The Myth of the Book Store Signing

Yes, I know it’s Friday. Hush. I got spoiled, so I’m passing it on. LOL.

Every author has, at one point, had the same daydream. The one where you’re doing a signing at a major bookstore. There you sit, at a small table, looking sharp and having a line of people chatting with you. Some have waited hours to meet you, out in the cold.

It’s a myth. It’s not going to happen for several years, possibly decades. Don’t ever kid yourself that it’s going to happen two weeks after you release your first book if you don’t already have a few important things.

1. Name recognition: are you a celebrity? Does your photo grace the cover of a tabloid? Are you a candidate for political office? Did you just win an Oscar, Emmy, or Grammy? Get out of prison after serving time for a crime you didn’t commit? Escape from a life of captivity? Is your book the basis for a major motion picture? Do you already have an established reader base of several thousand loyal fans who buy your book three seconds after it becomes available?

2. Connections: do you know the manager at the store? Are you with an agent? Did you hire a publicist? Is your publishing house really big and have a dedicated marketing department?

First time authors, new authors, people whose books are still being found by readers are NOT going to get that signing event. Why? Because bookstores want to host authors who are going to bring in customers. Ones that will browse, and buy, while they wait for you. The ones who will spend $100 between coffee and books so they have something to read or sip while they listen to you/wait their turn.

They want authors who will bring in readers. Period.

It’s not that they don’t encourage new authors. Heck, we’re the backbone of their business. Without new authors and new stories, there wouldn’t be new bookstores, just used ones. But, at the end of the day, they want to make money. And they’re not going to do that by hosting an author no one’s heard about.

Don’t think of it as a lost dream. See it as a goal. One that you’re going to have to work towards, spend hours cultivating a readership who will start laying the groundwork FOR you. Because they’re going to go into a store and ask about your titles. They’re going to create a buzz, get managers to start noticing they’re getting multiple requests for a single title/author.

It takes time. Perseverance. It will not happen two weeks, two months, possibly even two years after your first title released.

So stop acting like it will and do the work instead of expecting it to be handed to you. Because you haven’t earned that line yet.


14 thoughts on “The Myth of the Book Store Signing

      • You’re absolutely right. By that time I’ll be able to afford an app-operated trapdoor complete with stakes, zombies and a dragon. “How many copies did you buy?” “One.” Into the shoot you go. 🙂

      • Nah, I’d just contemplate putting them into my next book so I could kill them in an interesting manner. There’s much to be said for eviscerating someone in fiction. Especially when they don’t realize it.

  1. Yes, my whole mindset changed about “book signings” when I saw a very sad one in person. Nothing more hype-destroying than seeing an author, lonely, at a table with her books… and no one walking over. Yeesh.

    • Brianna, a lot of how we see it is how we as authors perceive it. I had one last night. Sold three books, two to people I knew before the event. And I spent a lot of time simply smiling at people who walked by. It was, yes, lonely at times. But the moments when people did come chat with me made up for it, even if they didn’t buy my books. It’s about taking risks and connecting with at least one new reader, not how big the line is.

      • Well, I am maybe waaaaay too insecure for that. 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed yours. I guess it’s all in the attitude. It reminds me that I have a friend who worked at Walmart, and when I asked her if it irritated her when she found items stashed here and there that she had to put away… she said, “No! I love it! It’s like a little game… Look what I found in the cereal aisle! panties!”

      • I guess I do see it as a game of sorts! LOL. Can I lure them in with a smile and ‘hello’? Okay, now can I reel them into at least looking at the blurb on the back of one? But it’s less about sales and more about name recognition. Even the people who didn’t buy last night may be cruising Amazon one day, see one of my titles, and have it jog their memory.

  2. I was doing a book signing in a small bookshop in Carlisle, England. No queue but quite pleasing. Then two young women came in through the doorway and headed straight for me. Yay! As I readied my signing pen one of them looked past me and said, “Excuse, love, but you’re in the way of Spot the Dog.”

  3. Had one book signing that the store manager said was the best they’d ever had. Got pumped! The next one, didn’t sell one book! Kinda like playing golf… a really good shot will almost certainly be followed by enough bad ones to restore your humility. 🙂

  4. One thing you can do is to bring in your amazon reviews. We don’t pay anyone amazoning to review our books, and that lends a lot of credence to our work.But make them easy and accessible to people–don’t have them fish through pages and pages. Choose the key phrases of your reviews for each title, put them in a nice format, and have them with each title.Reviews also make nice postcard promo material. I like to do the book cover as the front of the card, and on the back have the book blurb, teasers, and key phrase reviews, ending the postcard with an invitation to visit me at Cyn Ley on Even if they don’t buy your books then, give them a postcard with a smile and thank them for coming by.

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