How to Do a Book Signing
I suppose first, I should make clear that I've never done a huge book signing at a major library or bookstore. But I have done a book signing at my local library and it was one of the funnest nights I've had in a long time.
Our local librarian, like most great librarians, is uber-supportive of writers. Especially local writers. We live in a small town so a visit to the library isn't just about checking out books. It's social time with one of the coolest ladies in our town. When I was first publishing Dark Mountains, she told me she wanted to host a book signing for me after it was published. I told her that would be cool and kind of blew it off. I was a soon-to-be self-published author from a teeny-tiny town in the middle of Illinois. No one would want me to sign their books for them.
Shortly after publishing, she asked again and I said yes and we set a date for a few months later. It would be in the evening, after most people would be off work, and not as busy as they would be on the weekend. She agreed to provide cake and punch and I told her I would plan all the advertising. She offered to help hand out fliers and spread the word. In the two months leading up to my book signing, I made a checklist of what I wanted to do.
Before Your Event
1) Make Flyers
These flyers should include your name, the name of your book and the date, time and location of the book signing and contact information for you or for the location of the event. Include anything pertinent, like if you were hosting a give-away or door prizes. Put the flyers everywhere. Gas Stations, restaurants, libraries, book stores, public notice areas, etc.
2) Make a sign-up sheet for reserved copies.
I was slightly worried that I wouldn't order enough books and thought this would help ensure the people that were coming, that they'd have a copy. I left a copy at the library and kept one at home. You can also have them write their preferences for how they'd like it personalized. It may save you time writing the messages out before hand and just signing them in person.
3) Order plenty of books in plenty of time to have them printed and shipped.
I ordered 50, really not expecting to need any more than that. A month out from the event, my tally sheets for reserved copies were already nearing 30 so I ordered another 25 books
4) Make bookmarks or leaflets.
Bookmarks are best since they can actually be used by your readers. On one side, your name, book title and contact info (website, email, blog, etc). On the other side you can have the blurb from your book, quotes from reviews of your book, your author bio, etc.
5) Raffle Prize
I chose to do this to draw in more people. I gave away two prizes. Anyone that came to the book signing could fill out a slip for a chance to win one of the prizes and wouldn't have to be present to win. The prizes I got were a Kindle Paperwhite eReader and a $25 Amazon gift card (for anyone that already had an eReader). Also both prizes came with a signed copy of my book.
6) Mailing List
This is an important way to keep in touch with the people who attend your book signing. They are your readers and will want to know when you have more books coming out. Make it simple with just their name and email address.
7) Invite on Social Media and local news
Let me be very clear: This should NOT be the only thing you do to reach people. Neither should it be something you miss. Social media is a powerful tool. If you live in or close to a major city, this could skyrocket the number of people at your event. Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Shelfari, your blog, Google+, etc. Put the event invite and all the details on every site you are active on. Also, contact your local papers, radio stations and TV stations. Let them know you are a local author with a book signing coming up. Who knows? You might end up getting interviewed by one of them!
8) Make a sign to put up outside of the event.
This will vary depending on where your event is at but if they have room for a sign, get one made. Some businesses and library will have a board already set up and can put up your event info prior to the date. Be aware of how much money you spend and what you spend it on. Signs can be expensive to make. I had a canvas sign printed with weatherproofing and extra strength ties and it blew away over a week before the event. (Thank you stupid Illinois winds). It would've been cheaper to make a sturdy plywood sign myself and paint the information on it by hand.
9) Stay in Contact with Your Host
Whether it be a store, library or whatever, keep in contact with your host. Chances are, this won't be their first event so they will have plenty of advice and ideas on how to make it a success.
If your host isn't providing something, you need to. Food is a major draw to people. If your event is in a major bookstore, the lure of a free cookie or piece of cake may be the one thing that gets someone to check out your set-up and may end up with a sale and a new fan. Cookies and cupcakes are great and easy to feed a lot of people with. My host ordered a cake from a local bakery that supports the library. She had them decorate the cake to match the cover of my book (which was amazing) and provided punch.
11) Figure out if you are only SIGNING or if you will be speaking as well.
For me, I knew my book signing was going to be smaller in terms of attendance and unless the people coming lived IN my town, they'd be driving at least 10 minutes to come. So I wanted to give them all that I could for making the effort to come. I flirted with the idea of doing a little talk on self-publishing but I had to remind myself that I wasn't at a writer's conference where people wanted and needed to hear that kind of information. This was a small town book signing with a majority of people being family and friends. So I decided to do a question and answer session. This worried me a bit because I wasn't sure if anyone would ask anything. Also, you never know what people will ask, so if you aren't comfortable with speaking in public or coming up with answers on-the-fly, this option might not be for you. As it was, I had lots of questions like where I got my inspiration, coming up with names for characters, being an author and a full-time mom, what it's like to write, specific questions about characters (which pleased me to no end that a lot of the people had actually READ the book before coming), and what I was going to publish next. It was a lot of fun and it really is an enjoyable experience being able to interact with your readers and fans.
12) Write a message in your books.
First decide on WHAT you want to write. It can be as simple as Best Wishes! or Thanks for your support, or more elaborate. In Dark Mountains, I wrote: 'Never give up on a happily ever after!' in all my books. It fit in really well with what the story was about. Messages should be written on the cover page or first blank page of your book. DON'T sign your book yet. Save that for the event. But you'll save a TON of time by pre-writing your message (not to mention avoiding a horrible hand cramp!). Make sure you save room for any personal massages you may want to write and for your signature.
At the Book Signing
I can't begin to tell you how nervous I was. I figured no one would show up. Boy was I wrong. I had nearly 40 people show up in my town of 400 and sold even more books than that. I had a few people buy more than 4 copies to give as gifts. I was so busy that I ended up forgetting to be nervous as soon as the event started. Have a few helpers that know you and your book to help people buy books, show them where to sign up for things, direct them to your table, take pictures, etc.
1) Have them sign up for anything as soon as they walk in.
Raffle prizes, mailing list, bookmarks, buying your book. This should all be done when they first walk in or towards where you are set-up. Have someone else in charge of selling books and explaining things. You will be way too busy greeting people.
2) Greet your guests
Feel free to wander around and greet your guests. Chances are you'll know most of them but say hello, shake hands and make eye contact anyway! If you are in a major store or library, walk around and introduce yourself to people before the event starts. Hand them a free bookmark. Let them know there are snacks once the event starts. You may just pull in a new reader that didn't even realize you were having an event!
3) Have Them Enjoy Refreshments During #2
This one's pretty self-explanatory.
4) Begin With Speaking
Introduce yourself and your book. If you aren't speaking, this is where you stop. If you are speaking, then start your session: question and answer, talk about writing, or something else related to you and your book. This is a good ice breaker, a good way for you to get to know the people at your event, and a great way for them to get to know you.
5) Sign Your Books
If you know the reader personally or if they ask for a more personal note, add it under what you've already written. Sign your name and date it. TRY to use your best handwriting! ;) This would be a great time to remind you to bring plenty of high quality pens! I will tell you this: Try not to talk to people as you're writing. I kept answering questions while talking with readers and two books were ruined as a result of. I started writing what we were talking about! Seriously! You wouldn't believe how hard it is to focus on signing your name or writing a short note when someone is asking you a question!
6) Thank your guests and your host.
Both these things are very important. No one HAD to come to your event so make sure you sincerely thank them for attending your book signing and supporting you. At the same time, you never would've HAD a book signing if it hadn't been for your host so be SURE to thank them properly as well!
After the book signing
1) Make sure you sent a heart-felt thank you note to your host.
If you had your book signing in a small town store or library, consider donating them a copy of your book with the thank you.
2) Write a newsletter and send it out with all your new contacts gained by the sign-up sheet at your event.
Newsletters are a whole other blog post but I'll give you this little gem for now: Newsletters are exclusive to people who go out of their way to sign up for them. DO NOT put the same info in them that you've been putting on your blog or Facebook. You can put the links in for those things, but make sure your newsletter is containing new and fresh information for your readers.
3) Thank everyone again for attending via social media and post some of the great pictures you took during the event.
4) Notify your prize winners and get their prizes to them. :)