Thoughts on Publishing – Results of My First Book Signing

Yesterday I had my first book signing! It was held from 4-6 pm at Reader’s World in Sedalia, Missouri. I sold five books–four to people I knew from my workplace, and one to a person I didn’t know but who showed interest in my signing table (thank you, everyone!).

Today I’m going over my process of setting up and holding the book signing, in case it helps any of you who are considering doing a book signing in the future. 🙂

First, of course, I talked to the bookstore. In this case, I went in with a copy of Magic’s Stealing a couple months ago to see if they might be interested in carrying the book. They took four copies on consignment (they don’t pay me until they sell the book, we have an agreed upon royalty, and I’ll pick up any unsold copies at a later date).

I signed those copies (a simple signature, not personalized) and left them with the store. One of those copies sold to my husband’s uncle, who lives in the area (thank you, too!) and knew I’d left copies there.

Then, a couple weeks ago, I arranged a signing with the manager.

I tried sending an email at first, but when I didn’t hear back from them, I was worried that maybe my email hadn’t gone through (since I’m still new to that particular email service and that does happen). Turns out the manager was out of town, but I was able to call once she came back in, and we got everything scheduled–they were really friendly and easy to work with.

I asked if there was anything they wanted me to bring in, to which the manager suggested a flyer for their door and any promo materials I wanted to leave on the table. I was still waiting for my promo cards to come in, so I created a set of small “mini” flyers which contained a picture of the book on the front, with info about the signing (date, time, location), as well as the book’s blurb on the back. I also created a larger flyer that I hoped might catch the attention of store-goers.

It took a couple tries to get the flyer to look right (the printer needed to be set at “matte” photo paper before it would print reasonably high quality on regular print paper– and even then I switched to a “parchment” paper to get the best results. I also printed about 40 of the mini fliers (four per page, duplex setting for the front-back parts) to use as walk-by ads and reminders for my book.

Readers World - Magic's Stealing Book Signing Flyer

On the bright side, I did receive the metallic print mount for Magic’s Stealing in time to drop that off with the fliers, so after work the next day, I dropped off my various pieces.

Upon verifying that the flier would work, I printed two more copies and, at the end of the day Monday, posted one to each of the employee bulletin boards where I work. I didn’t mention anything directly to my coworkers, but they did see the fliers and started asking me about it after lunch… which was really cool. The next day, during morning announcements, one of them mentioned the fliers, so I was able to announce the date and time of the signing (yay!). I’d been wondering if I should ask about announcing it, but they did that for me. 😀

Anyway, I got the promo cards in the mail shortly after, so I dropped off a set at the bookstore. They had set up a small table with the mounted picture, the fliers, and the remaining three books. Plus, they had the flier on the door. I asked if I could drop off the promo cards/bookmarks, which they said was fine. I set them up on the table, then headed out.

MS_RWS_2

The day before the signing, Isaac and I went to Walmarts and picked up supplies for the signing (other than books, I counted and found I had nineteen books (I first thought I only had seventeen) still in stock with me, so I hoped I wouldn’t need more than that). I wanted to have a few extra pens on hand (ballpoint pens keep disappearing around here–I’m not sure where), plus a pen that was a little more nice looking and wouldn’t leave a heavy indention in the paper or smear. I also found a couple “precise” Pilot pens that looked like the ones I had borrowed previously from the bookstore manager to sign their in-store copies.

In addition to the pens, I picked up a set of sticky-notes. I’d seen them mentioned before on the web, and I’d seen them in use at Conquest when I was standing in line for Brandon Sanderson’s book signing, and the sticky notes seemed like a really good idea. The concept is that, when personalizing a signing, you ask people to write the name they want the book dedicated to on the sticky note so that you make sure to spell it correctly. Not only does this avoid spelling mistakes, it’s helpful if you have a hard time hearing them (and it also avoids the inevitable embarrassment of not remembering their name if you know them but you’re terrible with names. Seriously… I spent the last week at work trying to match faces and names in my head).

The final thing Isaac and I picked up was candy to offer people walking by the table. We spent some time looking for pieces that would represent the book. We ultimately chose Hershey kisses (for the papery ribbons coming out of the wrapper, and for the colors. The chocolate truffle ones for their dark pink and brown swirls, and the special dark ones for their purple wrappers). We also picked up a bag of Andes mints (for their green wrappers).Magic's Stealing Book Signing - Candy Bowl

As a note here, only a couple people actually took a piece of candy, so I guess we’ll have plenty left over for the next signing. But several people showed excitement about the candy matching the book cover. (Even the pink and brown actually matched a shade). We served it in the same bowl that’s used as the scrying bowl on the cover. 🙂

Finally, the day arrived for the book signing! I decided what to wear (business casual), and then did some last minute research on book signings to see if there was anything I was missing. First off… the email newsletter signup sheet! I put something together quickly in Excel, because I do plan to do an email newsletter, but no one actually signed up to be included. I still plan on bringing it to future signings, though.

Excel - Newsletter Signup Sheet

I also found an article mentioning the idea of having a guest book of sorts for the people who came to the signing to sign their name. I loved the idea, so I picked out a small journal that I was fairly certain could lay flat before the signing officially started, made a quick purchase, and added that to my table. I arrived about 30-45 minutes early, so I could help set up. I checked to make sure the bookstore was okay with having the candy there (they were). Then Isaac took a setup picture.

Afterward, we waited for people to show up. The very first person was one of my coworkers, as were the next couple of people. During the signing, we had one person we didn’t know show interest, to which I asked if they liked fantasy. She said yes, but she mentioned she didn’t typically buy paperbacks (instead preferring the Nook). We did give her a promo card, and Isaac said we could sign that for her, if she wanted (I was having a bit of trouble hearing her– something I hadn’t considered before that might be a problem for me. While I hear fine in most situations, if people are whispering due to being in a bookstore or library, etc, then I sometimes have a bit of trouble understanding them). After a moment, she decided to go ahead and pick up a book. I used the sticky note system so I could make sure I spelled her name right, and yay! Another book sold to a potential reader. 😀

A couple other people showed interest, and we gave them the cards, but that was about it. Overall, we sold five books during the two hours, mostly during the first hour. There were always about 2-3 groups of people in the store at a given time, with the exception of the last half hour, when the store quieted down. I would have liked to have had more people stop by, but there were two factors that might have been at play here.Magic's Stealing - Book Signing - Reader's World Sedalia

First, in regards to work, one of my co-workers mentioned that they had let a lot of people in my department go home early, which means that the event’s timing wouldn’t have been quite as convenient as it would have been if work let out at normal time (we’re in the season where jobs come in at varied intervals). Second, one of the employees at the bookstore said that one of the schools had cancelled school that day due to a stomach virus going around, and that parents might not have been taking their kids out as much as usual.

Still, I count the signing as a success, and I’m hoping to do more of these in the future. Is there still to learn? Plenty, especially as Isaac and I try to figure out how to bring more people into the events of the target audiences.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Have you attended any book signings, and if so, was there anything you found that they did that was particularly helpful or neat?

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6 Comments

Filed under Business Ventures, Writing

6 responses to “Thoughts on Publishing – Results of My First Book Signing

  1. You might like this. Someone posted a picture of their first public book reading on reddit. Nobody really came: http://imgur.com/gallery/UMx5KRT

    He got this reply from a follow writer: https://np.reddit.com/r/writing/comments/3ohtgx/look_at_all_the_people_that_showed_up_for_my_book/cvxf8ha

    “Nine years ago, I showed up to a reading at a large science fiction convention, full of excitement, and faced the exact same sight. Eventually, one friend showed up. I did my reading for him and the person he brought.

    Today, I literally type this from the back seat of a car service taking me to a signing where we are expecting hundreds of people, with my new book giving GRRM’s new book a run for its money on the bestseller lists.

    Don’t give up. If nobody shows, ask the bookstore to give you a table near a high traffic area, and hand out bookmarks/chat with the people who walk by. Give a free copy to any booksellers on staff who like your sort of novel. (Your publisher will often provide extra copies for this purpose.) Start building a mailing list to let readers know when you have signings.

    Most importantly, write that next book and make it awesome.” – Brandon Sanderson.

    • Indeed. I do tend to like quotes from Brandon Sanderson. He has a lot of interesting experiences and information, and a lot of useful advice. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  2. suenuckles

    Congrats! Sounds like you had a successful day.

    Sue Nuckles, author

  3. Congratulations Stephanie! Wish we could’ve been there to support you. Sounds like you were attentive and thoughtful to those in attendance which I feel is vital in making that bond with potential readers. My most recent I attended the author did not make me feel welcome at all but more as an annoyance. Keep up the great work, you’ll get there.

    • Thanks! Makes sense about trying to make the guests feel welcome. It’s disappointing as a guest if you go to a signing and feel like you aren’t really valued for being there. Hadn’t really thought about it specifically like that before, but it’s definitely an interesting point to keep in mind. 🙂

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