Saturday, September 17, 2011

Book Signing 101

I've signed a lot of things in my life and some of them were even books.

Let me see...mortgage papers, car notes, legal papers of all sorts, and the infamous checkbook, but a regulation book signing is something I've rarely done until recently. I did what all novices did, even though I've been a published author for decades, I searched the web. Many things have changed since my last book signing.

Now, I'm a nonconformist at heart, so I looked at the lists upon lists of things which may or may not be a great idea and some which sounded totally stupid to me. Last year when I decided to self-publish, I knew I didn't have a publisher to back me up on event planning, advertising, promotion and a host of other hats I wear as a self-published author. A book signing was going to be an experience and hopefully a good one. I set the event up with date, time, and place.  Checked what they would supply and what they wouldn't. This is an important thing to know.  For some, you have to provide your own chairs and tables.  Sounds ridiculous, huh, but it's true. Invitation postal cards were printed on my inkjet and mailed two weeks prior to friends and family. This one is actually away from home so organization is going to be a key factor.

I went to Staples because they had a sale on a 10x13 picture board. I took a picture of each and every one of my covers and had them make them up. This board had a white border all around the picture. I bought an easel to hold the board. I figured since I was only doing one book this time with others to follow for other novels this was a good idea. Hopefully there will be another sale on this item when I get around to having other book signing for subsequent novels.

Now, in the margins I printed "Author Here Today Only!" If you've ever been in a book store. I'm sure most authors are like me and have a chair especially reserved just for them because they live there. I got sidetracked for a second. Back to my poster board. There are flyers and banners all over the place in a bookstore. So by putting "Author Here" people can distinguish between an advertising poster and an actual person and "Today Only" builds a sense of immediacy. "Oh no, if I don't get this copy today and signed, I might miss out!!!" This idea is marketing 101. Let's face it people procrastinate.  If they can put it off until tomorrow, it's simpler.

I bought an expandable easel so it can be set up on a table top or a floor. I mean if you are going to spend the money on a poster board, you have to have some place to set it right? Most tables are at least five-foot in the stores, but I have seen card tables used so be prepared. Table skirting is a nice extra, but really don't expect it. I do like the five-foot or longer the best. I can place my easel on the table next to a stack of books and still have a clear area for signing.

The easel and picture board is also good for hiding little things like keys, drinks, and munchies. Sometimes these things, although they are rarely more than two hours, feel like a lifetime! Although every author wants hundreds to show up for their book signing, waiting in endless lines, each reader excited to shake your hand and have you sign their copy of your book...in reality, if twenty show up I am are pleased. I'm not J.K. Rowlings or Diana Gabaldon.

I have ordered my copies and had them drop shipped to the store for the event. It is really hard to know just how many copies to order, since there could be five or a thousand show up. I usually do fifty if more are needed then they can be ordered.  I've printed bookmarks, again on my handy inkjet printer on photo paper, with the cover, where to buy, and contact info. I purposefully leave a space large enough to sign so everyone walks away with something. Flyers are printed. I usually do a fifty copy print run and place them in every grocery store bulletin board I can find prior to the event and keep some for the table. I will go to my local office supply company and buy a gross of pens. I used to have imprinted pens, but how many times do you read what is on a pen before you use it? I like the gel pens, especially the Pilot G-2. I usually give one away for each book I sign. It's almost Presidential.

Now, for the organization part. I put all the items I need for a book signing into a plastic tub. By separating the items by titles, no matter what book I'm doing a signing for...I have everything I need in one place. I also throw a couple of copies of my other novels in the tub, just in case. I'll pack it all under the table at the signing.  A sale is a sale! I also include a promo announcement, pre-worded for the store staff who may be announcing things over the intercom. K-Mart Blue Light Special, here I come.

Since my next book signing is for "Zombie Apocalypse:Redemption," I was thinking of gimmicks.  You know those annoying things that stick in your mind. Something that will catch your eye and make you look.  Yeah, I'm a nonconformist.  It's the Halloween season and Halloween City just opened up.  I can go as a zombie! I bought the makeup and outfit for a zombie wedding I'm performing on Halloween.This signing will be at a zombie walk and show, so why not?  I'm thinking about doing regular book signings this way too. I can see the stares and double takes now. I even bought a partially eaten, severed hand (latex, of course) to place in front of my easel...oh, I am soooo bad! Of course, I could be banned from every reputable bookstore in the nation too.  But if you can't have fun why do it?

Yes, it's a whole lot of legwork, but like everything else in life being prepared is half the battle. Oh, by the way, are YOU prepared for the zombie apocalypse the CDC warned about?  Just curious!

Keep Writing and loving the Lord.

2 comments:

allie said...

Hi. Just popping by from the Write Campaign. I liked this post. It's unusual for an author to write about how they've organised a book signing event. Lots of practical advice.

JoAnn Murphey said...

Hi Allie,
I tend to write about unusual things because not much is usually written by others.