by Jordyn Redwood
As many as there are books, there are just as many opinions as to whether or not authors should do bookstore signings. This was one of the things I was relatively surprised to learn on my publishing journey-bookstores aren’t clamoring for me to come and visit.
Why? If you’re not well known-will the time and effort they put into advertising, ordering books and making a place for you be worth it?
And for the author-is it equally worth your time to stand there for several hours and not sell one book. Because unless you’re James Patterson, you may be doing exactly that.
Personally, I think bookstore signings are just another arm of your overall marketing strategy. You can only do so much from behind a computer and should spend some time physically going out to meet people. Many marketing people will tell you it takes six-ten exposures of you and/or your novel for people to make a decision to buy. I consider this one possible exposure.
Basically, unless you’re a known author with a huge tribe, you’re going to be cold-selling your books to people who have never heard of you. This is a challenge especially for us introverted writer types. Here are my tips for at least selling some books.
1. Make eye contact and smile. The signings I’ve done so far have positioned me right by the main entrance. If the person makes eye contact with me when they enter, I say hello and then I usually say, “Would you like a free bookmark?” Which leads to number two. If they don’t even make eye contact, I leave them alone. Standing makes it much easier to approach people to hand them items.
2. Have a free giveaway. I do bookmarks and nut free candy to entice people to my table. If they take a bookmark-that leads to my next question, “Do you like suspense?” If they say no-let them be on their way. Perhaps they’ll pass the bookmark on to a friend. If they say yes, proceed to number three.
3. Give a tagline about the book. Seriously, just like you may have only a few minutes to impress an editor or agent about your book, you have even less time to try and sell it to a customer you don’t know. So, have a good tagline down. For Proof, I say-“This is a medical thriller about a criminal with a genetic defect where DNA testing actually clears him of his crimes.” If I have more time I’ll add that it’s been well reviewed and is up for a Book of the Year Award. You’ll quickly discover if you’re tagline is working or not. It is a great place to practice refining one.
4. Don’t get discouraged. In all my book signings, the first hour I didn’t sell one book and I began to look longingly at the exit for escape. I think it is fine to set low expectations but keep trying. If all you do is give away free bookmarks and candy then it’s fine. Take the time to get to know the bookstore employees and be a blessing to them in some way.
5. Offer to help customers. If you’re an unknown author, some people will think you’re a store employee and ask you questions. Don’t just say “I don’t know. I don’t work here.” Make every effort to help them find staff. The store employees will love your effort.
What are some ways you’ve made book signings worth your time if you’re relatively unknown as an author?
Jordyn Redwood is a pediatric ER nurse by day, suspense novelist by night. She hosts Redwood’s Medical Edge, a blog devoted to helping contemporary and historical authors write medically accurate fiction. Her first two novels, Proof and Poison, garnered starred reviews from Library Journal and have been endorsed by the likes of Dr. Richard Mabry, Lynette Eason, and Mike Dellosso to name a few. You can connect with Jordyn via her website at www.jordynredwood.net.