Since our focus is on bookstores this month, we thought it would be a good time to touch on the subject of book signings. Mary’s talked about them recently and had some compelling reasons for doing a buddy signings. But what if you simply don’t have another writer you can pair with? What’s an introvert to do?
Alas, not having a buddy does not give you carte blanche to completely bow out of book signings altogether. Book signings, specifically book signings at independent bookstores, are worth their weight in gold, even if only two people show up. How can that be? Remember—publishing and bookselling are all about connecting with readers. Indie bookstore employees are some of the most dedicated, passionate readers around. Even if no one else shows up, you can take the opportunity to chat with them, ask what books are going like hotcakes in their store, what their personal favorites are, what helps them sell and get behind a book. You can also sign stock.
So repeat after me, even poorly attended book signings give you a terrific opportunity to connect with booksellers, and connecting with booksellers is one of the best tools in your marketing arsenal.
But what are some other strategies you can employ to help you feel less like a pimple on the bookstore’s nose as you sit at a table waiting for someone to come buy your book. Here are a few suggestions.
1) Think abundance. Mary and I have found through trial and error that if you sit with a big pile of your books, it tends to draw people to you. Occasionally, we’ve sat at tables with just one or two of our books with the bulk of the copies some place else. This doesn’t seem to work as well, so see if the store will let you have plenty of books on your table.
2) Bring a couple of ice breakers along. Candy is always good. Few can resist a piece of candy, although I recommend something that can be popped into one’s mouth in a single bite in order to avoid any sticky residue on fingers that could end up on the inventory!
3) Consider a raffle or giveaway. That way instead of asking people if they’d like to BUY something, you can ask if they’d like to WIN something by entering a drawing. This can be much more comfortable way to approach people. You can raffle off a copy of your current book, an earlier title, or even a small prize that ties into the theme of your book.
4) Schwag. Have enticing little piles of bookmarks, pencils, tattoos, whatever. Things that you can ask customers if they’d like (free) so you can break through that invisible wall that seems to exist between customers and signing authors.
6) Consider donating a portion of the proceeds to some worthy cause: the children’s library collection, a literacy group, the local Girl’s or Boys club. Often if you can find a way to give back to the community, the community will feel even more enthusiastic about supporting you. Plus, it shifts the focus from you to your worthy cause.
7) Keep your expectations realistic. Do not expect throngs of people. Every author has had a book signing where only one or two people show up.
8) Stay in the moment and focus on gratitude for those people who did show up. Connect with them, chat for a few moments.
9) See if the bookstore hosts any reading groups or knows of any local reading groups who might be interested in your book or attending the signing as a group.
10) When setting up the signing, ask if the bookstore will consider doing presales for customers who would like a signed book but have other obligations on the date of your signing. This helps make the even just that much more worthwhile for everyone.
11) If all else fails, be a mimic. Pretend you’re somebody else, someone you’ve seen who is able to interact comfortably with people and always seems gracious. Just pretend you’re that character for the duration of the event.
12) If you know you’re bad at small talk, make up a list of conversation starters. What books have you read recently? What grade are you in. What are you studying in school right now? What’s your favorite book? Have you seen the new Spiderwick movie? Whatever. But something that shifts the focus from you to them.
If any of you have other strategies that you’ve found helpful, or if any indie booksellers out there have additional ideas on what you’ve seen work well, feel free to pass it on in the comments!