Not only is it possible to move a surprising amount of books at a signing, but it is also a great way for a new author to get used to being “on display” in public. There isn’t the same pressure to perform and entertain as there is at a reading. It is a much more comfortable arena to learn how to talk about (sell) your book to readers.
Although each bookstore does things a little differently, the process for setting up a book signing is fairly standard. It’s a matter of contacting the store’s event coordinator to arrange a mutually available date (Saturday’s are often best for retail traffic) and providing consignment copies of your book to them ahead of time. Sometimes, there is a basic fee involved to cover co-op advertising. In this instance, both the author and the bookstore each agree to pay 50% for any ads that are placed to promote the event. Other than that, the only investment is your books (which, presumably, you already purchased beforehand) and your time (signings generally last for two to three hours during an afternoon).
The bookstore will set up a display table for you ahead of time. From there, it is up to you to engage customers in conversation and convince them to buy your book. You sign it for them and then direct them to the bookstore’s checkout to pay for it. When the event is over, the bookstore will send you payment for your portion of the profits (which is typically 60% of the retail price). They may choose to keep additional consignment copies of your book on hand if they feel there is a good chance they can sell them, or they may return any leftover copies to you.
To improve the success of your signing, it’s a good idea to do your own self-promotion rather than relying solely on bookstore traffic. One way to generate buzz is to post event notices in community newspapers and on as many nearby bulletin boards as possible. Of course, there is no substitute for inviting your friends and family members to these events. (I can always count on my mother to buy up half the stock in one fell swoop!)
Who else can add to this entry about book signings? Any advice for new authors to help them make their own events more successful?
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