Bookstore signings are still a popular form of marketing for most authors. Here’s how to set one up and ensure you sell books during it.
Call the Bookstore at Least 3 Months in Advance
Bookstores tend to set up their in-store events and signings a few months in advance. This is especially true leading up to Christmas time. So, if your book in being published in the late summer or fall, you’ll need to call well in advance. Give the store at least three months’ notice to ensure you’re able to secure a date for your signing.
For signings in the summer time, you can usually get in sooner. I’ve been able to book summer bookstore signings with only three or four weeks’ notice.
When calling the bookstore, ask for the event planner. Tell that person the approximate date (usually a Saturday or Sunday afternoon) you have in mind for the signing. From there, they’ll provide a choice of available times for you to choose from. Then book it in your calendar.
Print Enough Books for Your Bookstore Signings
Some bookstores will want you to send them books in advance, so they can display your title before the signing. Others are fine if you simply bring books with you on the day of the event. This is a question to ask the bookstore’s event planner when you call to book a date with them.
Generally, 10 or 20 books is enough to bring to bookstore signings. That is, unless you’ve invited several more people yourself. The majority of your event’s sales will come from your own guest list. So, be sure to invite as many people as you can. As a rule, only around 50% of the people you invite will show up and buy a book from you. If you invite 30 people, you can reasonably expect 15 book sales.
Market Your Bookstore Signings in Advance
The event planner will most likely ask you to provide an author photo, brief author bio, and a digital copy of your book cover in advance. Many bookstores have an events page on their websites where they advertise upcoming events. They’ll add your information there, to help you promote the event.
But you should never rely on bookstore traffic alone to make your event successful. Nor should you rely on their marketing alone. Promote your upcoming bookstore signings on your own blog and social media sites. Send out email invitations to your friends and colleagues to make sure they know about the book. Help spread the word about all your author events for best results.
Bring Your Own Pens, Table Posters, and Business Cards
All bookstores will supply you with a table and a chair. Most will also supply a table cloth for you. The rest is up to you.
Come prepared with your own pens (for signing books) and small table posters that promote your book. You may also want to print book marks, business cards, or other marketing pieces like post cards to use as handouts.
The Business End of Bookstore Signings
As detailed in the first book above (which can be ordered free of charge from Amazon or Kobo), most bookstores will take your books on a consignment basis. This means, you must print and supply the books for the event. On the day of the event, they’ll assign a special barcode to your title that differentiates it as a consignment item.
When people come to your table to get a copy of your book, you will sign it for them. Then you’ll direct them to the bookstore’s till to pay for it. At the end of the event, the bookstore will tell you how many books were sold through their till. You’ll provide them with an invoice for that many books at the price sold less the bookstore’s discount (which is usually between 40 and 50 percent of the sale price). Within 30 days, they’ll send you a cheque for the amount invoiced.
Sometimes, if a book has sold well during an event, the bookstore will keep a few copies to see if they can sell even more for you. But, generally speaking, you usually take what’s left with you when you go home. You can use those for upcoming bookstore signings at other stores.
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