Book signings – despite the fear associated with them – can be an extremely useful marketing tool. You get to meet real readers for one, you grow your confidence and sell books. Alexa Nazzaro, ALLi Partner member and founder of www.aaxelauthorservices.com, has a ton of creative ideas to show you how to leverage book signings.
How to Leverage Book Signings
There are several good reasons to hold a book signing event, including to enhance visibility, sell some books, and to simply practice what it’s like being a “public” author. For many authors, unfortunately, the results are often disappointing, which is a shame. Sure, the famous ones will always have their line-up of fans, but with even the smallest dose of creativity, emerging authors can leave their mark. Here are some of the elements that can optimize your visibility at a book signing event.
A Winning Set Up
You begin with a standard table and chair, but your set-up shouldn’t end there. A table cloth and banner can make a difference. Depending on the event, you might even consider putting up two banners: one by your table and one at the venue entrance. Have a postcard or bookmark to hand out. People are generally shy, so if they have something to look at, they’ll be more willing to stop.
You want a record of this event, and pictures on your mother’s phone don’t cut it. If hiring a professional is out of your budget, scout your network for a competent photographer with a good camera. I recommend at least the following pictures:
- You holding a copy of your book
- You signing a copy
- A group of people around your table, from behind, so faces cannot be seen. (This picture is important because you look like an author with fans.) If you’re at a bookstore, ask to have your book displayed on their shelving for the event—and take a picture!
Hire a Host/Hostess
Unlike the friends who help you behind-the-scenes, your host/hostess plays a vital role in your event, so be assiduous in your selection. Some essential traits of a host are friendliness, excellent communication skills, and charisma. Beyond this, your host should reflect your target readership in terms of age/gender. This host would be tasked with greeting people (and drawing them to your table), talking about your book, and inviting them to participate in whatever activity you’re organizing (more on that below). I always tell authors to view this as a job, and if nobody in your circle fits the bill, post an ad—a competent host is worth it!
Everyone wants to win something, so run a contest for a prize that’s aligned with your book’s topic or genre. Book baskets have worked for several of my authors, especially for bookstore signings. If you’re a children’s author, assemble some of your favourites. If you write dystopian fiction, include some hot titles in this genre. Always, of course, include your own book!
While book baskets are pretty much a sure thing, it’s certainly not the only thing. One of my authors runs a coaching business and she offers complimentary consultation. Another author writes for young children and raffles off a collection of childcare products.
If you have more of a budget, offer a special swag item to your first ten or fifteen buyers. Along with serving as an incentive for someone to purchase your book, this item promotes your book long after the event ends—provided it’s used, and therein lies the challenge. Lest your item appear gimmicky, take the time to think of something original. Sure, people always need a pen, but is this item pertinent to your book’s message and readers? The classic water bottle, for instance, would work quite nicely for a book on fitness. If you’ve written a book on goal-setting, a nicely designed to-do list would be appropriate. For one of my middle grade fiction authors, we decided to reward the first twenty buyers with a small knapsack branded with a character from her book. Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, your swag item needs to have value and make sense.
Thought often the trickiest part of planning a book signing, thinking of a game or activity is almost guaranteed to get them talking about you and your book—even if they don’t buy a copy. Something that works for my children’s authors are printouts of illustrations from the book for children to colour. Don’t forget crayons so they can colour them on the spot and enter a colouring contest. (Collect parents’ email addresses to notify the winner—and build your mailing list!)
[ALLi edit – make sure if you do this, you’re crystal clear on the form that by writing their email address down, they’re signing up to a mailing list. Always check GDPR rules and ensure you’re compliant.]
If you’ve written a non-fiction book that provides guidance on a topic, create some quizzes for people to take (obviously these would all be branded with your name, book title and URL). You can keep it simple by already generating a scoring system (think of those magazine “test yourself” quizzes), or (and I recommend) ask people to provide you an email address and you can send them their score with personalized recommendations. If your book is historical (including historical fiction), come up with a trivia game. History buffs won’t be able to resist.
To promote a young adult book at a large book expo, I created a “high school confessions” booth, where people had to write down a real teen confession. The board became the talk of the event!
Gamification creates results: Along with being fun, games make you memorable and build your mailing list (provided you capture those email addresses!). If you only sell ten books but collect twenty-five names and email addresses, consider your event a success. These are people you can now reach out to about your books.
The ultimate goal for any author event is to sell books, and you often have to begin by connecting with people and providing them something that draws them to you. Ensuring your event is well-planned and includes creative programming requires more work but is worth it. Not only will you enjoy yourself more (who wants to be that author sitting alone at their table anyways?), but you’ll stand out—not just show up—and that’s what a successful book event is all about.Learn How You Can Maximize Your Book Signing #selfpublishing #IARTG #ASMRG #amwriting #writingcommunity #writetip Click To Tweet
OVER TO YOU
What creative ideas have you come up with to leverage book signings? Have you done a book signing? What activities did you organize for it?
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