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The Joys and Hazards of Book Signings
by Cheryl Sloan Wray
I awoke that morning with excitement.
Butterflies twittered in my stomach as I eagerly prepared for the days Big
What could create such nervous energy? A first
date? A job interview? My daughters first day of kindergarten?
The excitement I felt stemmed from the book
signing Id be participating in that afternoon. It was the first signing for my
latest book, Faith Stories, an inspirational book I co-authored with my
mother in 2000. We were scheduled to arrive at the bookstore at 1 oclock and
were a little unsure about what to expect. Would we have droves of customers
lined up at our table? Would anyone stop by to visit with us?
The days activities actually reinforced some
feelings I already had about book signings. I had done past signings for my
book, Magazine Writing: A Beginners Guide, and had accompanied at
least two writer friends to their own book signings. Now I knew that there was
one constant when it came to book signings: there is no constant.
Some book signings are highly successful while
others are washouts. There is much joy in doing book signings, but there are
also a number of hazards.
Some of things I have learned about book
signingsincluding the one my mother and I did that dayinclude the
(1) Make sure the bookstore is prepared for you.
It may sound like a given, but you need to be sure the bookstore knows youre
coming. Talk to the person in charge of your publishers promotions and find out
what the bookstore has done for your signing. It should have posters publicizing
your event; it also needs to have a table set up appropriately for your signing.
(If youre in charge of your own promotion, make sure you talk to the bookstore
manager about such arrangements.)
(2) Do your own publicity. Dont assume that the
bookstore will do all the promotion you need. For my recent book signing, I sent
press releases to the local newspaper, sent out announcements on postcards to
friends, and sent email notices to contacts online. (As it turned out, 90% of
the books we sold that day were to friends who had been told beforehand of the
(3) Look open and friendly. For some reason,
customers often look uncomfortable when seeing an author doing a book signing.
You can almost read their minds ("Am I supposed to go over and talk to them?").
By being friendly and approachableby saying hello to customers as they walk by,
by making eye contactyou will have better luck at having them stop and look at
your book. I always also include some sort of item that I can hand out to
customers who are just browsing, but may consider buying my book later on (at a
Christmastime book signing, I handed out candy canes with ordering information
about my book wrapped around them); people always like getting something for
(4) Sign any remaining books. The best book
signing we did for Faith Stories involved a bookstore manager who was a
real salesman. He told us to sign all of the remaining 30 books and hed
advertised them as autographed copies. Before you leave your book signing, ask
the manager if you can sign the remaining copies. (Bookstores cant return
signed copies, so youre guaranteed to sell all of the books to that
(5) Keep in touch with the bookstore. Tell the
bookstore manager that youd be willing to return for another book signing and
follow up regularly by making sure they still have your book in stock. And what
happened at the book signing I mentioned earlier? We sold fifteen books in two
hours. It wasnt a blockbuster-selling event, but we also sent home bookmarks
with ordering information on them to at least 50 customers and met a lot of nice
people. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon!
© Copyright 2001, Cheryl Sloan Wray
Cheryl Sloan Wray is a freelancer writer with more than 1000 articles to her credit. She is also the author of Writing for Magazines (McGraw-Hill), a popular guide for freelancers.
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