Book Signings? More of a (Flattering) Time-Waster Than a Money-Maker!

Book Signings? More of a (Flattering) Time-Waster Than a Money-Maker!
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Hello Angela,

My friend (who is a marketing major) and I are trying to organize a book signing. We are considering various things to make more sales. However, to do that, she said Barnes and Noble told us that the book has to be sold in that store in order for them to host my signing.

But, they aren’t currently stocking my book, and they haven’t ordered it and may never, so what can I do?


Hopeful Author

Dear Hopeful,

If Barnes and Noble is asking for terms your publisher can’t accept (for example, returning unsold books, or demanding an unrealistic discount), you can buy copies at your author discount (assuming your publisher offers you one), and offer to sell them directly to the store on consignment.

Some authors have book signings because, let’s face it, it’s flattering to have people ask for your autograph. Unfortunately, most book signings lead to an author sitting alone, watching people pass by, their eyes purposely averted to avoid a sales pitch. So, book signings can be equally flattering…and embarrassing as well.

If you’re scheduling a book signing to make money, I would strongly suggest you research that before spending significant time and money promoting an event that may only sell 5 to 10 copies, if you’re lucky.

The sad fact is, unless you’re a celebrity, or unless you’ve somehow managed to bring dozens or hundreds of people into their store just to buy your book, you aren’t likely to sell enough copies to pay for your expenses and time.

Many bookstores expect authors to do most, if not all, of the promotion for their own signing. So, don’t expect your local bookstore to run ads in the newspaper to alert people of your upcoming event, or to much of anything else. Expect to pay the bookstore a large percentage of each book sale, and expect them to return the unsold copies, all in exchange for YOU bringing people to their store…people who will likely browse, and buy other authors’ books, and for which you will receive zero compensation.

A far more efficient (and less stressful) way to sell books is reaching out to your readers directly online and there are many free and FUN ways to do that!

3 Responses to "Book Signings? More of a (Flattering) Time-Waster Than a Money-Maker!"

  1. Linda Bottjer  August 13, 2015 at 10:31 pm

    I feel vindicated.

    I recently told the PR firm handling the launch of the latest “Chicken Soup for the Soul/Volunteering & Giving Back” anthology, in which my story is included, that I had no desire to do any book signings.

    Last year when my first book came out, that publisher’s PR dept. scheduled book signings in various spots, including two B&Ns. As the book was on local history and lore, I expressed my concerns the two stores chosen would not bring in the crowds as the out-of-county residents rarely came here. There are no B&Ns in my rural county in the Sierra Nevada foothills. I suggested two others in Sacramento as they pass my town regularly en route to Lake Tahoe.

    No go.

    While my ego was stroked at the sign with my book’s cover and my name, that only occurred at the first store. The second forgot I was coming and placed me right at a front entrance. Rejected by dozens, my childhood despair of being the last kid picked for dodge ball quickly resurfaced.

    Plus B&N’s policy of providing comfortable seating meant many customers forgot the object is to BUY books, not READ them in front of the author. I kid you not, I had to remind non-potential customers the store was not a library. Several actually dragged their chairs up to my table and read books as I spoke to others.

    Speaking of libraries – another bad idea of the original PR department. Wrong dynamic for purchasing books.

    Where success was found was at local wineries and wine bars. As I also run a Gold Rush ghost tour company, I told a few stories, not in the book.

    I always had “more boos for your buck” discount tour coupons for anyone who bought the book. They really added to sales at non B&N venues.

  2. By Angela Hoy - Publisher of  August 12, 2015 at 2:57 pm

    Mark LaFlamme, I would stand in line for hours for your autograph because all of your horror books keep me up for HOURS at night! My favorite is still The Pink Room! “The world’s leading physicist attempts to use the science of string theory to bring his daughter back from the dead. Government agents and a best-selling novelist race to find out if he succeeded.”

  3. Mark LaFlamme  August 12, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    Thaaaank you. People are always asking me why I don’t do more book signings like I used to. Angie lays out the main reasons right here. In my view, these types of events are only beneficial if you get a lot of advanced publicity – announcements in the local paper, signs in the bookstore window, etc. If you have to provide books, materials and advertising on your own, you’re probably going to lose more than you gain. That said, you DO get to feel like a rock star for an hour or so. Unless there’s no interest, in which you feel more like a guy loitering at the bookstore. It can go either way.