Planning, Promoting, and Conducting a Worthwhile Book Signing
As your book’s publicist, your first goal is to make sure that people know about your book and are encouraged to buy it. Book signings are an excellent way to accomplish both goals. By speaking directly to your potential buyers, you give your book a human “face,” you have an opportunity to interact directly with the public, and your would-be readers have an opportunity to connect with you, your book, and its message.
Acquiring and Hosting a Book Signing
Book signings require some careful planning and hard work. To plan for and conduct a book signing, you need to:
- Research likely venues and locales
- Contact appropriate individuals at each locale and arrange for the book signing event
- Schedule the book signing to coincide (and not clash) with other area events
- Gather materials and prepare for the book signing
- In some cases, order books to fulfill the sales opportunity
- Take care of the signing set-up, presentation, and clean-up
- Follow up with contacts after the book signing
Researching in Advance of Your Book Signing
Research is as critical for planning a book signing as it is for every phase of your promotional and marketing plan. Your goal in conducting a book signing is twofold:
- To draw people to the event
- To sell books
To reach either goal, you need to find the best venues for your book signing, and then plan a book signing event that’s sure to succeed with the crowd you attract to each venue.
Notice that we use the term “venue” here, rather than “bookstore.” Yes, bookstores are logical places to conduct book signings, but they aren’t the only locations you should consider. Book clubs, professional and social organization meetings, and retail outlets associated with your book’s topic are all good venues for conducting a book signing.
You also need to research the area’s other events to determine the best schedule for your book signing. You don’t want to conflict with other major events in the area. Read the local newspapers and check with area educational and professional organizations to determine what other events are scheduled in your area.
Based on your research, create a list of potential venues. Contact the store, organization, or locale to get the name of the manager or event coordinator you’ll need to work with to schedule a book signing.
With your research in place, contact the locale and ask to speak with the person you’ve identified as your primary contact there. Introduce yourself and your book, and explain that you’d like to arrange for a book signing. Send your contact a copy of your media kit, being sure to include press releases, bookmarks, promotional photos, and other marketing materials, along with a sample copy of your book. Also, be prepared to talk about how you can assist in publicizing the event.
Scheduling and Promoting a Book Signing
As with any event, timing is important for a book signing. Although your contacts will have advice and ideas for the best scheduling within their individual locale, you also need to give thought to how your book signing will coincide with other area festivals, gatherings, and events.
When the event is scheduled, plan (in consultation with your venue contact) your promotional campaign. Distribute a press release announcing the book signing to all local radio, television, newspapers, and other local news outlets. Create flyers or posters and distribute them to local businesses, retail outlets, libraries, university student information areas, and other gathering spots. Remember to always ask permission before posting a notice or leaving brochures in any location.
Ask the store or venue whether they’ll be sending out a notification of your book signing in their newsletter or other promotional mailing, and offer to contribute any names you might have to their mailing list.
Plan an event, not just a book signing. Based on your research, you should know the space you’ll be working in, and the size and interests of the crowd that you might draw. For example, if you’re promoting a cookbook, consider hosting a cooking demonstration with a follow-up book signing.
Preparing for Your Book Signing
Be sure to come to the book signing with all necessary promotional materials, equipment, and supplies. Most importantly, be certain that an ample supply of books will be on hand. This may require that you purchase and bring the books yourself. You also need to have a generous supply of bookmarks, brochures, promotional photos, and other free promotional materials to hand out. You should also come with marketing materials that tell people how to order your book, should you sell out of your available copies.
Order promotional materials and book copies well in advance. If your signing is in a bookstore, make arrangements in advance for handling payment for copies you bring to the store versus those the store will have in stock. If you are selling the books yourself, make sure you have the ability to make change.
Conducting a Book Signing
If you have time before the event begins, circulate throughout the locale, handing out bookmarks or other promotional materials and inviting people to come visit your book-signing event. Be happy, be positive, and let people know you’re glad to be there. If people are passing by, invite them to take the materials you have available. Thank everyone who buys a book, and be sure to place a bookmark or flyer in each copy you sell.
Finally, don’t become discouraged if you find that you haven’t drawn much of a crowd. Don’t sit behind your table and wait for people to come to you. Get up and work the room!
After the event is over, make sure your area is clean and in good order before you leave. Thank the people who attended the event before they leave, but also remember to thank the people who worked with you at the venue for their time and effort. Again, make sure you have their names so you can send them a follow-up thank-you note as well. Finally, if you have copies of your book left over, ask your contact if you can leave some signed copies with them for sale in the days to come.
Following Up After the Signing
Within a few days of the event, place a follow-up call or e-mail to your contact to gather their feedback about the event. Also, ask if they need more copies of your book. Finally, check with them about scheduling future book signings or events, or whether they have other locations where you might appear. Don’t forget to send a thank-you note to the manager of the location, as well as to any people there who helped you during the event.
*Adapted from Your Voice in Demand: The AuthorHouse Guide to Marketing and Promoting Your Book