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  • Writer's pictureTeresa Widdowson

How to Have a Book Signing

Storefront of Brick & Mortar Books

I’m taking a break this week from my “Indie-Author’s Arsenal” series to talk about a book signing I attended last week. Brick & Mortar Books in Redmond, Washington, hosted a book-signing event specifically for indie authors, and I was invited! It was a fantastic opportunity to meet other independently published authors and a joy to meet some of my readers in person!

If a book signing is on your calendar, read on to learn a few tips on how to make yours as successful, stress-free, and fun as possible!

1) Make sure you know as much about the event and location that you can beforehand. Call or email the coordinator and ask questions. How many authors will be there? Will you have a table of your own and how big will it be (is there room for handouts, a bookstand, etc)? What time should you arrive? How many people will attend? Etc, etc., etc. If you can, visit the venue before the day of the event and tell the staff how much you appreciate being invited!

2) I suspect a lot of authors don’t consider this, but I practiced my signature. You’re probably wondering why I would need to do this. I’ve signed my books for readers before. What’s the big deal?

But I have a long name: “Teresa Widdowson”. It has a lot of characters and takes time to write out. I wanted to shorten my signature to simply my first initial and last name, so it would be quick and easy to write out. But I also wanted it to still be pretty. If you’ve read my bio, you know that I’m into fountain pens. I also write mostly in cursive—you know, that old-fashioned, curvy way of writing? So, I practiced different ways to write it and finally came up with something I liked. Even if you don’t have a long name, it’s fun to have a signature that is quick to write, beautiful to look at, and unique to you.

3) Invite as many people as possible, even if they’ve already bought and read your book. Of course, you would rather have a line of strangers waiting, eager to hear all about you and happy to buy a copy of your book. But the last thing you want is an empty table. You’ve probably heard the phrase “It takes money to make money.” I thought about my book-signing table in the same way. I wanted it to look busy so that people would wonder what the big deal was. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is real. I’ve experienced it. That’s the type of interest I wanted to garner. I wanted people who hadn’t read my book to be curious why so many other people wanted to.

In addition to possibly helping you attract new readers, bringing lots of people to your book-signing also increases traffic to the business owner. That’s something the vendor will greatly appreciate and improves the probability that they will be happy to welcome you back when you publish your next book.

4) Advertise and promote! Sure, the bookstore will do some advertising of their own, but help them out, and post on every social media platform you’re on. And send out email blasts—multiple times. Send reminders at least a week before the event, a day or two before, and the day of.

I know it’s hard to believe, but your book signing is probably not at the top of most people’s to-do lists. People are busy. They have other things going on in their lives. They’ll appreciate a reminder. Promote the event on your website. Not everyone will read the emails or posts, and you may even reach some new people.

5) Dress the part. If you’re a fantasy writer, maybe you don’t want to dress like one of your characters (unless you’re at COMICON), but think about the image you want to portray. If you’re a children’s book author, wear something friendly. You don’t want kids to be afraid to walk up to your table. But be reasonable. There’s no sense in wearing your beautiful, sleeveless dress if you just have to cover it up with a bulky sweater.

6) Bring a pristine copy of your book along with an easel so you can display it, and people can clearly see it. Encourage them to pick it up and read the synopsis. Maybe once they pick it up, they won’t want to put it down?

Line of people at book-signing table

7) Set up your table to reflect your brand. If there’s enough room, consider decorating it with flowers or set out a jar of candy. Consider purchasing a tablecloth with the cover of your book or signature printed on the front of it. Or perhaps there’s room for a poster or banner to be hung near your table? Before you go all out, consider the expense. If you expect to do a lot of book-signings, then spending a little more for things you can reuse will be worth it in the long run.

8) Bring some giveaways: bookmarks, stickers, business cards, etc. I brought bookmarks that had my first book, The RH Factor on one side and my second book, MYND Control, on the other. The bookmarks included QC codes that went right to my books online. Of course, I would have preferred they buy them at the store, but if they didn't, I wanted it to be easy for them to find them later. And if they never bought one at all, maybe someone else would see it. You never know!

9) Arrive early so you can scope out the area, and set up your table. Talk to the staff, and meet some of the other authors (if there are any) before the event begins.

10) Bring someone to help you with give-aways or sign-up sheets for your newsletter or blog. This is your opportunity to capture the contact information of potential readers.

11) Be ready on time. Don’t wait until the last minute to go to the bathroom, get a drink, or eat a snack. And have your fountain pen (or other writing instrument) out and ready for signing. Bring a spare pen, just in case.

12) Be friendly to potential readers, but don’t be pushy. The easiest way to turn off a future customer is to make them feel guilty or uncomfortable if they decide not to come to your table or purchase your book.

13) If this is a multi-author, local event, like mine was, take the opportunity to network. I bet every other author there has learned something that you would find beneficial. Exchange info and follow-up with them afterwards to share information.

14) Thank the store and staff in person and send a thank-you card or email after the event is over.

When I released my first book, The RH Factor. We were in the middle of the COVID pandemic, and there were little to no in-person events to be found. Aren’t we all glad those times are behind us?

If you’re new to book signings, I hope you’ll find these tips helpful. This was my first one at a real bookstore, but I hope to be invited to many more. It’s fun, and it motivates me to want to write and publish more of my stories. I write because I love it. But I love it even more when people enjoy what I’ve written. Knowing there are readers out there who consciously decide to buy and read my books makes all those months I spent writing them worthwhile.

If you’re a resident of the Redmond, Washington area, I hope you will consider checking out the Brick & Mortar Bookstore. Not only do I want to drive business to their store as a thank you for inviting me to the Indie-Author Night event, I also want to make sure the world continues to support physical bookstores in our neighborhoods!

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