With the onslaught of eBooks and the demise of bookstores, some authors believe book signings are quickly going the way of the dinosaur and losing them valuable face-time with readers. Have no fear. The book signing isn’t going away. It’s evolving.
I truly hate to see so many bookstores closing their doors. The experience of walking through the aisles and flipping through the pages of hidden treasures can’t be duplicated, but there are additional venues authors can hold signings. And for those of you who don’t believe you can have a book “signing” if your title is only available in eFormat, keep on reading.
Tools of the Trade
Before I discuss venues for book signings, let’s discuss tools needed. In the good old days, after you arranged a book signing at your local bookstore you could arrive with a box of signing supplies such as promotional items, decoration for the table, mailing list subscription sheets and a great attitude, then call it a day. The bookstore would have the books ready and would take care of the exchange of money for your title(s).
Let’s say you have a book signing somewhere other than a bookstore or location where the retail portion of the signing is taken care of for you. Not too long ago, I remember authors pulling out those large credit card swipe things to accept credit card payments. Oh the horror! Thanks to smart phones, you can now accept secure credit card payments directly from your cell phone using tools such as Intuit GoPayment and Square Up. Many haven’t heard of Square Up or Intuit GoPayment, so I suggest creating a one page flyer that bullet points the needed facts about the secure credit card payment tool you use and have it laminated to display in your signing area.
At the time of writing this article, the small attachment needed to use the Intuit or Square Up tool was free from each one’s website. I mention this because I saw the attachment for the Square Up on sale in a department store and don’t want you paying for something that is free.
I like having a second person with me to accept payment, write receipts and manage the subscriber list, but that is not always possible. Do what you can to make the retail end of your signing as easy on the reader and yourself as possible. Same goes with accepting cash and/or checks. Do what works for you.
So now you can collect payments at your signing, but what if your titles are eBooks? What’s the purpose of participating in a book signing? It’s the same as any other author—To sell books and connect with your readers.
When you’re at your signing event, if the customer has a smart phone or some other smart device, he/she can purchase your eBook(s) on the spot. Be sure to have the cover(s) and back cover blurb(s) of your title(s) laminated for display. Currently, Barnes & Noble and Amazon allow you to “gift” eBooks. The majority of eBook consumers purchase their eBooks from Amazon. If your customer doesn’t have a smart device to purchase your eBook at the signing, you can break out your smart phone and accept a secure credit payment using Intuit or Square Up, cash or whatever other forms of payment you are comfortable with, then “gift” the eBook(s) to them. I’ve also known authors who sell their electronic titles on CDs. Be sure to go all out and have nice CD labels and cases. These will be used the same way you’d use the cover of a print title to draw in readers.
With a print book, breaking out that pen to autograph copies for readers is a high many authors miss since eBooks have entered the market. Have no fear; you can still sign at your signings, even eBooks. Set up an account at Kindlegraph.com where you can personalize digital inscriptions (electronically sign your book covers) for readers. If you have a laptop or large smart device such as an iPad, you can sign the Kindlegraph at the event. Otherwise, the reader can request a Kindlegraph, and you can sign it when you get back to your computer. And yes, the Kindlegraph actually allows you to sign using your mouse pad or you can “adopt” a font to sign with. My writing using the mouse pad was horrible, so I purchased a tool called Bamboo Tablet that I connect to my laptop. The tablet is a large mouse pad that comes with a specialized pen for the device. With this pen, you can sign legibly, draw a happy face or whatever.
By the way, I do not like the name of Kindlegraph. It’s horrible. Why? Because the name implies it’s only for Kindle books. Granted, the eBook must be available on the Kindle, but the reader could have purchased the eBook from anywhere. For example, I have a Nook and purchase eBooks from Barnes & Noble, but because those eBooks are also available on Kindle, I can order a Kindlegraph for them. I will receive a PDF of the cover with the digital inscription. So if your readers have devices that can read PDFs and have Twitter accounts, then they can collect Kindlegraphs. Be sure to always carry business cards with your title information and let people know you are on Kindlegraph so they can find you later.
Now you can accept payments and sign your books—electronic and print—so we need venues.
Do not forget brick and mortar bookstores. Whenever you can conduct signings at them, please do. Below are a few other places you can consider for book signings.
Beauty/Nail Shops – There is a long standing tradition in my community of beauty and barbershops being much more than a place to have your hair done. Ask the owner if copies of your title(s) can be sold at the check-in desk. I find it best to have the owners purchase a few copies at 50% so they can make their profit. When the books move quickly, the owners will contact you for more books. Don’t forget to place at least two business cards with your book’s information within each book. Once you’ve grown your name within the shop, work with the proprietors to arrange signings at their locations and split the profit with them. See if you can find small pockets of your target audience here and there.
Book Clubs/Reading Groups (Online and Off) – Book clubs are an excellent way to spread the word about your book. Be sure to offer a group discount for your books. For example, if your price is regularly $14.95, for orders of five or more, the price is $10 per book when mailed to the same address. An excellent tool to find book clubs and reading groups is http://www.meetup.com/. Also tell the groups you are available for discussions. A discussion does not always require travel. Many book clubs are online and so are their discussions.
Book Parties – Do you remember Tupperware Parties? They were popular in the 70s and 80s. The host of the party would hold a Tupperware sell in his/her home. Book parties are the same concept, except with your titles. Be creative. If you have written an erotic book, also have a sex toy party. I’m sure your local sex toy shop wouldn’t mind helping you out. Same goes with book release parties. Be creative.
Fundraising/Charity Events – If you have a book that deals with domestic violence, breast cancer awareness, literacy… consider selling your title at events related to that topic. Even if your book does not deal with the topic at hand, you should investigate to see if the event has a nice pocket of your audience and/or give a portion of your proceeds to the event. Remember, you’ll have a better chance at hitting your target audience if your title involves the topic.
Libraries – The economy is hurting and many avid readers are returning to the library and so should authors. This is also an excellent way to get your titles into the library system.
Online Groups – Many of you are familiar with Facebook groups, but don’t forget about email groups such as the ones hosted on Yahoo. These groups were around well before Facebook and the established ones don’t look like they are going anywhere. Find groups interested in your genre, join, get to know the readers and see about arranging discussions of your book for the group.
Organizations – One of my good friends belongs to a sorority, and one year they had this book event for my genre. Seek out organizations that would be interested in your genre and see about joining their events or arranging an event that caters to your genre.
Schools – From pre-school through college, schools are excellent locations for signings. Now don’t expect to just show up with a stack of book and start signing. You’ll usually need to give a speech of some sort and possibly have a question and answer session afterward. Of course, your material must be age and venue appropriate.
Stores/Clubs – From small boutiques to warehouses such as Costco, books are still good business. The larger the venue, the more difficult it can be to get inside, but it’s possible. Just be sure to have proper promotion of the event and understand that the majority of promotion for your title at events attend is always on you.
Traveling – Do you spend a lot of time waiting for flights or the train? Try this. Have a shirt made with your book cover on it and wear it next time you’re waiting for a flight. Be sure to have copies of your book, business cards and your trusty dusty Intuit or Square Up device. People strike up conversations with me and it usually turns into my telling them about my books and them wanting to purchase a copy or two. If you wear a shirt or something that has your cover on it, there are people who will strike up a conversation with you about it.
Vendor Events – Book conferences for your genre are a given, but don’t forget about other conferences and vendor events your target audience may attend. For example, I love Sci-Fi and went to a Sci-Fi conference in Las Vegas. They had Sci-Fi everything except book vendors. I wished I’d written a Sci-Fi book because I would have cleaned up.
T-Shirt – I know I’ve been going alphabetical until now, but I saved this for last on purpose. You can have a book signing just about anywhere at any time. Don’t let opportunities pass you by. The T-Shirt signing is an extension of the traveling book signing, but shows how you can have a signing just about anywhere. Consider having a few T-Shirts, tote bags or some other promotional item people will use out in public or at work (such as a mug) to give away and keep a few for yourself. Now wear your T-shirt or whatever to somewhere you go to frequently (such as your gym or physical therapy) that people don’t know you are an author. I was at an appointment and was wearing my Romance Slam Jam T-Shirt. The Romance Slam Jam is THE place for readers and authors of Black romance. Next thing you know, the assistant asked me about the conference and we were talking books. She in turn broadcasted that I’m an author all over the facility and next thing you know, I had sold all the copies of my books I had in my car and set up a book signing for the employees and members at a later date.
You’ll think I’m being contradictory, but I’m not in the big scheme of things. Yes, I said you can have a book signing just about anywhere, but you still must take your target audience into consideration. Book signings can be organic such as the T-Shirt signing I participated in, or they can be planned events. Please do not plan to take your books to the local Mc Donald’s after work today and set up a booth without investigation first. Those folks are at Mc Donald’s to get their kids a happy meal, not buy your book. Seriously though, think outside the box, but also think smartly. Investigate any planned venue and ensure you will get good bang for your buck.
The book signing isn’t going anywhere, it’s just evolving like the rest of the publishing industry. Mix and match until you find the formula that works best for you.
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