows me to actually talk to the buyer face to face versus having my face in the book page signing and thinking, “Next … .”
When I get to an event and set up my table, I usually have a mug of tea, and I settle in. Boxes are opened. Pens are out. And I start the pre-signing and stacking books on the table along with a few other props I might bring. My signature phrase is added; my name is signed. I am ready. When buyers emerge, I can quickly pick up the book (or books), add the name for who the book is for and have a short conversation with him or her.
Because I always use the same pen and same color, I never have to worry if a pen decides to die in the middle of a signing. And, if I have books left over, they are good to go for the next signing—same pen, same color for when I personalized it with the name of the buyer or even an added message.
8. Personalize Your Message
Ask your buyer if you can add their name. “Would you like me to sign this to you or is this a gift for someone else?” Use their first name only. Verify spelling—you will learn quickly that there are a variety of ways to spell a simple sounding name.
9. Choose Your Signature Phrase
Ideally, you should have a few phrases that you pull from to sign your book to ease the process, especially when you’ve got a crowd and haven’t done any pre-signing! Make your message memorable and tie it into the theme of your book if appropriate.
I had one or two for each of my books.
Other options include:
Thanks for your support
10. Signing Your Name
Whether you just sign your first name or both first and last name is one of choice. I’ve done both. I cherish my personalized copies I’ve received from other authors and I admit, if I have one addiction, it’s books. I love the feel, smell, the contents and design.
Autograph away—it’s always a good idea if your name is legible.
11. Should You Add a Date?
Rarely do I add a date. Okay, I’ll admit it. Sometimes I forget what day it is, much less what the true date is. This is a choice of yours to make. I would bypass it.
You don’t want to have to personally muck around with anyone paying for a book if you can avoid it. If you are at a retail store, it will handle book sales. If you are at any type of private event, have a helper who takes cash, checks and credit cards. If you don’t take credit cards, you will lose at least half of your sales. You are the “star” at your event, not the money changer.
At my annual Authors Autumn Tea that celebrates 20 of the authors that I’ve had the pleasure to work with during the year, one of my assistants handles all book sales. That way, the authors can schmooze with attendees who come both for the food (it is a Tea with a large table filled with tasty afternoon delights) and a variety of books and authors to visit with—it’s designed for shopping and shop they do. Checks are sent to them the following week for their sales.
13. Get to Your Event Early
The savvy author arrives at least an hour before the signing begins. Scout it out. Sit down and allow yourself to fully mentally and physically immerse in the surroundings. Set your table up. Be ready—not rushed.
Is there a right way … or a wrong way to sign a book for an enthusiastic buyer? Or for a gift from the buyer to another?
Answer: The only right way is what works for the author … that allows him or her to create a combo of interacting with the buyer and not turn it into a chore. After all, signing a book for a delighted reader is one of the joys of authoring.
This is about you and your book. Book signings and autographing your book should be a happy occasion. Enjoy your celebration. And BRAVO from me!
Dr. Judith Briles is a book publishing expert and coach. Often, she must roll up her writing sleeves and become a Book Doctor, juicing up storylines and author words. She empowers authors and works directly with authors who want to be seriously successful and has been writing about and conducting workshops on publishing since the ’80s. Judith is the author of 44 books including Author YOU: Creating and Building Your Author and Book Platforms, Snappy Sassy Salty: Success for Authors and Writers, and How to Create a Million Dollar Speech. Her personal memoir When God Says NO-Revealing the YES When Adversity and Loss Are Present is a #1 bestseller on Amazon and her historical fiction debut Secret Journey. Collectively, her books have earned over 45 book awards. Judith speaks throughout the year at publishing conferences.
Throughout the year, she holds Judith Briles Book Unplugged in-person and online experiences: Publishing, Speaking, Marketing, and Social Media. All are two-day intensives limited to a small group of authors who want to be seriously successful. Join Judith live for the “AuthorU-Your Guide to Book Publishing” podcast on the Toginet Radio Network HERE.
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