What I Learned From My Book Signings
I was incredibly nervous in the days leading up to my first book signing. I stressed about what I was going to wear, how I would arrange my books on the table, what my email signup sheet was going to look like, what I would say to potential readers. A book signing was a completely new experience for me, and I had no idea what to expect. There I am in the picture to the left, looking a bit awkward and a bit overdressed.
Thankfully, my first signing was the easiest introduction to in-person events I could have asked for. The staff at Turn the Page was friendly and accommodating, and I immediately felt at home in the little bookstore. I wasn't the only author there, and that helped ease my nerves. The others had done this book-signing thing before, and they were all acting like it was no big deal.
Noon hit, the official start of "Signing Saturday", and nothing happened. The store was empty. It stayed empty most of the afternoon, which honestly was quite a bit of a letdown. I only sold three books, one of which was to my cousin who already had two copies to begin with. The other two books went to a pair of sisters who each wanted their own copy, so I basically made one sale.
There were a few factors that contributed to my lack of sales. I already mentioned how not-busy the store was that afternoon. I was also placed at a table in the back, which made sense because it was near the young adult section, but it also meant I was the last author any customers would encounter. I couldn't even see the front door around the shelves. Two romance authors with multiple books out occupied the table right by the front door, and they saw quite a few sales.
Despite the disappointing sales, I still had a good time. I had a lot of fun talking to the other authors and the bookstore staff, and with the slow pace I didn't feel any pressure to "perform" in any way. Turn the Page even kept five copies of Ashes, Ashes to sell on consignment. All in all it was a good experience.
My second signing at Fables & Fairy Tales went much better. For starters, the store is in my hometown, which meant people I knew would actually come out to see me. I am blessed to have the most supportive family in the world. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and even old family friends all showed up just to chat and browse the store (and buy copies).
One thing I messed up was not advertising the signing very well. It was all over my social media, and at the last minute I did make a flyer to put up at the library, but I neglected the store itself. Honestly, I didn't realize that was something I was supposed to do. I assumed the store would do it for me. And, if I'd bothered to send them any promotional materials, they would have. That's a lesson for me to remember next time. As it was, I still sold eleven books that day, and I discovered that I'm much better an engaging with people than I thought I would be.
My table was set up in the front part of the store, directly in line with people walking in the door. I gave them a big smile, said hello, and most people said it back. If they glanced over the books I had on the table I asked them if they liked magic and monsters. That was all it took. Some said no and moved on, but the ones that said yes would then come over, pick up the book, and read the back.
A lot of people had questions about the writing and publishing process, and I answered those. I asked them questions back, about books, how their day was going, anything about them that stood out that I could engage with them about. For example, close to the end of the signing I had a group of teenage girls come in wearing matching shirts. I asked about them, and learned they'd all been on a Habitat for Humanity build together. We chatted about the build, and one of the girls bought a book.
Nearly everyone who bought a book also signed up for my email list. I didn't have to push for it, either. I used a simple statement: "If you want to give me your email address I'll send you a free story." Which is true. Everyone who signs up gets an exclusive short story only available to my email subscribers. (If you're interested, you can sign up here.)
It was an amazing day. I had a blast just chatting with people, even if they weren't interested in my book. I did a lot of walking, a lot of talking, and a lot of laughing. Fables & Fairy Tales didn't keep any copies to sell, but I did leave one for the store manager to review and consider purchasing in the future.
So, let's wrap this up in some convenient bullet points. Things I learned from my two book signings:
They're not as stressful as I hyped them up to be.
People like people who engage with them.
People respond to direct statements/questions better than someone trying to "sell" them something.
I need to have better communication with the people in charge of my in-person events regarding what's expected of me both in advance and day-of.
Promote, promote, promote!
Selling my books is fun. Signing my own books, seeing people walk off with them, is an endorphin rush like no other.
New experiences always make me apprehensive. I'm glad these signings are behind me, and I'm incredibly thankful for the invaluable experience they've given me. I have a lot of work ahead of me tracking down new bookstores and scheduling new events, but this time I'm so much more excited than nervous at the prospect.