Just as actors travel the globe for film promotional tours, published authors travel for book signing tours. It’s an essential part of marketing and promotion for their novels.
While the glory of book signings are the dream of many new authors, the taste can grow bitter long before you sit behind piles of your books, in front of a long line of people waiting for your autograph.
Countless blogs, articles and tips are available to help prepare authors to host a successful book signing. Yet, despite the advice, you might end up losing more than you gain. You may ask yourself why?
Here are just a few things that authors seldom share with the reader, and often neglect to consider themselves.
Hosting a book-signing event is not always an easy venture. Finding a location—such as a bookstore or a library that will agree to allow you to host your event isn’t as easy as you think. Most bookstores won’t host unknown or indie authors. Others schedule their author signing events at least 90-120 days in advance. If you’re lucky enough, they will accept your book for consideration—meaning they will review it and will (or will not) get back to you.
Without failure, blogs, articles and hosts suggest many of the same things to make your book signing a success: bring promotional materials, create an interesting display, prepare excerpts in case you are asked to read, offer giveaways, say thank you, and follow up with your fan base. If the bookstore does some form of marketing for upcoming local book-related events, they may ask you to contribute to the marketing costs in return for them hosting your event at their store. Some stores will be specific and ask you to take care of drinks and food. Believe me, I’ve been specifically asked to bring wine and cheese to one of my signings.
If you have an out of town book signing don’t overlook your travel expenses. It’s hard to find a host bookstore where your next family reunion will be or where your college classmates live.
And At the End Of The Day
But what if, after months of preparation and planning, after spreading the word about your upcoming event, after social media shout-outs and press releases, after advertising and marketing…nobody shows up?—it happens!
Now, I’m going to slap you with some truth, unless you are a best selling author, book signings are notorious for generating little traffic. It’s a rarity for authors to sell more than 5 books during any one event. If you’re selling your book for $10 each, that’s $50—period. Now, factor in the costs of advertising, promotional materials, traveling and not to mention your time, is it really worth it? I bet your math is like mine.
I must admit, selling at most 5 copies of your book is discouraging. After you’ve set everything up and gotten yourself into the mindset. You’ve practiced what you’ll say to readers, how you’ll respond to questions, how you’ll pitch your book. You are buzzing with nervous energy. You prepare for success. You are sure everyone who flocks to your signing event will walk away with a copy. Many people who show up at your event will talk to you, pick your brain about writing habits then thank you for your time and walk away without buying a book. And you’re left at the end of the day with $50 for your efforts.
The Real Value
It’s tough. And while your time and resources might better be spent pursuing other marketing opportunities, book signings aren’t a complete waste of time—they have their benefits (maybe I will elaborate more somewhere down the road). As long as you look at it from a promotional perspective, rather than a sales perspective, I would include book signings in my marketing budget, though not more than once a year.
Think outside of the box—you might find other more successful methods of bringing your book to the readers. Maybe you could approach book clubs, donate a few copies to worthy organizations, or if you have a children’s book consider reading time at a local children’s hospital. There are countless options.
Do you have any good ideas for promotion that you want to share?