Some tips about successful book signings from an old man who once did 77 book signings in 18 months, personally signing 1,464 novels.
When My first three novels came out, I managed to arrange 77 signings at two dozen bookstores and some libraries and service club meetings by making it as easy as possible for them to hold a signing.
I talked to a number of bookstore owners and learned that among the most common complaints bookstore people had about signings were authors who were snotty, distant, or too demanding.
I resolved to be none of those things.
I also decided to create an air of professionalism and consistency for my signings and I took on as much of the responsibility for them as possible. I did that by bringing along my own table and chair and signage. Essentially, the only things the bookstores needed to provide was a space for my table and chair.
I created "The Lary Crews Portable Signing Kit."
To each signing, I brought the following:
- my own folding card table with a navy blue table cloth that reached the ground,
- my own padded chair,
- my own “book dump” which held 45 books and my photo on the front,
- a couple of pens, business cards, a camera, copies of my press clippings [believe it or not, fans were always asking to read them],
- A small lidded, insulated cup for iced water,
- white wire book brackets to hold up one copy of each book on my table, and — finally -
- my mascot, a tiny Los Angeles Public Library bear that I got for contributing to their Save The Books campaign.
In addition, I had a printer make advance 8 by 10 signing posters with a reproduction of the book cover, a photo of me, and a blank space at the bottom to write on the date and time. (Today, you can do it yourself. Of course.) From that poster I made a more permanent one which read, "Here Today." [My friend, Frank Roderus, said I should have written in "Gone Tomorrow."] That poster traveled with me and went in the window of the store during my appearance.
Another selling tool I created, borrowed from my friends in the romance field, was 3,000 full-color postcards of the Kill Cue cover with information about the upcoming books and a photo of me on the reverse side. I handed them out as bookmarks and mailed them to the media and put them on counters.
The best promotional pieces turned out to be … the postcards and the signing posters and some small gold labels I had made which read 'Autographed Copy By Lary Crews.' [I got those from Walter Drake, the mail order place in Denver; 200 of them sell for 9 bucks these days.]
As I set up the signings, I assured each bookseller that all they needed to do was order books and help me publicize the signing. (Today, of course, we have to take care of supplying the books, ourselves.)
Usually, the signings were four hours long, from 11 am to 3 pm. I also did several days of two signings a day in cities farther from our home. Those signings were each 2 hours long. I also tried to get press coverage as well.
The important thing to remember about people who approach an author at a book signing is they want to feel special.
That means you should make an effort to look each person in the eye, ask them their name and how to spell it before you sign the book, and really listen to them [at least for a few minutes] even if they try to tell you the story of why they've always wanted to write a book themselves. Each individual who buys a book will, if made to feel special, tell a half-dozen friends how wonderful you are, generating more sales.
I have personally signed 1,464 of copies of my books and I've made it a practice to write something more than just my signature each and every time.
- If the person was quiet and shy and I was unable to determine where they're from or any angle to hang a phrase on, I’d write: "I hope you enjoy Veronica Slate [my protagonist] as much as I do. Thanks for buying my book."
- "It was great meeting you at [insert location here]. Hope you enjoy my book." [This one is especially good because it proves to others that they really met you. I know this may seem silly to you, but they really care.]
- If I discovered that the person was from Chicago, I'd write: "To my friend from Chicago. Cuddle up with this book on those cold, winter nights."
- If the person says it's a gift for, let's say, Aunt Grace, I'd also ask the name of the person buying the book and I would write: "For Grace. Tommy thinks you'll enjoy my book. I hope you do."
- If the person says anything, no matter how vague, about being a writer themselves or wanting to write, I would write: "To a fellow scribe. Good luck with your writing career." [That makes them feel special and included in your esoteric profession.]
Make that person feel special.
If you are mobbed by lots of people, make a real effort to look each individual in the eyes as you accept the book for signing and as you hand it back to them.
Most of all, relax and enjoy it. People love to meet writers and love to hear us talk about how we write. Forget any idea you may have you’re nothing special, just a writer. I have spoken at libraries, conventions and seminars. People are endlessly fascinated by writers like you and me. To a reader meeting you, you are very special indeed. If you make them feel special too, you have a fan for life. Don't laugh. More than a thousand people from all over America and several foreign countries have written me about my novels. Why?
Because I encouraged them to do so by listing my email address in the backs of my books. I've answered every single letter and won fans for life. They tell their friends and sell even more books.
----- (From NOVEL SECRETS available in paperback and Kindle form.) http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0189VGK32