Thursday, October 08, 2015

How to Attend a Book Signing

AuthorSignIn this case, I mean “attend” as in not simply going to an event, as author or reader, but as in the more powerful managing of the event once you’re there.

By now, I’ve done plenty of both. As a potential reader of an author I don’t know, I realize it can be intimidating to go up and actually talk to that Author. The term author has a valuable and highly esteemed place in our society, as I believe it should have, and that does often make those who don’t understand those odd creative people who can grab characters from nowhere and make them real a bit wary. Understood. I feel that way about musicians, even if I do understand the creative process.

Also, as an author, when most of us are introverts, it can be very hard to sit there and try to feel like we deserve that esteemed place in society and sound like we do. Most of us have also been taught not to brag. Of course promoting ourselves (because our books are part of ourselves) while not wanting to brag and not feeling all that esteemed and valuable can be quite the conundrum.

Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way for both authors and readers. Note: author tips are meant for indie and small press authors without a big name that sells for them automatically.


1) Dress nice but comfortably, and in keeping with the book signing venue. If you’re out at a farm market or other outdoor arts and crafts show, jeans and a nice shirt are fine and expected. If you’re in a bookstore, you might pull it up a notch. The bookstore owner will appreciate if you show your respect for her store by dressing up for the event. And readers will look at you as more of a professional if you look professional.

2) If you must have your cell phone or tablet with you (and I always have mine so family can reach me if needed), keep it silent and out of the way. If you’re playing on an electronic gadget as someone who might have been interested walks by, they’ll keep on walking.

3) Say hello and smile. Many readers will wait to decide whether to engage you by whether you initiate contact. If you sit back slumped in your chair and wait for them to lead, they’ll usually walk on by. It can be hard to make yourself do this, but it gets easier the more you do it. (If this avowed social phobic hermit writer can do it, so can you!)

4) Don’t be pushy. You might sell more books short term with aggressive tactics, but you also may leave a bad taste in the reader’s mouth and make them less likely to approach you or another author again.

5) Have promo handouts available! This is very important. At a minimum, have business cards with your website so readers can go look you up easily. (If you don’t have a website, you should have. Seriously. Free blogs can work well for this – just make sure all of your book info is on it.) I’ve approached authors who had nothing but their books at their tables and of course once I got home, I didn’t remember their names well enough to look them up. Book signings are often no more than putting your name out there. There’s little point if you don’t have something to send with potential readers. Few will buy from you the first time they see you or your name. You have to build up for sales.

I also recommend having excerpts available, at least one, so they can check out your writing style. I’ve had people take an excerpt, walk away and read it as they walked away, then turn around and come back to buy. There are a lot of indie and small press authors out there. Readers are getting wary, as they should. Show them why you’re worth the read.


1) If you might be interested but aren’t up for a chat, we fully understand if you’d like to simply take a card and check us out later. You can tell us you’d rather do that. If we’re prepared well enough, we’ll hand you an excerpt or let you know how you can read one online. I almost never buy a book without reading a bit first. I would guess most authors are the same, so we understand.

2) If you run across a hard sell author, ask for a business card and move along. You shouldn’t feel pressured into buying something as precious as a book.

3) There’s no need to be afraid to talk to us! Most of us are really just very glad if you’ll stop to look, and if you’d like to talk about our work, that’s great, too. Don’t be surprised if we’re nervous. As said above, most of us are better with print words than with spoken words. We’re often unsure whether to brag about how great our books are or remember our humility teachings. It’s a constant struggle and we’re honored by your interest.

4) If you ask which of our books is our favorite or which we’d recommend for you, you’ll likely get some stammering. The writing of a book is only part of its value. The rest is what you put into when you read and your likes are different than ours. Hopefully, our back cover blurbs will suggest which you should try first. But if you ask, we will do our best to answer!

5) Remember that local authors are usually indie or small press published. We have genres and plots that vary from “what’s in” that the big pubs are most likely to print. We often include local areas in our work. We don’t have big time NY editors, but we do have a love of stories and lots of personal experiences that go into our work. Some of us are new on the book scene; others have been at it for years. We aren’t bound by what someone else thinks should be written or published. We may mix 5 different genres into one story. If one of us doesn’t fit your personal reading needs, another one of us surely will.

When you buy from local authors, you are supporting local families, local businesses, and the local community. Instead of bypassing that “local authors” section in your local bookstore, head there first. You never know what gems you might find!

These are simply some of my thoughts from my experiences. Feel free to add to or argue with any of the above suggestions in the comments.  We all have different takes on things. I love to hear other peoples’ thoughts.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Meet the Authors event in Hermitage

Meet the Authors event in Hermitage

Yes, I did a quick TV interview about this event with Leana Hillard, owner of Leana's Books and More at the Shenango Valley Mall in Hermitage PA. Yes, it was nerve-wracking. Yes, I would agree again. Hey, I'm an indie. I try not to turn down promo ops. ;-)