Having recently launched my latest novel and despite having done quite a few of these I am still often left wondering what to do to prepare for the event. Regardless of what we think not every signing is the same although there are similarities.
Having talked to other authors and based on my own experiences I have come up with a few ideas and tips which may help you get through your first signing event.
Don’t be timid! Everything come to those who ask? One of the best ideas is to approach your local bookshop (if you have one) and ask if they will schedule an event. It’s always a good idea to make sure you have a copy of your book, even a review one to give to the person who is organising the event. Maybe you could sign it for the person? Besides it will give you some practice especially if this is your debut book.
Be imaginative! Remember that bookshops aren't the only places to hold a book signing. Perhaps your novel is historical based, in which case you could look for a venue or setting that matches the theme of the story. Always consider contacting such venues. You and your fans will be so happy you did!
Always be professional! I’m sure your mother always told you to ‘mind your Ps and Qs’. Well, if she didn’t then I will. Good manners - ‘Please’ and ‘thank you’ - go a long way toward making allies of booksellers, even if they have not agreed to your polite requests to hold an event.
Be thorough! Make sure you send out notices of your book launch and signing event. Remember press releases to your local media, and of course, online contacts.
Check back! Keep in touch with the events organiser especially a couple of weeks prior to the event just to make sure everything is on track for The Big Day. Some booksellers will provide posters and/or other advertising, but don't be surprised, or upset, if you are asked to provide these materials. Co-operate as much and as fully as you are able to. Always remember to be professional in your responses.
Be presentable! There is an old saying that first impressions are important so I would think this goes without saying. I would never tell anyone how to dress although it’s a good idea to look clean and tidy. Many authors like to co-ordinate their attire with their book's cover, or the theme of the story. I realise this approach isn't for everyone but whatever you choose to wear, personal comfort is always a consideration.
Punctuality! Allow plenty of time to arrive at the venue so make sure you're clear on your directions, traffic patterns, and the availability of parking spaces, etc. There is no shame in being "directionally challenged," so if all else fails, ask. Better early than arriving late. But, if you do happen to run late, a courtesy call to the event organiser is a must.
Be prepared! Make sure you are prepared and have everything you need on the day with. Even turning up with too many items is better than running short of forgetting something important.
Here is a list of items you might wish to take with you:
o Your favourite signing pen but make sure it’s working. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it's far better to check before than be disappointed later.
o A seat cushion. If your event is scheduled to last more than a couple of hours you might find a cushion useful. You want to bring, a favourite drink or snack, check with the bookseller first to make sure it doesn't violate store policy.
o If you have a mailing list, provide some paper (and a pen) for fans to sign up. Don't forget to include a space for email addresses.
o Promotional items such as bookmarks, fliers, copies of great reviews or other promotional goodies people can take away with them. Even if they don’t buy your book during the event they could come back later and buy.
o "Autographed by Author" stickers. The bookshop might provide these, but if not, you can purchase or design your own. Try and match them to the book's cover text and place where it doesn't hide any of the important elements.
o Have your press kit and business cards. These don’t need not be on display unless you want them to be but, they're handy to have as you never know when someone from the media might wander by.
o Bring anything else you feel is eye-catching and ties in with the theme of your book. For my historical novel I had a red velvet tablecloth with a beautiful lace one over the top. For my children’s picture books, I have sticker, bookmarks and novelties that matched the theme of the stories on the books.
And if you're selling as well as signing, don't forget a receipt book and cash box with plenty of coins, including small pound notes, for making change. Remember to keep any receipts for items you purchase safe as well.
Be knowledgeable! You would be surprised at some of the questions you be asked that have nothing to do with your books? Such as “What time is it?” and “Where are the toilets?” I once overheard someone ask an author, "Are you really allowed to write in those books?"
Be appreciative! The event is over and there are some books left. If they have been provided by the bookshop why not politely ask them if they would like you to sign the remaining stock. Or, if you feel so inclined and your budget permits, ask to purchase some of the copies. Bookshops usually buy books at around 50% of the cover price, so try asking to purchase extra copies at, say, 40% off? It's a win-win deal for you and the bookseller. If the answer to any of these questions is no, remember to be professional! Of course, if you have provided your own books ask the bookseller if they would like to purchase any? The percentage you will give will be dependent upon your base cost per book.
Thankyou! Remember to follow-up after the event with a letter of thanks to the organiser. This is a thoughtful touch.
And, last but certainly not least: relax and be yourself! With organisation, forward planning and being relaxed on the day your event will truly be a success.