What I Learned at Saturday’s Book Signing

So Saturday we had a book signing at the local Barnes and Noble. Remember how I said that signings at big box chain stores can often be kind of a letdown, less than inspiring and sometimes downright lonely? This is absolutely true, but the ones here are saved from all that by Joyce, the Community Relations Director who sets up all the signings and acts as host. She’s fabulous, and she makes the experience fabulous, as well, even though you’re really not going to get a lot of book signing traffic in Midland unless you’ve written a book about 1) religion, 2) politics, or 3) football. The former Texas Tech football coach had a really good signing, and Mitt Romney had people lined up out the door and down the sidewalk all the way to Best Buy.

We, alas, did not, but we had fun and sold more than The National Average Number of Books Sold at A Signing. Remember what I told you that was? I told you it was two books; now, apparently, things are a little better: it’s 2.5. This means, says Joyce, that there are lots and lots of signings across the country where the author doesn’t sell a single book. So if you show up on time, are cheerful and friendly and get to talk to a handful of people, you’ve done great. You go!

I think I also suggested (although I might have forgotten) that you should invite people in your community to come visit you. We didn’t get that, either–there’s just really not a mixed media community here. Nada. Zilch. While there are, I’m sure, mixed media artists, they haven’t gotten together and formed any sort of visible community, with shows or artwalks or a gallery with a newsletter.

Nevertheless, the signing went well. We sold books, we talked to interesting people. I stitched, The Ever-Gorgeous Earl took photos. And I learned some new stuff about book signings. One thing is something that your marketing person will tell you: whenever you see your books on display–or at the end of a signing–offer to sign them. This is good for the bookseller: books that are signed by the author sell better than those that aren’t, especially in the months leading up to the holidays (Joyce has some customers who buy only signed books. That’s it. Never any others). And it’s good for you: signed books aren’t returned to the publisher by the bookseller for a refund. Returns are something you want to avoid, as you’ll discover when you begin receiving those royalty checks. Joyce offered that books should be signed with just your name. Not the date, as one author insists on doing–then the books are dated as soon as you walk out of the store. Barnes and Noble provides little stickers that go on the front that say the copy has been signed by the author. Nifty!

Another thing Joyce told us: just because people don’t come up and ask you about the book doesn’t mean they’re not interested. She said some people will look at the book on the table and then walk away and go to the customer service desk to ask the price: they don’t want to ask the author, thinking it’s rude. It’s not, of course–and many of us have to turn the book over to check and see how much it is. She said that books will sell after the author has left–people read about the signing and are interested but aren’t about to come up and talk to Someone Who Has Written an Actual Book, as if we’re really intimidating people instead of just regular folks. So, with all that in mind, try not to be scary: while you want to smile and say hello to people, you don’t want to seem needy, like you’re going to grab them and give them some long spiel about your book, or scary, as if you’re going to quiz them on the basics of composition and grammar. Or depressed, as if they’re your last hope for selling a book. While you want to sell books, the hard sell usually isn’t going to cut it. I know I steer clear of people I know are going to make me feel pressured to buy something I might not have decided on yet; there’s a local department store saleswoman who is so desperate to make the sale that I will actually hide from her, making abrupt U-turns in the aisle and ducking behind the Mother-of-the-Bride dresses to avoid having to deal with her. You know how that is, so don’t even go there. Smile, say hi, answer questions. If someone is interested in hearing more, show pages, give a little backstory. But pay attention–if they’re just being polite, don’t make them listen to your whole Authors at Google presentation that goes on for 55 minutes and features a PowerPoint presentation of you and your workshop in Australia. You want to have a signing there for your next book, too; so don’t make people avoid you and hide out in the travel section back by the maps.

And if you’re on the other side, being the customer instead of the author? Go up and talk to them–don’t be afraid to ask questions. They’re just regular folks who’ve written a book, and who knows? It might be just the book you’ve been looking for~~

Ricë also blogs at Notes from the Voodoo Cafe.


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