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.