Why Book Signings Should be a Part of Your Marketing Plan

At The Dolphin Bookshop

At The Dolphin Bookshop

I thought every author wanted to do a book signing, but I’ve found this is not the case. Actually, it seems to be a contentious subject, with pros and cons of why authors do, or don’t, do live events.

I recently had the opportunity to put together a multi-authored signing at The Dolphin Bookshop in Port Washington, NY. When I put this event together, I asked a few local authors if they wanted to participate with me. I thought their answers would immediately be an emphatic “YES.” I was shocked at some of the responses. One person told me that doing a signing wasn’t “worth their time” because “they can make more money and reach more people online.” Another person told me that “the time and investment to do a signing, to make no money, is a waste of time.” Another author told me he no longer does any live events because he can reach more people other ways and “why does he want to actually speak to people?”

I have to vehemently disagree here. Yes, you can reach more people with online efforts, but a book signing is NOT for sales. It’s for exposure, for respectability, and for practice. While authors live in their minds and type stories into their computers, they need to be able to verbally discuss their novels. You have to be able to talk to people to pitch it to them, to explain it, to paint a picture as to why they should buy your book. What if you’re one day in a room with a top editor and you’ve never actually had the chance to publicly discuss your book? A signing allows you the opportunity to engage active readers in a whole different capacity. Sometimes you get a chance to do a reading, like we did, and if you pick the right segment, you can influence potential readers on a whole new level. This practice is a wonderful learning experience and one you should consider doing a few times a year.

I also believe book signings offer authors a “perception of success.” Meaning, you take photos of you and your readers and you post them to social media. You do the reading and tape it and post it to your author or Pinterest page. You get press to cover you. All of these together will show people in the industry that you are capable of successfully being in front of an audience. That you’re “a player, professional, and capable.” If an agent, publisher or producer ever wants to contact you, they will see all this “success” and exposure you’ve built up.

Maybe authors are afraid if they do a signing no one will come? That could happen. I did a signing with 18 other authors at a four hour Book Fair a few weeks ago and it would be safe to say 15 of us didn’t have any sales. ZERO. I had candy out and the people visiting my table were mostly other authors during this very long event who came over to snack on my Dove Chocolates (yes, get the good stuff). So, even though I had no sales, what did I get out of it? The experience of putting my table together, some great photos, a few sign ups for my newsletter and I got to pitch my book and network with other authors.

I once had an author talk at a library and only three teenagers came. I ended up moving all the chairs into a circle and the four of us, with the coordinator, sat down and we had a real heart-to-heart about publishing. It was casual and intimate and I’ll tell you something – even though I didn’t sell any books, I got a lot out of it. I got the experience to chat about my novels, educate the kids on publishing and possibly influence a young mind.

I leave you with this: GET OUT IN THE FIELD. Do a signing, do a library chat. Get that poster made, get in front of people. Talk. Don’t just write. Tell readers about your wonderful ideas. I promise you that you will get more out of this versus an online ad that will give you just a few extra book sales.

I’ve been told by a well known author in the industry that this is my “hazing” time. Well, folks, consider me duly hazed.

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10 thoughts on “Why Book Signings Should be a Part of Your Marketing Plan

  1. I definitely think it helps to verbalize what your book is about. Plus, how about the feedback and love you get from a live audience? And if you make solid, interpersonal connections, those people will pass your name along. Definitely agree on all counts, Elyse.

    • Thank you Greg, practice is so key. One lovely author at the signing also spoke, but I heard later that the audience thought he gave too much of the book away in his talk. Practice helps us learn what is too much, what is too little, what sounds enticing. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  2. Excellent points Elyse and I agree with all of them. Rebekah did an event this weekend and my takeaway is the same as yours. Experience matters. Creating the image of experience and competence matters.

  3. I don’t know what those other authors were thinking (or not), but you basically just separated the men from the boys here. The real pros from those who are more into it for how they can make it their hobby on their terms. Sometimes being in a business means you do things that are not in your comfort zone. I’m glad your signing happened and I hope it went well!!!

  4. To some people, an author is that “god/goddess” up on a pedestal to humbly sneak a glance at. Only by coming down, meeting the public can the the populace realize that authors are human. Think. Many of the “big” authors are those who communicate with their fans. Why do they have fans? It isn’t always about a great book. Being approachable – being … well, human. Remember, authors sit alone most of the day while writing. They aren’t social critters … and you can’t count the internet as being social. Yes, you can be “friends” but face it, you’re still a non-entity, projecting only what you wish others to see. Me? I love the opportunity offered when a book-signing chance happens. I meet those who have read my books and get feedback that I can use when I discuss my books. Of course, I have MY idea of what my book is about, but imagine what the reader has to say and think. We all see the rose. #1 sees it as a red rose. #2 sees a red-pink rose. #3 sees a dark-red rose. #4 sees a crimson rose w/ an unknown scent. Me? I see a gorgeous red rose with a blush of pinkish-white and undertones of mauve. It has a fruity scent. Why? Because I spoke with the other 4 and suddenly saw what they saw. Until then, all I saw was a rose. Reader feedback and seeing them face to face while receiving it, empowers us for our next tale.

    • I love this rose analogy and I LOVE hearing what other people think about my books nad their interpretations. There’s no rush better than people discussing your novel.

  5. Love this post – totally with you here. Though not sure I have the guts to ask my local bookstore to do a signing (and costs too much to pay for all I’d need). But the principle is definitely true, and it does help to verbalise our ideas and connect with others face to face.

    • Get the guts! This cost me nothing except ordering books and we split the cost. I will make about $1 and change for each one. I already had my poster, ordered some books (no more than 20) and had chocolates and stuff – you can do it!

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