Sunday, January 17, 2010

How to Conduct a Successful Book Signing Event

The following blog post was sent to me by Sally Watkins, author of Change Your Mindset, Not Your Man . . .

As a brand new somewhat introverted author with a very small platform It took trial and error before I got the hang of conducting a book signing event. How as an unknown can you sell yourself and your book in a public place? How do you nab passersby in the bookstore or vendor exhibit hall and get them interested in your book?

Dress up in a professional outfit and wear a badge with a picture of your book, your name and the word “Author” in big letters. I also have a poster with my picture and the book cover that is positioned by the books, and in addition have a huge banner of the book cover in a banner stand. Business cards with a picture of the book and contact information are also a necessity. All of these items I ordered from Vistaprint, an inexpensive online resource.

Then decide what your hook will be to interrupt people as they stream by. I’ve discovered that you can’t tell a book by the cover and you can’t decide who is appropriate for your book by how they are dressed. Many very upscale, successful, well read, intelligent, and educated people will be wearing sweatpants, old t-shirts, and be poorly groomed so don’t write off anyone on the way they look. Even though my book is targeted to young and middle aged women I found that older women bought it for friends and daughters and men bought it for wives and girlfriends so I didn’t rule out anyone.

The best hook that worked for me is to hold a copy of the book and stand by the stack of books and banner and say, “I’m a visiting author today and this is my book, Change Your Mindset Not Your Man.”

Since my book falls in the self-help genre I would continue, “I’m a psychotherapist and giving free advice today and talking to people about their relationships.” If I got their attention and they were either looking at me or taking a copy of the book I was offering them, I would give a monologue about the value or benefit of the book. It is important not to allow silence or wait for the person to ask questions. This is your opportunity to give them a two-minute commercial about the book.

I figured out how to respond to common reactions:

For the woman who said she was long married and had no need of the book, I remarked that she learned these things herself over the years but maybe she had a friend or daughter who hadn’t figured it out.

For the woman who said she wasn’t in a relationship but was just dating, I showed her how these ideas would help her focus on her own needs and not just form around what a guy wanted.

For the staunchly single woman I allowed that she probably had friends bending her ear about their man problems.

For the newly married I explained that this book would keep things on the best footing.

For the person on the fence about whether to stay or go, this book would give a lot to consider before making that decision.

For the guy, I would say that many men liked the book and it gave them insight into how women think and feel. You get the idea.

I found it helped rapport if I told people a little about my life and why I wrote this book. “I grew up in a family with lots of problems. I was like many women who dreamed of a perfect guy who was going to rescue me. Self-help books and therapy and going back to school helped me become the person I am today. I lived this book before I became a therapist and helped others.” It humanizes me, makes me more like them.

For people who decide to buy, offer them a generic autograph beside your printed name or a personalized inscription. For the latter, get the correct spelling of their name and add something like “best wishes” or better yet a phase that might relate to your book. I like “For Mary: star in your own life!, or “For Gina: Your relationship with you comes first!” Then sign and date.

For people who decide not to buy and are ready to walk, offer the business card, with the website and the option of reading the first chapter online. Encourage them to read your blog, view your videos, read your reviews on Amazon.

A trap to avoid is those people who are interested in writing a book or publishing and want to talk to you about your experience and how to do it. These people usually won’t buy your book and they can tie up a lot of your time while many would-be buyers are passing by. It’s very seductive because you naturally want to talk about your path to publishing and enjoy their interest but if you are there to market your book it’s better to stay on task. Give these writers your card and invite them to email you.

At the end of your time, ask the bookstore manager if they want you to autograph the books left to sell later. Be sure and write an email of appreciation to the bookstore for the opportunity.

Marketing books requires a different skill set than writing them. I hope these pointers are helpful to other new authors.

-- Sally B. Watkins, psychotherapist, life coach, and author. Visit her at or
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