book signings

Book Signings: How to Promote Yourself

Ann O'Brien

Ann O'Brien

March 27, 2023

Sitting in a crowded bookstore and signing copies of your latest book for a crowd of admiring readers is a dream for many authors. Book signings are a time-honored tradition in book marketing. They give you visibility, bring customers to the store, and connect you directly with your readers. Here are some tips to successful book signings.

Will You Sell a Lot at Book Signings?

If you’re a first-time writer with a new book, don’t expect to be swamped with sales. Most first-time, non-famous writers should expect to sell only three to five books at their first book signing. If you sell 10, consider yourself lucky.

The point of these book signings isn’t to sell books, however, it’s to get publicity for your book and your name as a writer. Later signings should come with bigger crowds and more sales.

Why Do Book Signings Matter?

If book signings don’t lead to massive sales, why should authors do them? There are three good reasons.

They’re good publicity

A book signing is a quick way to get your name and your book’s title out to people who might not know about it. Many readers appreciate hearing about local writers and welcome the chance to go see a local success in person. Book signings are more immediate and engaging than a more formal setting like a book reading or a speech.

To make the most of this opportunity, promote your book signings as much as your time and budget will allow. Send out postcards, post the information on social media, use a direct mail service, and mention the signing to everyone you meet.

Signs, flyers, and a press release to your hometown newspaper can help get the word out about your book signing. Your early book signings may not attract large crowds, but they’ll give you practice in dealing directly with readers, and that will benefit your future publicity efforts.

They show you take your book seriously

Although most first-time authors can’t expect to sell a lot of books during a signing, they present you as a professional who’s serious about promoting and selling your work. This can boost your sense of worth as a writer, especially if you’re been feeling discouraged about your book’s slow sales.

People who are interested enough to come to book signings are interested enough to buy your book, so encourage sales with special offers. Offer a deep discount to anyone who visits your signing. Have you written more than one book? Have copies of the other ones on hand, too.

Book signings connect you with the community

Book-related events let you make personal connections with readers and the larger community. Writing can keep you in a self-imposed bubble that can sometimes be isolating. Book signings are a wonderful opportunity to talk about your book outside that bubble. Think of each signing as a way to get out in the area, support local stores and causes, and promote yourself as a successful, self-published writer.

Steps to Book Signings: Getting Started

If you’ve never had a book signing before, you may wonder what’s involved. Here are the steps you must plan to host one.

Choose a venue

Where should you hold your book signings? While a bookstore is the logical first choice, take some time to think up other creative options. If you’ve written a book about fitness and nutrition, you may want to hold a signing at a gym or a nutrition store. Have you written a cookbook? Host your signing at a store that sells kitchen products.

Think about the readers you want to reach. If you’ve written a book about a historic event or famous person from your city, contact the local historical society. Senior community centers may be interested in books on a variety of subjects, including health, personal finances, and the joys of getting older. Faith-based writers may find that a house of worship or church social center are good choices. If you’ve written a how-to book on surviving a particular illness, contact the support groups for that condition.

As you can see, there are many options beyond bookstores to host your book signings. You should include bookstores, of course, but keep your options open. Most venues are open to events that bring in more people, so keep an open mind about where to host your book signings. Have a list of three to five potential places you’d like to approach.

Prepare your marketing materials

Before you approach the owners or managers of your chosen venues, prepare your materials. Besides copies of your book, you may want to print business cards for yourself. Another good idea is to print bookmarks with your book’s title and your name. These make excellent giveaways at your signings.

Make your own poster by going to a store that specializes in quick printing. Have the store make poster-sized, laminated copies of your book cover that you can use to advertise your signing.

If you’re a self-published author, you can save time and money by asking your book’s printing company to make the bookmarks and posters for you. They already have the artwork for your book cover, and they can quickly run off copies of any bookmarks, business cards, flyers, and posters that you need.

Approach your chosen venues

Make sure you’re prepared to make your case to the venue managers. You should have a professional-looking publicity package that includes:

  • Your bio and photo
  • Copy of your book
  • Flyer outlining the reasons their audience would love to attend your signing

Bring your bookmarks, business cards, and other materials to the book signing. Some people may be there out of curiosity but may not be willing to buy a book on that day. Hand out the bookmarks to let them know where they can order the book if they decide they want to buy a copy later.

Choose your date and time

Talk with the event planner about the best times and dates for your signing. Aim for a two-hour window for the signing itself. Don’t forget to include the setup time and cleanup.

Serve food if it’s permitted

If the venue allows it, it’s a great idea to offer some treats for your visitors. Cookies, chips, coffee, juice, and small snacks will make the event more enjoyable.

Arrive early to set up

Get to the event in plenty of time to set up your table and hang your posters. If possible, set up a display of your books nearby where visitors can check them out.

Mingle and chat

Take any opportunity to chat with people who come to the signing. Before it starts, spend a few minutes mingling with the crowd and starting conversations. They don’t have to be about your book. Make your attendees feel welcome, and show interest in them as individuals. You’ll forge a true connection that leads to more sales and more devoted fans.

Personalize your messages

Before you sign each book, ask, “Is the book for you, or is it a gift?” That way, you can personalize the message to the person they’re buying it for. Also, be sure to ask for an exact spelling of the name, even if it seems obvious. Don’t take chances.

Instead of just signing your name, add a touch that makes the book signing memorable for the buyer. You could write, “I enjoyed talking with you at Nolan’s Books,” or “Blessings on your successful new business,” or “Here’s to love and happiness in your future,” or anything that further personalizes the signing.

Relax and Enjoy Your Book Signings

Book signings may be stressful at first, but most authors enjoy the benefits of publicity and connection they get from doing them. That’s why they’re still a valuable part of any marketing plan.

Many writers say they enjoy them, even if the immediate benefits aren’t tangible. In a blog post, self-published Christian writer Leslie Verner describes her first signing for her first book. It was held at her favorite independent bookstore in her hometown of Estes Park, Colorado. Although she sold only four books, she described having many meaningful conversations with visitors and the pride she felt at being the featured local writer:

“As in all aspects of the creative life, it’s best not to gauge success by dollar signs. Creators deal in a mysterious currency. Did our art act as a conduit for connection, depth, and soul? If so, I call this success.”

At Publishing Xpress, we take great joy in working with authors who want to build that same connection to others through their art. When you’re ready to print your book, talk to us.

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