9 Lessons from Book Signings

Black and white photo of a crowded second-hand bookstore with the post title, "9 Lessons from Book Signings" superimposed on the top.

by Elizabeth S.  Craig, @elizabethscraig 

Book signings come in different shapes and sizes.  Signing books after a conference panel is one thing.  Signing them in a bookstore is something else. Signing them after a luncheon or book club meeting is again a different animal entirely.

Unless you have a large local network, signings in bookstores can be tricky.  I’ve found that signings at conferences are mediocre, too. The times I’ve done best were signings right after book clubs or book-related luncheons/events.

Here are my tips for a better book signing: 

Make sure there will be books there.  While this sounds like a no-brainer, you’d be amazed how much miscommunication can happen between bookstores/conference organizers and the writer. Who is responsible for making sure books are there? If it’s the bookstore, you might want to remind them again in enough time to ensure the books are ordered and at the store.

Group signings, while frequently less nerve-wracking for authors, aren’t great for sales. When readers must walk up to a whole group of writers selling books at the same table (and they have a book budget), they usually feel badly about not buying everyone’s book. Sometimes they feel badly enough not to buy any books.

Ask how to spell every name.  Never assume Jill is spelled J-i-l-l. It might very well be Jyll. Better yet, bring paper and a pencils for readers to write out how they want their books inscribed.

Have free things to give out on your table: candy, business cards, bookmarks, and postcards featuring your book.

Get the word out on social media: pin it as an event on Facebook and list it on your website.

Don’t feel chained to the table, especially at a bookstore event.  Walking around or standing and handing out book-related promo might bring in more business.

If your signature is awful, a hybrid/italic  approach may work better (take it from me).  Bring  good pen.

Be sure to have a quick and appealing description (logline) of your book at the ready.

Bring a list for readers to sign up for your newsletter.

Do you enjoy book signings?  Have any tips that I’ve missed? And a question for you…where on the book do you sign?  I’d always been told to sign on the title page….but I’ve had instances where I’d mailed signed books and people hadn’t found my signature because they expected it on the first page of the book.  Where do you sign?

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Photo credit: arbyreed via VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-SA

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17 thoughts on “9 Lessons from Book Signings

  1. I’ve done group signings at stores where everyone else just sat at their table – but not me. I’ve always been a roamer. Everyone in the store is leaving with a bookmark no matter what. (And if they don’t leave with a bookmark or postcard, they will NOT remember you or your books five minutes later.)

  2. Oh, these are great ideas, Elizabeth. For many readers, book signings are their way to interact with the author, so it really is important to make readers feel welcome and comfortable. And to get their names right! To me, that’s just simple courtesy.

  3. The only booksigning I’ve ever done (I’m kind of an introvert) was at a second-hand bookstore in a historic shopping district for “Shop Small Saturday.” We were connecting up with the “indie” theme. It actually went really well, especially since a few friends stopped by for moral (and financial!) support. Having those quick sound-bites is a great tip, Elizabeth, and really essential. Shoppers want to quickly assess whether this is something worth their time, and dithering will lose them. Fortunately, I practiced a few one-liners in a mirror ahead of time (told ya I was an introvert!).

    I’d add: make sure there’s a tablecloth, and extra pens (for the signup sheet, and for people to write a note to themselves about something you said on one of your cards/bookmarks). Also, I gave away a free e-novella to anyone who signed up for my newsletter. For those who don’t read ebooks, I offered to send them an Audible code for one of my audiobooks.

    I would have been tempted to go in with a group of authors at a signing, but you make a great point about customer guilt! Unless, perhaps, there are separate tables scattered across a wide space, as you would have at a convention signing. Then, picking one author’s book and not another wouldn’t stand out a mile.

    Thanks for the fab post!

    1. That sounds like a great event! I love second-hand shops. Nothing wrong with making sure there are friendly faces in the crowd!

      *Such* a good point about the extra pens (and your other tips!) I like the idea of a giveaway, too. :)

  4. Thanks for these perfectly timed tips. I have a presentation to a woman’s group followed by a signing next month, and so far I’ve been pretending it isn’t happening! This post gives me some solid pointers.

  5. Hi Elizabeth – being prepared is so essential as you and your commenters advise … and so easy to forget the books – so a checklist too … and a snack and water in case of dire need. Smiling with an open body stance … showing you’re happy to talk to people … Diane’s idea of roaming makes sense … cheers Hilary

  6. I’ve seen shy authors reading their book and not making eye contact with potential readers.

    I’ve found the value of group book signings at writing conferences is meeting the other authors.


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