In part 1, we established that you are an author and not a salesman. Writing a book is different from selling a book.
At a book signing event.
You wonder how I presume to tell you how to conduct a book signing when I’ve never had one myself. First, I have been in the vicinity of book signings before, and by “in the vicinity,” I mean I was one of those people cutting your table a wide berth as if you were selling dog-poop kebabs. So, I know why people don’t come up to you and engage you. Second, I’ve had most of a bottle of cough syrup now and this all makes perfect sense to me, so try to keep up.
The reason you are sitting at the table by yourself and none of the other kids are talking to you, is because you are sitting at a table. They may not even know or care that you are an author. Maybe they think you want their signatures on a petition or want them to try a sample of a new combination mouthwash/stain remover. Even if they do know you are an author, what’s that to them? What? You think you’re better than them, sitting there at your fancy table with your fancy books?
It is unrealistic to expect people to come over to engage you just because you are there. It is up to you to engage them. Whether you think so or not, you do have it in you. If you wrote a book, you are not only an author, but also an entertainer. That’s what good books do—they entertain, inform, enlighten, and maybe even have a few dirty pictures.
Before you set up a book signing event, you have to think about four things:
- Venue, and
Choosing the right location is the key to success. In fact, it’s the most critical one of the four factors you must address to have a successful book signing. It’s so important, you can probably just skip the rest of the factors and just concentrate on getting this one right.
You want to choose a location that promises a lot of traffic. It has to be foot traffic. It’s no good setting your table up on the median of an interstate highway. People may gawk, but they won’t stop. Your location should be in a place where people are in a receptive frame of mind. Do not set up your table outside the motor vehicle bureau. You also want to set up in a location not only where people congregate, but where those people are also likely to have some money they want to spend. Do not set up outside an IRS office.
Choosing the correct timing for your event is absolutely crucial. Probably more crucial than location. Way more. This is the one thing you absolutely have to get right. You have to make sure your event is not timed with any events that will detract or conflict with yours. If you wrote a book called Santa is Dead, you probably don’t want to time your book signing event to coincide with the Christmas parade. You also need to pick a time of day when you think the people who would read your book are awake, out, and about. If you wrote a book for toddlers, don’t set up a midnight book signing. Also, make sure the event does not overlap with your nap time. That’s just awkward.
The selection of the proper venue is without a doubt the single most important decision you will have to make. The other stuff I’ve mentioned doesn’t even come close. Venue is like an order of magnitude more important than the other two things I mentioned.
When the weather is nice, it may be tempting to host your event outdoors. Choosing an outdoor venue does require considerations of other factors though. For instance, you will want to know if there are any bears in the area, and if so, have any of these bears come by and eaten authors at past book signings. You will also want to pay attention to the direction from which the wind is blowing. This is especially important if your event is in the vicinity of something like a hog rendering plant or sewage treatment facility. Things like this can have a big impact on crowd turnout.
Indoor locations can be great if the weather or bear situation is iffy. Make sure you are not pushed off into some dark corner by the men’s room. Stuff happens there. I don’t want to talk about this anymore.
More important than all the other factors combined is the issue of presence—the means by which you will capture , command and hold the attention of prospective book-buyers. You need to come up with something that will grab their attention, beat it up and take its lunch money.
I know a lot of authors dress up like characters from their books. I think this is a terrible idea, unless you wrote a book about strippers. And then, you had better look like a stripper. And I do, but I didn’t write a book about strippers, so that’s out.
Do you think Jane Austen dressed up like the characters in her books? Probably. I’m guessing that’s why her book signings sucked.
Don’t underestimate the powerful subliminal suggestion of having some colorful balloons at your table. Balloons promise fun. They rarely deliver, but people still fall for it every time.
Work on your patter. Remember, it is your job to bring it. YOU are the entertainment; so sing, dance, juggle knives—whatever you do. Make it work with your natural style. Unless your natural style is sort of creepy and off-putting. Like mine. But then, I don’t have book signings.
Ultimately, the success of your book signing event is largely up to you. If this has been of any help to you at all, you were probably in more trouble than you realized. If you enjoyed this article, keep an eye out for my upcoming fake book, 101 Other Things I Don’t Know Anything About. I will be hosting a book signing of this groundbreaking new book at Selby’s Hog Rendering Plant on the southwest or northeast corner, depending on wind direction.