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Tackling Author Signing Events

Ah, book signings. The glam, the glitz, the autographs, the pics. The chaos, the questions, the preparation, the rejection. If you’ve ever signed books before, you know there’s a lot more to it than just showing up and praying someone buys your book. And if you haven’t, you are probably just like the rest of us, wondering how to make each one successful.

Preparing for the Event

After you’ve committed to a signing date, what’s next? According to Ben Wolf of 20Booksto50k® and author of the upcoming Power Author: A Quick Guide to Mastering Live Events, it’s your book covers. “Your book cover is the single most important element of the sales process. Make sure it’s amazing.” 

This amazing advice isn’t only for signings but for being an author in general. Even if you already have covers in place, attending a book signing might make you rethink them if they aren’t outstanding and eye-catching. You only have one chance to capture that reader’s attention, and your book covers are one thing that will not only have them walk over to your table, but will also keep them there. 

As you’re considering appearance, start thinking about what setup you want. This varies depending on how large your table is and how many books you have, but it’s something to start on right away, no matter how far away your signing is. Here are some pro tips on how to make your table unique and appealing to readers.

1. Tablecloths: Most venues provide tablecloths, typically black, so consider bringing your own or something that can cover or enhance it, such as a table runner or banner.

2. Retractable banner: A great banner can draw in readers from across the room, and ordered customized to your theme, your genre, and your style.

3. Book display: For your books, consider height. The higher up they are, the easier they are for readers to see. Table stands work great, or even use that tablecloth to cover up an ordinary stand (even a cardboard box) to elevate your books. 

4. Swag: Giveaways like custom bookmarks and unique swag let readers walk away with something, even if they don’t purchase a book right then. Ensure your swag is not only fun and interesting but also serves a marketing purpose. For instance, on bookmarks, instead of using the link to the individual book, use a Bit.ly link to your website. That way, readers will always have the up-to-date list of books no matter when they picked up that bit of swag.

5. Cashbox and card reader: Bring along a cashbox to hold money earned and have plenty of ones and fives for change. You’ll also want a card reader of some sort (such as Square) to take credit cards. Readers often bring limited cash to a signing, so with finding new authors, they’ll need an alternative way to buy your books.

Being a Salesperson

Your setup is complete, and you’re ready to sign books. But how do you find that signing success? Virginia Johnson, owner of Anytime Author Promotions (https://anytimeauthorpromotions.com), has seen thousands of authors come through her events each year. Her advice? Keep it real. “Personality and performance. If you go into the event like a diva that believes the readers owe you something, you’ll fail. If you go in prepared to showcase yourself and earn readers attention—yes, I said earn—you’ll succeed.” No matter how much time and effort you put into your display, it’s a great attitude that will always help you succeed.

It’s one thing to draw a reader in with your table, but you have to keep them there. Stand up for the entire signing, if physically able. A warm smile and a “hello” to every passing body will go a long way. By engaging with your reader, even walking out from around your table to greet them, you’ll create a warm environment in which they’ll want to stay. Ask them plenty of open-ended questions, such as, “What type of books do you like to read?” These lead to discussion, which you can then turn toward your own novels.

If you’re an introvert, this all may be harder, but you can do it. Practice with friends and other authors before the event to learn what works best for you in speaking to new people. Don’t forget that you’re also a reader and connect with them on that level. Most of them are nervous, too! Simply smile and breathe. If you feel like it’s too much, Virginia Johnson suggests bringing along an extroverted friend or even a reader of yours to help you sell your books. They can help fill in and bring those people to your table, setting them up for you to make the sale.

Pitching Your Book

Inevitably, you’ll have to discuss your books. That’s where the elevator pitch comes in handy. This is a quick, one or two liner that describes your story. If you have a lot of books and a reader asks you to tell them about each of them, you’ll want to keep the description as short as possible. Rehearse your pitches beforehand and make sure they are snappy and have a hook. The hook is the most important thing about the pitch as it will capture the reader’s attention and force them to buy the novel to find out what happens next.

When giving that elevator pitch, one of the best things you can do is hand them your book. Many readers are drawn by the feel and look of a paperback, so by putting it in their hands, you’re halfway to a sale. By handing them the book, Ben Wolf says, “…they have to make a minimum of two decisions—they have to decide to accept it, and then they have to decide if they’re going to keep it or put it back. It’s harder to put it back once it’s already in their hands!”

After you’ve sealed that sale, sign the book. Ask if they want it made out to them, how to spell their name, and then write something fun. Referring to something said in conversation with them can make them feel special, but if not, have a great little saying prepared for your autograph, something catchy and that’s all yours. Maybe a slogan from the book. Much is made about what pens to use to sign, but don’t overthink it. Find something that’s comfortable, professional in appearance, and costs a tad more than a dollar per pack. Also make sure to bring several of them; you don’t want to run out of ink in the middle of a signing.

There are a lot of things to consider for book signings, but with preparation, a great setup, and a genuine smile and happy attitude, you’re sure to connect with new readers and have a fantastic time selling books.

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