I did two book signings in February and one last week. I was, to put it mildly, extremely nervous about this. I’m an introvert that doesn’t like meeting new people face to face. I don’t like pitching things to people after years of retail having to do just that. I really don’t like pitching my own book. It makes me anxious as hell.
And yet I did hold two successful signings. They weren’t successful in that I sold a lot of books. They were successful because I met a lot of people and generated some excitement.
I feel like when I schedule signings for Station 86, Volume one, I’ll be in a better position now that I kind of know what I’m doing. I’m hoping that the lesson’s I’ve learned will help me with my upcoming con as well.
If you, like me, are planning a signing and don’t particularly like meeting people, here are some things to keep in mind.
Start somewhere comfortable.
Every signing I’ve done has been in places I am familiar with, enjoy going to and know the staff of. I went to my two favorite coffee shops and my local bookstore. These are places that I am nearly as comfortable in as my own house.
I may have had a panic attack if I’d tried to go somewhere unfamiliar, and I’m not being dramatic. Now that I’ve done this a few times, I feel better about going somewhere less familiar, but I had to start somewhere I know.
Make plans in advance.
Most introverts know that a trip into the outside world is easier with a plan. I require a plan for going to run errands, because knowing exactly what I’m doing and exactly where I’m going makes me feel better.
Use this for your book signing, too. You need to have a conversation with the people hosting your event. You need to know when you’re going to be there, for how long, what the foot traffic is likely to be like, where you’ll be setting up. Surprises or unexpected circumstances can make for a stressful day.
Take your needs into consideration first.
While you’re making these plans, be sure to make your needs a priority. Remember, while you are a guest in this establishment, it is to their benefit if you’re a customer draw for them. They should want you to do well. So don’t be afraid to schedule your signing for a time you’re likely to be high energy and not get overstimulated. I scheduled for days when I knew that I could go home and rest after the signing, because I knew it was going to take something out of me.
If you’re going to be anxious with high foot traffic that’s not there for you, ask your host when a less busy time for them is. Consider what you can and cannot tolerate.
Ask the location what they’d like for you to provide, and what they would like to provide.
Here are some things that I feel like I should have thought of before my signing, but didn’t even think of until one of my hosts asked me about it. A table and chair. Two places I did a signing at wanted me to bring those in. So ask about that kind of thing.
Ask what you are and are not allowed to do.
Can you take pictures and put them up on social media? Can you take pictures of the staff? Can you talk to people as they come on, or would your host prefer that they approach you? Basically anything you intend to do besides sitting at your table and signing copies of your book, ask first. The book store wanted to run my books through their register. I was totally okay with this. I also made sure to tell them I was going to give away a free copy, so they were ready for that.
Make yourself feel good about how you look, but put comfort first.
I do love my makeup, and I love an excuse to get dolled up. But for my signing I stuck with simple things that I knew would look okay and be wearable.
Your book signing is not the time for new clothes that might itch, new shoes that might kill you if you wear them too long, or new makeup routines that might mess up your day.
Here’s the thing to remember. This is your book signing. You aren’t going to a job. This is your scene, and you can wear whatever you want. If you want to wear jeans and a t-shirt, go for it. If you want to dress up like your character, who am I to judge? So long as everything is clean and in good condition you’re good.
Invite people you love.
My best friend in the whole world came to my first signing. She just chatted with me in between talking to people, and helped me chat up my book. I couldn’t thank her enough.
If you have someone you love who’s prepared to be excited about your book, by all means invite them to come.
Have an elevator pitch prepared.
The number one question I got was, “What’s the book about?” Well, of course, that’s what you’re there to do. So have a quick explanation ready. You don’t have a lot of time for this. In my case, most people were in there to get a cup of coffee and leave. So they really were just killing time until their coffee was ready.
So I had just enough time to give them a quick explanation and give them a business card. That was it. So have something quick and short ready.
People love a local girl. At least, people in my hometown do. I had one guy buy a book just because I was a local girl. So it doesn’t make a bit of sense to travel way out of your way to do a signing when you’re more likely to be successful close to home.
Have business cards to hand out.
I’m sorry to tell you this, but most people who come to see you are not going to buy your book that day.
But if you can give them a little something to remember them by they may buy it later. (No, I’m not suggesting prostitution.)
This is especially useful if you have books that are free or cheaper than the book you’re signing that day. Or, if you have your own fiction up on the site. Get some business cards made up with your website, the title of your book and whatever email address you want the general public to have. I used Vistaprint, and was very happy with what I got.
I also suggest only having printing on one side of your card and leave the other side blank. I talked to a reader who wasn’t all about fantasy, but loved her a good mystery novel. So I wrote down some of my favorite mystery writers, including some indie writers she hadn’t heard of before. It never hurts to have some writing space.
Understand that walk ins aren’t necessarily prepared to buy your book right then.
Your signing is in a public place. Somewhere people go to on a regular basis. Along with the people who show up just to see you, there will be people who show up just to buy coffee.
Don’t take that personal. You’re an unexpected element to these people. It could be that, if they had known you would be there, they would have been delighted and prepared to buy a book. It could be that they don’t give a damn that you’re there and they just want to do whatever they’re there to do and leave.
You cannot control this, and you’ll upset people if you try. Unless you’re holding a closed event, invite only, walk ins are happening.
Understand that, at first, most of the people attending will be walk ins.
In fact, walk ins are probably going to be most of what you get, just starting out. Look, I’m going to share something kind of silly with you all. Before my signings, I stand in front of my bathroom mirror and tell myself this.
“I am a published writer, part of the entertainment industry. I am going to this thing as the talent. People are coming to see me, to talk to me. People are going to be excited to get my autograph.”
This little pep talk is super, helps me get out the door, and is kind of not true. My hosts treat me like the talent. The people in their stores do not. I am not a big name pull just yet. I do not yet have fans losing their minds to meet me.
That day may come, but it’s not today.
Embrace it. Make new fans.
Try to give away a book if you can.
Everyone loves something free, but I actually have another reason for suggesting this. I had a woman come to one of my signings with her daughter. She actually didn’t know I was going to be there. Her daughter picked out a few books from a 50 cent rack. The mom was literally counting dimes for those books.
Do I need to tell you that I’ve been there? I’ve stood in a store, surrounded by expensive, lovely books that I wanted so bad it ached and counted out the small bits of money I had to buy a clearance book for my daughter. My heart ached for this woman, and the woman I had been.
I was so excited to give that woman a copy of my book. And man, did it make her day. I was able to do that because I had already accounted for that loss.
Make it fun.
It should be fun. You worked hard to make it this far, Baby! You wrote that book, you got it published one way or another. You poured your sweat, blood and tears into this book. This is your day to finally stand up and tell the whole world, or at least the whole coffee shop, “Look what I did!”
So have fun with it. You deserve it.