A few subjects create a lot of discussion and disagreement when it comes to being an author, and one of them is most certainly the subject of book signings. Many people, typically based on personal experience, will deem them to be a complete waste of time. But are they really?
Book signings can be very valuable to any author, even if you are a relatively unknown newbie. Most of your career is spent sat by yourself and this is an opportunity to meet readers, meet the staff at the bookstores, help get the word out about your new book and generally meet your readers.
Let’s take a brief look at some of the benefits and downsides of book signings along with a couple of alternatives you can also consider that are now available to us thanks to the internet.
Connect With Your Fans
As an author, your number one job if you want to sell books is to connect with your fans. There are many different ways to do this and of course, nowadays using the internet is very convenient.
Book signings may be old school, but they’re still a very useful way to connect personally with your fans. Although you will get some that are attended by very few fans, they are generally still worth it.
It is hard to replace meeting and to spend a few minutes chatting with an author you enjoy.
Don’t let your reader miss out on that!
Plus, the more of your readers you get to meet personally, the more likely they are to bring up your name in chats and discussions if they discuss books and authors with friends.
I think everybody nowadays is familiar with the concept of branding. It’s no longer enough just to write a well-written novel. It is essential that you build a brand around your books and your name.
Readers are obviously drawn to familiar writers that they have purchased and enjoyed reading in the past, so it makes sense to make sure the author’s name is treated more like a brand to ensure it is exposed in the best possible.
Book signings are one excellent way of building your brand. You should think about this right from your very first novel.
One of the best things about signings is that they are almost entirely within the author’s control. They’re typically not arranged directly by your agent or publisher, although they may help and advise you, so you can book and arrange them however you see fit.
Whenever you release a new book, make sure to put some effort into doing at least some book signings, particularly if you can arrange them within a convenient distance from your house in larger cities and bookstores.
Word Of Mouth
As much as we love seeing our name in advertising trying to sell a new novel, word of mouth is likely one of the most important.
Many people will try a new offer based on a recommendation from a friend or family member. You can help increase the likelihood of word of mouth working for you by having a book signing.
For a reader interested in your book, it is a cool little story to tell someone you met with the author, chatted with him for a few minutes and got a personally signed copy of the new release. Word-of-mouth stories like this can help spread your name.
It’s essential to stick with this, especially if you’re a new author, as building a fan base can be a long process. You need momentum, so meeting people in person can help this process immensely if done right.
Meeting Book Buyers and Staff
It can be easy to forget there are others you need to sell your book to in addition to the reading public. One of the most critical is the staff in bookstores.
Going to a store to do a book signing is also an ideal opportunity to introduce yourself to the staff and, importantly, the book buyer. If you are a friendly and exciting author, it may make it more likely they will display your book a little more prominently than your fellow authors.
Meeting you may also mean that they may recommend your book to a customer if the opportunity comes up responding to a customer question.
Again, remember that getting your name, face and book titles front and center for as many people as possible is the name of the game.
Local Media Opportunity
As we know, the chances of getting into the media get more difficult every year. Doing a book signing will allow you to make sure you are featured in the local press.
Try to arrange with the bookstore to do some local promotion such as distributing flyers, putting up posters and hopefully getting an article in the local newspaper.
If they do not, you should try to use this opportunity to personally speak to someone at the local paper to try to get at least a brief story with your name and picture discussing the signing.
The worst they can say is no, right?
Read to arrange your own?
Call independent book stores directly and ask to speak to someone to arrange it.
For information on Barnes and Noble start here: How to Be Considered for an Author Event
There are some downsides that you need to consider and decide if the positives are still worth the effort of overcoming these problems.
The first is that this process can be very time-consuming.
As already mentioned, book signings are generally not managed and arranged by your publisher or your agent. Therefore, most of the work is typically your responsibility.
It can take a lot of time to speak to bookstores and locations, define places that will welcome you and lots of time to actually travel to, from and attend the book signing.
All this time you’re spending doing this is time you could be writing, editing or planning your next novel.
Low Attendance, Low Sales
Many of these events very typically have pretty low attendance. Unless you are a very well-known author, you are unlikely to get long queues of people waiting to meet you and get signatures.
It is more likely you have a few dozen people on a good day. Even if they all buy a hardcover book, your percentage of a few dozen sales will still only be a few dollars, likely less than you spent attending.
This does not mean it is a waste of time. Remember that every sale adds to your sales numbers and every reader you meet will hopefully lead to personal recommendations further down the line.
There are a couple of alternatives you can try that may help you get some of the benefits of an in-person book signing but will save you a lot of time traveling around.
Virtual Book Signings
One thing that has been tried successfully is having a virtual book signing.
Basically, it’s a virtual meeting where you can still do a book reading and then chat with some readers just as you do in person.
The difference with this is that you arrange to have books you have signed mailed out to your readers later.
Steaming Q and A
Similarly, you can also arrange a live Q&A streaming session and miss out on the signing peace. The nice thing about these is that you can have people attending from anywhere in the world to one session rather than being restricted to just people from a local town near the bookstore you are attending
Sponsored by a particular bookstore
Don’t forget to think about trying to have both of these types of events sponsored if you can.
You could possibly do a virtual book signing or Q&A session sponsored by a Boston bookstore, for example. Although anybody could attend, you can arrange with a particular bookstore to add specific topics related to the particular bookstore or local town that works for them.
Here is an interesting video on YouTube from Bethany Atazadeh on how to set up a book signing.
So, as you can see, the subject of book signings is not simple. There are many benefits, many of which are pretty intangible. If you try to think of these in terms of cold, hard sales numbers, then they are simply not worth it.
The most significant benefit of these is thinking of them as part of your long-term brand-building strategy.
Use them to slowly and steadily meet and get to know your readership and hopefully expand with every book and signing you do.
The main thing to keep in mind is that you do not have to be in person nowadays.
We have the internet, so be inventive with modern virtual alternatives that work for you!
Do you do book signings? Do they work for you? What alternative do you use?
Let us know in the comments below so we can all benefit from some new ideas.