(Getting a Seat at the Table: Book Signing Basics Part One)
So, you’re going to a book signing. I bet you’re excited, pumped with adrenaline and visions of long lines of readers just waiting to purchase a signed copy of one of your books. You have trouble sleeping at night as the event draws closer because in your mind you’re packing and repacking your bags, you’re toying with the display at your table, making sure everything looks perfect, and you’re practicing your signature. Truth be told, you’ve been daydreaming about this day since you typed the very first word of your manuscript, and it’s almost upon you.
But have you asked yourself why you’re going to a book signing?
Don’t look at me like that. I know you’re thinking that’s a silly question. Obviously, you go to a book signing to sell books. Duh.
It might shock you to discover that, actually, you don’t. Truth be told, if you sell books, you’re lucky. Not everyone does and, unless you’re one of the heavy hitters, if you do sell books, it won’t be as many as you’re hoping. Selling books is the dessert of an event, not the main course, and unless you want to walk away from the table with a growling stomach and crashing from a sugar high, there’s a few things you should know before venturing out into an author event.
Over the next few weeks, we’re going to be looking at book signings and helping you make the most out of each one you attend. You may think this sounds simplistic and that everyone should already know what to expect as well as what to do, but I know when we first ventured out into the world of author events, we were clueless. Luckily for me, the girls were great at researching and stalking event pages and attending authors to see what they had done in the past. I want to take that knowledge and pass it along, helping anyone who might need a little nudge. These events can be scary if you’re going for your first time. I want to somehow ease that fear. I’ve divided the topic into four sections: What to Expect From a Book Signing, How to Make the Most of a Book Signing, Book Signing Etiquette, and You’re Job as an Author. Each post will be geared to help you succeed at your first event and every signing thereafter.
Whenever the girls and I are scheduled to go anywhere, we always take a look at the surrounding hot spots, restaurants, and clubs. We do some research, examining the menu at every place we’re destined to visit or the hotels where we’re expected to stay, so that we can know what to expect as best as we can. Quite often the girls already know what they’re going to eat at each restaurant and what drinks they want to experiment with at the bars. You need to look at each event the same way. Study the itinerary and make sure you know what will be happening and when, so you’re the best prepared. Today, we’re going to take a glance at some of the most common things you should expect from attending an author event.
I’ve already stated that the goal of attending a book signing is not to sell books. So, if it’s not to sell books, what should you, the author, expect from attending a book signing? First, you should divide your goals up into two sections: a writer’s track and a reader’s track.
For the writer’s track, the first thing on the menu is networking. Reach out and shake hands, pass out your business card, and share stories. However, most importantly, listen. One of the advantages of attending these events is gleaning knowledge from more experienced authors. Not just about events, but about everything that has to do with the business of writing from formatting, editing, and even marketing. What you should expect – if you do your part – is to gain knowledge, and that is always worth the price of admission. We have gained so much by attending conferences and signings that we probably would not have learned if we had remained home. I’ve discovered writing and formatting programs, advertising tricks, and even story ideas. My Fangirls series centers on such an event, stories that would have never been written if I hadn’t attended because I never would have thought about it.
Some events are geared heavily towards the writers. They hold workshops, panels, and classes to assist you in your quest to be the best author possible. I recommend that you take as many classes as you can, even if you think you know everything there is to know on the topic. Odds are, you don’t. So, take notes. Ask questions. Then, when you return home, put into practice those things that spoke the most to your goals. The worst thing you could do is listen to how other people succeed and not take their advice.
However, perhaps you do know something that the speaker doesn’t because you are an expert in the field. Don’t hesitate to change one of the dishes on the menu by speaking up and adding your knowledge in the discussion. Don’t take over the class, but don’t be afraid to correct misinformation, either. I was recently in a class about the business side of writing and the speaker was outdated on his knowledge of social media. That’s not surprising with how rapidly things change between Facebook and Twitter. I happened to know some of the things he was missing out on, so I spoke up and added the little bit I knew. Still, he knew quite a bit about newsletters that I didn’t, so I was able to walk away gaining while sharing. That’s how this industry works, or at least that’s how it should work. Indie authors are great at sharing their knowledge, so don’t be afraid to ask questions and share your knowledge with others as well. It’s part of giving back.
Now, from the reader’s track, you should expect to meet new people and talk about your writing. If you’ve done your part, which we’ll talk about later, and the event host has done their part, then you should expect readers to come through the doors. This does not guarantee you sales, but it does guarantee you opportunities. The main thing is not to get your book in their hands, but rather your name in their heads. This is an opportunity for you to grow your audience. After every event, my numbers increase everywhere. I have more friend requests on Facebook, more likes on my Facebook author page, my newsletter subscribers increase, and my eBook sales start to climb. That results into even more opportunities to increase your traffic and your sales.
The other thing you should expect is a knowledgeable and organized host. This person should be doing their part to attract readers as well as keeping you and your assistant informed as to the latest news concerning the event as well as any changes. They should be respectful and easy to work with. Their goal is to create a pleasant experience to keep both, authors and readers, coming back every year. I know that if I really enjoy an event, I’m going to be bragging about it and encouraging other authors I know to get involved. Word of mouth can be your best advertisement or, if things go south, your worst review.
One more thing you should expect is to return home excited, motivated, and full of ideas. If you follow the suggestions in this series and do your part, you will have gleaned ideas and tools that are working for other authors. You’ll learn about marketing tricks and tools that authors are using that are helping them succeed. As soon as the girls and I hit the road on the way home, our notepads are out, and we’re strategizing what we need to do next. How are we going to spruce up the website? What advertising hot spots did we learn about? Who are the connections we need to fertilize and see grow? We’re full of ideas and eager to put them into action. You should be as well. If you have your mind focused and your expectations realistic, you’ll return from an author event as if from a pep rally. Make that energy work for you and follow through on what you’ve learned.
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Until next week, keep chasing your fantasies!