Note from Derek: I usually tell authors not to bother with in-person stuff like book signings because it’s too much work, and to focus on online stuff instead… but book signings can be FUN – and doing a signing in Barnes & Noble (or any “real” bookstore) feels more significant, like a milestone or bucket list item. So when I saw Nicole R. Locker’s book signing pics on Instagram I asked her to share her secrets.
Just how do you organize a book signing event anyway?
Where to Begin
You want to build buzz around your new release or maybe just introduce yourself as a local author to your home community. Maybe you want to set up your own traveling book tour! One way to do that is to set up a Book Signing at your local Barnes and Noble store.
The cool thing is, Barnes and Noble likes having live events that draw in customers and encourage people to buy more books in-store, so in my experience, they have been very receptive to scheduling me each time I’ve asked.
What to have in mind before you ask:
Can BN buy your book? Make sure your paperback book is available on a distributor site like Ingram Spark so that BN will be willing and able to stock your books. Yes, having extended distribution through Createspace or KDP will allow them the ability to purchase your books, but keep in mind that those are both Amazon-owned companies – a direct and top competitor for BN. They don’t want to patronize their top competitor to sell your books in their store.
What else makes BN more willing to stock your book(s) for a signing? Allowing BN to purchase your book at a discount through sites such as Ingram Spark will be ideal, but the one thing they have specifically asked me was – are unsold books refundable? They want to be sure it’s a good investment on their part if they don’t sell all your books, so being able to return them later will help them see this is a no-brainer.
Have your book price printed on your book. It’s also important to have the price of your book somewhere on the back near the barcode. Once again, I cite Ingram Spark because their templates allow you the option to include the price in the barcode from the beginning. It’s also pretty easy to ask your cover designer to stick the price on there during the design process.
Note from Derek: I was always afraid of setting up books on IngramSpark to returnable because that could put you on the hook for huge returns… but I heard recently that rarely happens, so it’s not actually a huge risk. With ISBN’s, you can also use my barcode generator tool to add the price (Createspace’s templates and barcodes don’t include price).
Your Book Signing Has Been Scheduled! Now What?
Once you get the confirmation that your book signing has been scheduled, now you can start inviting people to show up on the set date and time. Tell your friends and family to stop by. Create events on Facebook and make them public. Boost a post from your page with the event, or even better, a video of yourself inviting people to come.
BN will also probably advertise this in whatever ways they have, such as their websites and local pages.
Note from Derek: One of the best reasons to do a book signing is to get a bunch of awesome pictures you can use on your social media or author bio pages – but you don’t want to be there all alone. I recommend running local Facebook ads to let people know about the event and maybe offer a free class or something (this would also be a good opportunity to pitch local papers about the signing; they might interview you as a local interest story – if you pitch them a great hook.)
Start Thinking About How You’ll Decorate Your Table
Planning your table is a good thing to do in advance. You want it to look professional and inviting. While there will be some people who are just all-around interested in meeting real-life authors, many of these people will just be passersby with places to get to. Unless you’re already a big-name author with a huge following, chances are, you’ll need to convince people to stop and take a closer look.
Think about having things like:
- A Table banner
- Poster or sign to display
- A candy dish
- A small flower arrangement
Be creative on this if you like. If you write sci-fi or fantasy, maybe have an action figure or something that will attract your target reader.
Have something that non-buyers can take away! Get some business cards or book marks made that have your subscribe link and a link to download your free book.
Do a Giveaway! Set up a JotForm signup to enter a giveaway and make a sign advertising that to people who will see it when they pass by.
- In your JotForm settings, set up the automatic email they’ll get confirming their entry to link to your newsletter sign up (unless you already made it clear they were signing up to join your newsletter) and link them to your free book and your website.
- Make it personal and use language that uses your own unique voice when you set these up.
- On the Thank You page, tell them thanks for their entry, and put a link for yourself to get back to the form easily with one click so the next customer can get right to it. This will make your life a million times easier!
(I bought a $50 Nook tablet to give away – see my signup form here – but you could do a paperback or two, a swag basket, or use those handy new Bookfunnel print codes to give away ebooks. Heck, you could raffle off the flowers or the action figure you’re decorating your table with if you want to do a “must be present to win” type thing.)
Note from Derek: The JotForm thank you page link is such a great tip!
I noticed higher signups when I just have a pen and paper… but then I carried the list around for a year instead of trying to retype everything to my email list. Keep it simple. Also, try and find a cool prize or something visual you can put on your table to attract people. Barnes & Noble may not want you to bring your whole setup in but if you do other events or signings you might want to go bigger.
Because I don’t do events often and travel full-time I’ve never got the whole big setup (and as far as book marketing goes, I don’t really recommend it) but I’ve also been to book fairs and had an embarrassing showing. Big signs and professional setup make you look and feel more confident, and it’s not as awkward to talk about your books with people.
I’m actually going to collect some awesome author setup images and add them here for inspiration.
On the Day of Your Signing
You’ve finally made it to book signing day, and you may or may not be nervous. A few things to think about now include:
- Look your best. Aim for business-casual and approachable.
- Get there early to set up. Link your tablet or laptop to the store’s WiFi and load your JotForm sign up to get your giveaway up and running for when people start stopping in.
- Bring a friend, and if you’re an introvert like me, make sure it’s a chatty, bold, extroverted friend who has no problem herding people over to you. This will help during those down times when no one is at your table asking about your books so you won’t feel awkward.
- Bring some headache meds just in case.
- Bring a nice pen or a bright sharpie to sign your books with. BN might supply you with a pen, but I’d still come prepared just in case.
- BN will supply a number of books (they should tell you how many ahead of time), so get those arranged in the order you want customers to view them looking from the front of the table.
And now the actual signing.
Now it’s all happening, and it will all go by in a blur. Enjoy it! Take pictures to share on your social media later (this is something the friend you brought will be handy for!).
Other things to think about:
- Smile! (And go ahead and expect your face will hurt before you’re done.)
- Know what you’ll write in or on the customer’s book, and know where you’ll sign it ahead of time. Inside the front cover? On the front cover? Just your signature or address their name with a little message?
- You might see a lot of people walk in who really aren’t there to buy books, especially if your BN is inside the mall like the one where I live. You’ll get some “don’t make eye contact” people who will rush by clearly hoping you won’t stop them.
- You might have to talk to people walking by to ask “do you like to read [insert genre you write in]?” And if you’re like me and write romance and live in the Bible belt, you may even get sneers and looks of disgust from that one, rude, stick up their butt person. But don’t let that bother you because you are going to meet some really cool people this day who are going to actually read your books and possibly become lifelong fans.
- You’re going to have to tell people about your books, so it might help to have a short and sweet summary of each one thought out ahead of time. You’ll repeat this quite a few times while you’re there, so you don’t want it to be long-winded. Just short, succinct, and hit on the really interesting high points. “This one is about this kind of character who finds herself in this situation and must overcome this.”
What About You?
Have you done a signing? What preparations did you make that I didn’t mention? If not, what questions do you have that I didn’t already address?
Nicole R. Locker is a resident of Lubbock, Texas, USA. She has a Master of Science in Psychology and a love for pit bulls, Pilates, and romance novels. (And men with Irish accents!) She writes slow-burn romance about strong, intelligent women and the Alpha Heroes brave enough to chase them.
I’m a philosophy dropout with a PhD in Literature. I covet a cabin full of cats, where I can write fantasy novels to pay for my cake addiction. Sometimes I live in castles.