Hey! It’s Monday! I hope your weekend was a good one.
Almost three years ago, I wrote a post about the myth of the book store signing (here’s a link if you want to read it: https://katemariecollins.wordpress.com/2014/10/03/the-myth-of-the-book-store-signing/). Now that I’m doing these on a monthly basis, I wanted to talk about the reality of these events.
First off, don’t go into one expecting to have a crowd of people waiting for you. Most often than not, people will think you work for the store initially. At my first Barnes & Noble event, I barely sold more books than I got asked where the restroom was. LOL. I turned it into a game at one point.
Second, expect to have long blocks of time (could be an hour straight) where no one comes over and wants to know who you are. You shouldn’t be on your phone much, or reading a book. Basically, don’t do something that makes people think they would be interrupting you. You’re going to have to sit there, smile, try to engage people who keep walking past you, and be bored.
Third, be nice to the staff! Don’t be that jerk author who is demanding that they announce you’re there every 15 minutes because there’s people in the store but no one’s paying attention to you. Don’t sigh, look bored, and snap at staff who are really there to do their job. Which doesn’t include catering to you and your whims. They gave you a table, chair, and ordered your books (or let you bring your own). They don’t get paid to fetch you water, or manhandle customers into talking to you.
Think of it this way. If you walked into a book store and saw an author, how would you approach them? How would you expect them to respond to you? Would you go up to someone who’s got their face in a Kindle or a phone? Who wore a look of utter boredom and exasperation?
In order to draw in readers, you have to be the type of author you’d want to approach. Yes, it’s a major accomplishment to get ‘big enough’ to get a book store signing. That doesn’t mean you get to unleash your ego and let it run amok. Put your ego aside and be humble.
Oh, and make sure you’re not bathed in perfume or cologne. You want to be clean, but a lot of people have allergies to scents. They won’t come closer if the aroma’s so strong that they can taste it from ten feet away.
3 thoughts on “The Reality of a Book Store Signing”
When I do signings, I also always make sure I have something fun to give out, maybe a bookmark or a sticker with my info on it. Also, because I’m a bit of an introvert, I have a list of questions at the ready that I can ask people, just in case there’s that “awkward” silence.
It isn’t easy but over time, engaging is the best way to draw them in. My line usually starts out with, “Hi, how are you today?” Then I move into, “Local author, what do you like to read?” Usually they’ll move closer. If they say they don’t read then after a quick assessment to see if they are looking to run or not, LOL, I’ll say, “Well, maybe it’s a good time to try a new book. Maybe it will get you interested again.” Most of the time they get close up and inspect the books. Several times, they purchased. I also agree with SC Alban, always have promo items. They can range from book marks to rack cards to trinkets that are in some way associated to the book. These are all workable tools but the truth remains, like Katemarie said, plan on long spans of smiles and nothing else. But, if one person comes over and buys a book, remember, you now have one more reader than when you started.
There’s another issue in play here too: body language. Your arms should be generally at your sides, not squinched around you like you’re being attacked by a python. Open arms are welcoming, not hostile. They draw people in, not shut them out. Keep direct eye contact. If you’re looking all over the place, people find you off-putting and with good reason. Add to that a smile and a warm greeting, and people will generally feel more relaxed around you. Don’t forget that they might be nervous about coming up to see you, so invite them in!
And show genuine interest in *them.* Use a warm and friendly tone of voice. Don’t be a hungry author–be one who is sensitive to the kinds of things your prospective buyers like to read. You are not a used car salesman. You are an author whose job is to engage once and future readers, and you do that by presenting your best,self.