Ten Tips for Tackling Book Signings…and Other Helpful Hints By Kimberly Ripley

You’ve achieved the goal of goals-your book is finally in print. You’ve celebrated, heaved a giant sigh of relief, and reveled in a bit of glory. Okay-so now what? Do you kick back, put up your feet, and live the life of Reilly? Certainly not! My dear authors, your work has just begun! It’s time to master The Book Signing.

Now, don’t recoil in fear. Book signings are perfectly harmless entities. There are, however, a few tried and true tips to ensure the success of your signing and reading-leading ultimately to added success for your career.

1. Have one or two conversations with the Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) of the bookstore where your signing will take place-well in advance of the event. These conversations will allow you both to get to know each other. This often alleviates jitters, and ascertains that both parties understand the other’s expectations of the event. Make it clear that you appreciate a CRM who is actively involved in the signing. This means he or she will plan in advance, display promotional flyers or posters, and announce the event over the PA system on the day of the event.

2. Bring giveaways to your signing. These needn’t be expensive, but MUST pertain to the book or its theme. People love events where they get something for nothing. A bookmark, pin, or other small item is a reminder of the event. Even if all attendees don’t purchase books, this item may cause them to spread the word about your book at a later date.

3. Bring literature about yourself and your work. Even if a store won’t allow you to display additional books (many will, so be sure to ask!), they will always allow bio cards or flyers. Be sure to list all published titles and information about where they can be purchased. The best bet is to include a Web site link, where purchase information is prominently displayed. This avoids bad feelings on behalf of a bookstore, whose owner may not appreciate plugging another store or company. Also include within this bio the fact that you are available for public appearances, and list appropriate contact information.

4. Bring a variety of fine-tipped black markers. These create the most impressive signatures. Do practice beforehand to make sure the ink won’t bleed. Also practice what you’ll write. If a reader doesn’t ask for something particular to be inscribed, it’s fun to have something clever to add to your signature when signing your books.

5. Bring along a few anecdotes or simple topics for dialogue starters. It’s always more fun when a book signing becomes a dialogue with the audience. Some suggestions include current events, a short story or parable, a joke with a strong punch line, or an excerpt from an article that pertains to the topic or style of your book.

6. If possible, bring along an assistant. This can be a friend or family member, or someone you hire for such events. The assistant can help turn the pages for customers when you’re ready to sign books, hand out bookmarks and freebies, and replenish displays as books and giveaways dwindle. He or she can ask visitors to sign a mailing list for future promotions. Having an assistant ensures that the store’s CRM remains available to field customers’ purchase-related questions and tend to technical aspects of the signing, like seating and a microphone.

7. Practice your reading out loud well in advance of the book signing. Record your reading and note areas where influx needs changing or your voice requires modification. Practice your reading in a mirror. If possible, ask someone to video-record a practice reading. This is the best way to catch peculiarities you might not catch otherwise. Become familiar enough with your reading to make eye contact with your audience at your event.

8. Prepare a list of questions (much like interview questions) and present them to your CRM. If there is a lull in the reading/signing event, ask her to interject a few questions to stir some audience interest and participation.

9. Prepare a short list of questions to ask your audience. Who among them are writers? Has anyone been published? Who is pursuing such goals? Nothing evokes interest in participation like talking about oneself!

10. Have an ample supply of cold water at arm’s length-with NO ice and a straw. Ice “clinks” in the glass, causing reverberations if you’re wearing a microphone. Straws help keep nervous authors from dribbling on their lovely clothes! Sip water frequently before and during the reading/signing.

No amount of preparation can guarantee a flawless book signing, but following these simple steps can create a self-confidence that exudes professionalism during the event. Practice-a.k.a. subsequent readings and signings-will lend additional helpful hints to an author’s repertoire of trade secrets!

No Cost and Low Cost Giveaways

1. Scan your book cover. If your scanner isn’t of top quality, visit a copy center where a sharp scan is possible. You’ll use this scan in a variety of ways.

2. Turn the scan into bookmarks. Using your computer’s photo program, transfer the scan to bookmark templates. Add a few lines from the book, purchase information, author Web site, or endorsements. A copy center can laminate these bookmarks for a nominal fee.

3. Using your home printer, and a program like Microsoft Picture It! Publishing, transfer the scan to create wallet-size book covers. Print on card stock. Cut out and attach to something that relates to the book. Some past signings have found me attaching the scans to candy, pencils, and pens. When promoting A Cup of Comfort and A Cup of Comfort for Women for Adams Media, I attached wallet-sized covers to teabags.

4. If your publisher will release extra book covers, turn these into giveaways at no cost to you. Cut the front cover, sign it, and laminate. Fans (or prospective ones) will love having a signed book cover.

5. Do you have an unpublished short story or article in your document files? Copy and paste a head shot of yourself, sign it, and distribute a free “sneak preview” of some of your unpublished work.

6. Keep a loaded camera at your table. If someone seems particularly interested in you and your book, ask your assistant or the CRM to snap a photo of you together. Be sure to get an address and mail a copy of the photo.

7. Do you have a Web site or publish a newsletter pertaining to your published work? Pass out business cards inviting readers to visit the site or sign up for the newsletter (at no cost, of course!).

8. Does your book feature food? Does it mention a character’s favorite recipe? Serve samples at your signing. Be sure to include a printed recipe as a giveaway. My young adult novel, Lily’s Gift, featured Depression-Era recipes. I’ve served several at signings.

9. People love lists. Create a list that pertains to your book and print it on card stock. I offered lists of Tips to Preserve A Parent’s Sanity when promoting my book Breathe Deeply, This Too Shall Pass.

10. Host a contest or drawing. Invite guests to put their name in a box and donate a book as a prize. I’ve made up canvas tote bags with the book cover printed on them, and offered a book to fill the tote, too. Even though this giveaway costs a few dollars, the result is often a large addition to my mailing list.

Time and experience will serve to multiply this list substantially. A great way to get ideas for your own signings is to attend those of other authors.

Kimberly Ripley is a full-time freelance writer and author of four books. Her work has also appeared in several volumes of Chicken Soup for the Soul and other internationally acclaimed anthologies. She is the publisher of Freelancing Later in Life – a newsletter for prospective freelancers-and conducts a writing workshop of the same name. Kim lives in New Hampshire with her husband, her five children, and her faithful dog Philly.