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Tips and Tricks for Booksignings
by Kim Headlee
Return to Public Speaking
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For those of us struggling along the uphill slope of transforming our names and book titles into household words, public appearances are not a nicety, they are a necessity. Here are a few tips and tricks I've learned from other authors and personal experience to help your next appearance be a successful one.
- Be bold! Good things come to those who ask, so do not be afraid to contact your favorite local bookseller to schedule an event. Having a bound galley or advance review copy to give the event coordinator is a good idea. Autographing it is a plus -- and affords good practice if this is your debut book.
- Be creative! As recommended in the excellent book-promotion reference, 1001 Ways to Market Your Books, bookstores aren't the only places to schedule an event. If, for example, your novel has a medieval or pseudo-medieval setting, and its release coincides with a renaissance faire, don't hesitate to contact one of the vendors. You and your fans will be glad you did!
- Be professional! If your mother never told you to "mind your Ps and Qs" -- I will. "Please" and "thank you" go a long way toward making allies of booksellers, even if they have not agreed to your polite requests to schedule an event.
- Be thorough! Send press releases to your local media and online contacts.
- Check back with the event coordinator a couple of weeks prior to the event to make sure everything is on track for The Big Day. Many booksellers will provide posters or other advertising, but don't be surprised -- or upset -- if you are asked to provide those materials. It is in everyone's best interests for you to cooperate as fully as you are able, and remember to be professional in your response.
- Be presentable! This may seem like a no-brainer, but, as they saying goes, you get only one chance to make a good first impression. Far be it from me to advise you how to dress, except that I think it's a good idea that your chosen attire look clean and tatter-free...unless you're deliberately going for the "starving artist" look. Personally, I like to coordinate with my book's cover -- and it's a good thing I happen to look good in dark blue! But I realize this approach isn't for everyone. Whatever you choose to wear, personal comfort should be a consideration, too.
- Be on time! Make sure you're clear on your directions, and allow plenty of time for "Murphy" to influence traffic patterns, availability of parking spaces, etc. There is no shame in being "directionally challenged," so if all else fails, ask. (Unless you're a guy and are therefore, by definition, not really lost. :) And if, for whatever reason, you do happen to run late, a courtesy call to the event coordinator never hurts.
- Be prepared! Items you might wish to have on hand include:
- Your favorite autographing pen. Make sure it works, first. This may seem like another no-brainer, but it's far better to check now than be disappointed later.
- A seat cushion, especially if your event is scheduled to last beyond a couple of hours. If you would like to bring, say, a favorite soda or snack, check with the bookseller first to make sure it doesn't violate store policy.
- If you maintain a mailing list, provide a clipboard (and another pen) with sheets for fans to sign up. Don't forget to include a space for email addresses.
- Bookmarks, fliers, copies of great reviews or other promotional goodies people can take with them even if they choose not to purchase your book during the event.
- "Autographed by Author" stickers. The bookstore may provide these, or you may purchase or design your own. I have done the latter, using a type of laser-printed sticker that coordinates nicely with the book's cover text and doesn't hide any of the important elements.
- Your press kit and business cards. These need not be on display unless you really feel like it. But they're good to have handy because you never know when someone from the media is going to wander by.
- Anything else you feel is eye-catching and ties in with the theme of your book. For me, it's a colorful flock of beanbag dragons -- don't worry; they've been de-flamed. ;-)
And if you're selling as well as signing, don't forget your receipt book and cash box with plenty of coins and small bills for making change. Your cash box can double as a handy place to stash trip receipts (food, gas, tolls, etc.) and extra promotional materials.
- Be knowledgeable! Typical questions to expect are "What time is it?" and "Where are the rest rooms?" and "Where is Such-And-Such store?" and, my personal favorite, uttered by a young child, "Are you really allowed to write in those books??"
- Be appreciative! If there are books left over after the event, politely ask the bookseller if she or he would like you to sign the remaining stock. Or, if you feel so inclined and your budget permits, ask to purchase some of the copies. Usually, booksellers buy your books at around 50% of the cover price, so if you ask to purchase extra copies at, say, 40% off, it's a win-win deal for you and the bookseller. This is better than buying books from your publisher, for which you get no royalty. If the answer to any of these questions is no, remember to be professional! Also, a follow-up note of thanks after the event is a thoughtful touch.
- And, last but certainly not least: relax and be yourself! Then your event truly will be a success.
Find Out More...
- 40+ Ways to Make Your Next Book Signing an Event! - Larry James
- Dreaming of Writer's Cramp: Signing at Bookstores and Beyond... - Peter Bowerman
- How to Have a Successful Booksigning - MaryJanice Davidson
- How to Make Your Booksigning a Sell-Out! - Judy Azar LeBlanc
Copyright © 2001 Kim Headlee
This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.
Kim D. Headlee is the author of Dawnflight: The Legend of
Guinevere (Pocket Books, 1999), an award-winning novel about the legend of Guinevere. Besides being a writer, a mom, and a computer software engineer, Headlee is an Arthurian enthusiast/expert and an oratorio singer. She currently lives in Virginia with her husband, kids, cats, and a "fluid" population of freshwater tropical fish. FInd out more about Dawnflight at http://home.usaa.net/~kimheadlee/.
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