Monday, October 18, 2010

Book Signings

A table full of my books, Mary Connealy's books, and Cheryl Ricker's books at a recent book signing.

Last week, I read a blog post by Jody Hedlund in which she asked the question "Are book signings worth the time and effort?" and while they might be good for connecting with readers, in her opinion book signings are an outdated method of selling books. You can read that post HERE. Be sure to read the comments as well, as there are lots of points of view expressed there.

Jody's post got me to thinking about my own experience with book signings. Do I think they are worth it? I'd like to pose a few thoughts on why I think book signings are a great idea for writers.

A disclaimer here: I have only been published for a year. I am by no means an expert on book signings or book sales. These are just my opinions, the world as I see it.

The Marriage Masquerade, my second novel, holding the #2 Fiction Best Seller spot at Christian Book and Gift.
 Reasons I think Book Signings are a great way to sell books:

  • People get to put a person to the words you've written. I have a lot of writer friends, and I am always eager to buy the books of people I know. If I have to choose between buying the book of a total stranger or the book of someone I've met, I tend to give a lot more consideration to the person I've met. I'm sure this isn't unique to me.
  • You show you're willing to make an effort, and you care about your readers. It's all very well saying that you're busy. But you want to know a secret? The people who come in to the book signing to meet you and buy your book, they are busy, too. They made the effort to come out and see you when they had plenty of other things demanding their time.
  • You show good will toward your publisher. If the publisher asks you to do a book signing, GO! The marketing departments are doing all they can to sell your book, and they expect (and rightly so) that you will be part of that team. They're willing to help with the publicity, the posters, getting the books there. All you have to do is show up and be nice. :) The next time an opportunity comes up for them to send an author to a book signing, will you be thier "Go-To" author, or will they skip you in favor of someone more willing to be willing?
  • You show good will toward the bookstore. It doesn't do your reputation as an author any good if the bookstore calls your publisher and asks if you can come do a book signing, and you turn them down with an, "It's not worth my time and effort for the number of books I will sell." The bookstore certainly won't be eager to invite you again. No one enjoys hearing a no. Also, it is the bookstore staff that is on the front lines, selling your work. The bookstore isn't obligated to stock your book, or to recommend your book to readers who come into the store. A little good will here can go a long way toward selling books.
  • You are representing your publisher and other authors who write for them. If the book signing is a positive, upbeat experience for the book seller and the people who come in, you have paved the way for future events for your publisher and their authors. The bookstore owner/event planner will remember that you were great to work with and be more inclined to go back to that source (your publisher) when it comes time for another event. Face it, if your publisher is flourishing and has a good reputation with book sellers, this can only be good for you.
  • Often a book signing is a good chance to meet other authors or share the event. I've been blessed to do shared book signings with Mary Connealy. I can't tell you how helpful this was to me as a new author, to have someone so personable and enjoyable as Mary alongside me while doing a book signing. I always find it easier to talk about someone else's work than my own, and I am a BIGTIME Mary Connealy fan, so pitching her books to customers comes easily. When you share the book signing with another author, you always have someone to talk to between signing books and meeting readers, you can help them as much as they help you by talking about their books to customers, and you have made an industry contact on a personal level that you can't get via email or Facebook, etc.

Meeting some sweet ladies who had bought my books earlier in the week and returned to have them signed.
I think there is a danger in looking at the sales numbers from a single event and dubbing it a success or a failure based solely on that. What you've done by attending a book signing event is sow the seeds for future book sales. It's possible that someone who came to the event will buy your book when they otherwise wouldn't have, love your work, and put you on their 'automatic buy' list. It's possible that someone saw the posters and announcements, but couldn't make it to the book signing that day. They might come in and buy the book later instead. It's possible that the bookstore staff will be more excited and eager to sell your books, to stock them and to recommend them to the patrons after you've come and put a face to the name with a kind spirit behind it. It's possible that by showing up and being positive, you've paved the way for future events at that store, not just for you, but for you fellow authors at your publishing house. You might possibly get to meet and network with other authors and learn about their work.

I'd have to say that any opportunity to be a good ambassador for your work and your publisher is one to be embraced. You're sowing the seeds of book sales that might reap you a fine harvest later.

At a book signing, you're not just trying to sell books. You're selling yourself, your publishing house, your fellow authors from that publishing house, and hopefully future books that you might write.

So, what are your thoughts about book signings? Have you had a book signing? Have you been to book signings? Did it affect your perceptions of the author? Did it influence your buying habits?


  1. I love your points here, especially showing readers you care. There's something about face to face interaction.

    I know I'll want to do them for that reason and the other reasons you listed.

    Great post!
    ~ Wendy

  2. As a reader, I'd be less inclined to buy a book if I heard the author make remarks about what a waste of time it was to meet the public. I'd rather give my loyalty and support to someone who appreciated it.

  3. Thanks for sharing, Erica. It's a tough one: I turned down an opportunity that was a thousand-mile round trip last August because I thought other authors were going to be there with me, and they weren't. I publish, except for one Barbour book, with smaller houses. I knew few people in the area, and a thousand-mile round trip in that case couldn't be justified for just lil old me. I still feel bad about it, though. I'd like to think that the ten people I might have talked to would have each talked to ten more...but I'm just not so sure.

  4. Lisa makes a valid point. It sure helps if the publisher will cover some, if not all, of the traveling expenses. A thousand mile round trip for a single book signing would have to be carefully considered. That being said, if the opportunity arises, one might consider contacting other stores along the way, contacting other authors in the area, etc. Trying to get more bang for the buck.

  5. You make some great points here, Erica. I definitely agree that while a singular book signing might not produce great sales, it paves the way for so many other things in the future, including readers being more likely to buy your next books. It gets that word of mouth thing going, too, which can be an excellent sales tool.

  6. Oh I think you make a fantastic point! Its not about the sales it's about the relationships!!! It could even be considered a ministry! BTW, you floored me when you said you've only been published a year. How is that possible? You have a tone of books out? Please explain so my head wont hurt. Or DM. =)

  7. I love that picture of you--you look so authorly!

    It'd be SUPER hard for me to do a signing because I'm an introvert. That said, I agree that it's all about creating goodwill with readers, publishers, and bookstores.

  8. I think I'd probably do whatever the publisher told me to do! Unless there was a super valid reason to say no.

  9. This gives me a different perspective on signings. I don't like the self-promotion aspect of them but have considered them as part of "doing my share" in the marketing. Seeing them as a benefit also to the store owners and publishers makes sense. Thanks for this, Erica.

  10. Erica acts like I'm the pro, but we were in HER backyard. There was a SWARM of people around her and she very graciously pointed a few of them my way.

    So, it was a great deal for me. And it was an especially nice deal with a Grand Opening for a bookstore that'd had some tough luck, so we got to make it even more of an event than just the games and food and general carnival atmosphere. A great event.

    Of course just getting to see Erica is the MAIN event. :)

  11. I have friends who have had to set up their own book signings. Not every publisher is willing or able to set these up.

    This was a very thoughtful post, and it really made me think. Wish I lived closer so I could have attended yours!