As a bookseller for eighteen years I hosted and attended many book signings, some of them great, some complete disasters. The success of a book signing has a lot do with you the author. Here are a few tips to making your next autographing one that will endear you to the bookstore, help you sell books and get you another invitation when your next book is released.
1. Be on time. Ask the bookstore what time they would like you to arrive. You’re a welcome face when you show up at their designated time and they’ll be more willing to work with you when your next book is published.
2. Don’t bring people with you who tend to hang around the book table while you’re signing. One author brought his two children with him which sometimes took his attention away from the signing. Be attentive to customers by eliminating distractions. Exceptions to this rule include your need for an assistant if you have a handicap or if the person you bring has something to do with the the book—such as illustrator, a children’s character, it’s their story you’re telling, etc.
3. If you’re going to be late or you can’t make the signing, call and let the store know. Don’t leave them hanging, waiting and wondering. If you have a legitimate reason such as a family emergency, the bookseller can let customers know your reason for being late and if you’ll be signing at a later date or time.
4. Don’t leave the book signing table even if there’s a lull, except for bathroom breaks. The store has ordered books for you to sign and spent money on advertisement. Respect their time and efforts. Focus on signing and promoting your book, or they may think twice before inviting you back again. An author who wrote an intriguing book about her career brought promotional items and also a key person in the book, but she wouldn’t remain seated and constantly disappeared from her spot at the table. She sold only eight books at the signing.
5. Dress appropriately. T-shirts, do-rags, torn jeans or revealing attire are out of place for a professional author. An author who showed up in a do-rag and a t-shirt looked a bit unkempt. His book was about a serious health issue. I wonder how many people took him seriously. Casual business attire works best in almost every situation. Even if you dress like a character in your book, keep it respectable.
6. Turn off your cell phone. You’re there to sign books, meet your readers and the store customers, not talk or text with friends and family on the phone. If you’re expecting an emergency call, let the store know in advance so they won’t be offended when your phone rings or set it to vibrate and keep the disturbance to a minimum. If possible, arrange to call back on a short break.
7. If you’re participating in a group signing, show consideration for the other authors. Often an author will bring a friend or family member to act as their photographer during the event. This is fine unless it interferes with the other authors and their signing. On one such occasion, the signing came to a halt while one author posed with customers and friends for several photos. No one could pass by or stop at the authors on either side without interfering with the picture taking. Keep photos to a minimum and remember you’re not the only author present.
It’s important to remember that you’re a guest of the store where you’re signing. When you remember these tips, you make a good impression on everyone and the chance for another invitation when your next book comes out.
Copyright 2014 by Vickie Phelps
Books About Writing
This is a list for those who may need some instruction or have questions about the writing craft. It's possible some of these are out of print, but you may be able to find them at your local library or used copies online. Also keep in mind that technology has changed since some of these were written, but they still have some good information in them.
The First 50 Pages by Jeff Gerke
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne & King
The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell
The Art & Craft of Novel Writing by Oakley Hall
Creative Nonfiction by Philip Gerard
Writing Personal Essays by Sheila Bender
Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell
Conflict & Suspense by James Scott Bell
How to Write Attention-Grabbing Query & Cover Letters by John Wood
1001 Ways to Market Your Books by John Kremer