Book Signings: Authors, Here’s What You Need to Know

Book Signings: Authors, Here’s What You Need to Know

Written by Vicky Lynch

The first thing that many new authors want to do when their book releases is to schedule a book signing. After all, they sound so glamorous, and we’ve seen so many authors in fictional television shows and movies do readings to packed rooms in fancy cities. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are authors who have successful book signings. However, the hard truth is that filling a room with a captive audience can be extremely difficult if you aren’t Stephen King or Jodi Picoult.

It’s only natural that if you’ve written a book that you’d want to share it with other people. But in reality, whether you are envisioning scheduling a full tour, or just a friendly meet and greet at your local independent bookstore, there are many factors that you need to consider. 

You’ll need to weigh the pros and cons to decide if the money, time and energy that you put into book events will be worth it in the long run.

Here’s what you’ll need to consider to determine if book signings are for you

Is there a venue that makes sense?

When you first decide to schedule a book signing, you’ve likely envisioned yourself doing a reading at your local independent bookstore or speaking to a crowd in a Barnes & Noble cafe. Depending on the topic of your book, this may make sense. 

However, many bookstores don’t have the budget to market and publicize events.Their standard procedure may be to advertise with signs in their front window, listings in their event calendar in-store and online, and posts to their social media accounts. And this will usually generate a good crowd for a celebrity author. Not a celebrity? Read on.

What about your local library? The library has a list of dedicated readers who love to read books and attend local events for free. They are usually a much more engaged group of readers who are loyal to their local library. 

Other venues to consider are places of business that tie-into the topic of your book. If you’ve written on mental health, perhaps you hold a signing at a local therapy clinic. If you’ve written a fun novel for women, hold a happy hour at a local martini bar. Find a venue that already has access to your audience.

Do you have a list of local people to invite to your book signing?

A huge determination of whether or not you should schedule a book signing is determining how you will feel if no one shows up. When I worked as an events coordinator at a bookstore, the first thing I would ask someone when they called to inquire about scheduling a book-signing was, “Do you have a list of people who live locally to invite to the event?” If the answer was no, I was unlikely to do more than set up a table at the front of the store for the author to hand-sell their own book to customers as they walked in. And while I always warned them of this ahead of time, at least half of the time the “event” was painful and long for both the author and myself.

Having a built-in audience of friends, families and colleagues who will attend your event and celebrate your book will not only prevent emotional devastation and awkward feelings, it will also help attract others that might be in the store just browsing. For this reason, I usually suggest that authors only schedule events in the city they live in, places they’ve lived in the past, or towns where they know they have an established audience.

Should you consider a virtual event instead?

Virtual events can be a great option for people who don’t have a good venue or simply don’t know enough people locally to serve as a base for their signing event. And guess what? It can still be a book signing. You can sell tickets to attendees that would include a signed copy of your book mailed right to their doorstep in advance of the event.

I recently had a client who hosted an hour-long virtual event that had over 60 attendees who all met online to participate in trivia and listen to a reading and Q&A with the author. It was hugely successful and everyone had fun and left with positive energy. 

After all these considerations, I hope you have a better understanding of the pros and cons of doing book signings. They can be a great vehicle for promotion. They will give your publicist an extra timely reason to pitch you to local media in the city where you are signing. It will also give you a reason to advertise to different demographics through Amazon and social media. 

But the time events take, the travel costs, and how you will feel are all worth considering. Make sure that you are getting enough out of an event to justify the resources you are putting in. 

If you can’t afford to hire a publicist on retainer, you can still pitch for all the same things for your book — and I can’t wait to teach you how in our Becoming an Author Course!

Vicky Lynch
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