Friday, September 2, 2011

What Not to Do At a Book Signing

I do everything wrong the first time around.   I like to say it is because I am strong advocate of learning by doing.  But it is more likely that I’m actually just very lazy and tend to plunge into things.   I leap empty handed into almost all situations and hope for the best.  I addressed book signing this way and I learned a lot about what not to do from myself and a lot about what to do from those around me so that now I feel like I have a plan when I go out to sign books.   I still have mistakes to make, but at least I know the major things not to do.  Most of my book signings come at this time of year.  I’m an autumn person and Halloween is a good time for the darker tone of my books. It is easy to mix the publicity for my book signings in with the Halloween decorations.  So here are the things I’ve learned from my mistakes and the things I plan to do to make this year’s book signings a little better.
1.        Barnes and Noble is not Always the Best Place to Sign Books:   My first book signing last year was at B&N and I expected it to be a big signing.  I went prepared to be busy, but I sold maybe 4 books during this signing.  I think I was lost there.  I was placed between three other authors and two of them brought candy.  B&N is wonderful and it is good to be there, but know that small venues are just as important.  People are just as likely to buy books at the small book signings.   For me, the people in B&N were distracted by the other authors and I think it was easy to miss me in the ocean of books that is B&N. 
2.       Don't Forget to Bring a Ton of Books to The Little Places:   Last year I was invited to sign books at a local haunted house.  It was a historic haunted house and the tours that went through the house were as much history as haunting.  They invited me out and I brought ten books.  I thought, “Who is going to buy books at a small, rural venue?”  I sold out of all my books after the first tour.   I could have sold a hundred books there and I missed out because I made an assumption that a small location would be less busy.  Next time I go there, I’m bringing boxes of books.  In fact, I bring a ton of books to all small venues. 
3.       Don't Forget The Candy:  This may sound stupid, but the lady next to me at my first B&N signing had candy bars.  People came for the candy bars and felt obligated to look at her book.   Candy goes a long way.
4.       Don’t Be Afraid to Be Cheesy:  The best book signers I’ve seen bring props and even wear costumes.  I never thought I would do this, because I’m not that person.  But the last time I signed books with a lady in medieval dress for her medieval romance and she sold stacks of books.  Her table had a look and feel that interested people.  I was boring.  It also helped that when the power went out; she had lanterns to light her display.  She also had candy.
5.       Don’t Talk too Much:  This isn’t my mistake, but I saw this at a book signing.  One lady who was signing books had her entire family with her and she spent the entire time surrounded by her family.  They talked and congratulated her and celebrated her new book, but people walked by her table because they didn’t want to interrupt so she only sold books to her family, who probably would have bought the books without the signing.

I will never be perfect and I’m sure my book signings this year will be flawed.  I’ll get confused and write silly things on the book.   I'll get nervous and sweat alot and maybe babble a little.  My pens will run out of ink.  I will be distracted by people who tell me their entire life story, but at least I’m learning what not to do, and that is a good beginning.  Being in front of people has never been my strong suit and just knowing to bring enough books and surround myself with candy is enough to make me more confident.  Maybe this year I’ll bring cookies.


Sandra Cormier said...

Above all, wear comfortable shoes!!!

Jessica Penot said...

Thanks Sandra! I forgot all about the comfortable shoes.

AstonWest said...

And a manuscript to work on, for those lulls... ;-)

Rosemary Gemmell said...

That was so helpful, Jessica - thanks for all the tips. I'm doing my first reading/signing soon so this came at the right time (although mine is in a hired venue)!

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

All good advice. I've seen a lot of candy at these signings. Next time, I'll be sure to have some. I gave Tahitian jewelry to those who bought my Tahitian book. That was a good idea, and I got those scratchy shells out of my jewel box. A school teacher bought the book so she could have the boxite and ostrich bone Fijian necklace for show and tell. What ever works.

Jessica Penot said...

Aston...I always have a book to read. The lulls are inevitable.

Rosemary.. The hired venues are the best!

Julie: That is so creative. Giving away jewelry? Your line probably wrapped around the block.

January Bain said...

Very helpful post! Must remember about the candy; I do the same thing at school for my students. Well, along with cookies, cake and chocolate, of course. Those all important three c's!