Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Book Signing Guidelines

by Lorina Stephens
(Five River Chapmanry)

Revised and adapted by SFeditor.ca


  1. Dress appropriately: casual business. Studies prove people are attracted to a professional, good-looking person and will often rate a person’s performance or product higher based upon that appearance. Sounds unfair, but it is a fact.
  2. Show up for your signing about fifteen minutes early. Introduce yourself to the manager. At the very least introduce yourself to the handiest Customer Service Representative (CSR) and ask that they let the manager know you’re here.
  3. If necessary re-arrangethe table you’ve been assigned so that some books are upright, face out, so customers can see the covers, and try to stack as many as possible to create visual interest by varying heights. Marketing studies prove that customers prefer to purchase from areas that appear to be well-stocked, rather than ones that are sparsely arrayed. Stacking and elevating your books gives the appearance of abundance, and therefor success, and therefore something worthy of the customer’s time and money. Make sure not to place any stacks directly in front of you, however, as that creates a barrier between you and the customer and gives the impression of your unapproachable. You need to make yourself open and accessible.
  4. Bring several good quality pens. Pens have to be suitable to the task, so one that isn't going to smear or leave unsightly blobs of ink. Bring several in case one fails or goes missing.
  5. Bring your own signage in case the store doesn't have a sign for you. At a minimum the sign should say your name, and who you are:
    John Doe
    Romance Writer
    Bring tape to hang the sign from the table; or use cardstock to create a triangular stand for your sign on the table top.
    Posting the hours of the signing is optional.
    There may also be occasions when a larger sign could stimulate interest and conversation by providing a prompt. E.g., If signing a book about drugs: "Ask me how to talk to your kids about drugs". If selling a Romance novel, post "Ask me about how the modern Romance novel has changed". And so on. Make it easy for the customer to approach you by giving them the opening line, so they don't have to do any of the work or feel awkward.

During the Signing
  1. When doing your signing remember you are there for two purposes only:
    1. promote your name and your books
    2. sell books
  2. Engage customers as they approach. Try to establish eye-contact, smile disarmingly, ask them how they are, introduce yourself as the author du jour and give your name. Encourage dialogue. Just as the key to getting a date was starting a conversation and keeping it going, the likelihood of a sale is greatly increased if you can get the customer talking.
  3. Have a mental synopsis for your books prepared so that it will be easy to give a pithy, hard-to-ignore pitch to the customers once they finally do stop.
  4. Hand a copy of the book to customers during the conversation or encourage customers to pick it up. Studies prove that if a customer handles a product, they are far more likely to purchase than if they don’t handle the product.
  5. Always offer to sign the book a customer purchases. Ask to whom you should make it out, and enclose a bookmark featuring your website / other titles.
  6. If you have to leave your table for any reason (bathroom break) let a store clerk know where you are going. They will often cover for you while you’re gone.
  7. When your time is up leave the table, seek out the manager, or if they are not available a CSR, thank them for having you, for putting on the event (even if the event sucked), and mention that you look forward to working with them again. Make it clear you consider yourself part of their team. It will go a long way toward fostering a solid business relationship upon which future promotions can be built.

Things to Avoid
  1. Do not eat while doing your signing. It creates an unprofessional image and you need to maximize your public appearance to make that all-important sale. Having bottled water, tea, coffee, or jucie at hand, however, is acceptable.
  2. Do not read or visit with friends or use a mobile device while doing your signing. It gives the appearance you’re uninterested and simply putting in time. If you are not interested, and do not demonstrate enthusiasum and interest in the customers, why should they be interested in you and your books? You cannot expect a customer to wander over to your table and purchase your books simply because you’ve committed the act of writing. They don’t know who you are, and frankly couldn’t care less. You’re not Atwood or Clancy, King or Rushdie. There are no line-ups to indicate you are someone special and worthy of their time. There are no media or paparazzi present to indicate an event of newsworthy proportions. To them you’re nobody. For all they know you’re just a store clerk attempting to sell them something they don’t want. It’s up to you to win them over with charm, grace, and wit, get that book into their hands and at the cash desk.
  3. Don’t shop or wander. Glue yourself to that chair, engage the customer, sell the books. There’s nothing that will turn off a store manager more than an author who doesn’t do everything possible to sell the books the manager has purchased specifically for that event.

By following these guidelines you will realize not only increased sales numbers at your events, meaning more royalties, but engender the good will of managers. And that good will is all important, as it determines how likely they are to keep your books beyond the required 60 days after a signing. It determines how likely they are to face your books on the shelf. It determines how likely they are to encourage staff to read the books and recommend them. Very often it is the follow-on sales that count the most. And you, after all, would like to see a healthy royalty statement, wouldn’t you?

Over the past three years, I’ve developed and used these practices, and have completed 30 successful signings. Sales during my signings usually account for about 50 to 75% of the event stock being sold during the event, with less than 1% returns, and subsequent invitations from store managers to return for special events. Usually any remaining stock sells out within the next six months, and in about 30% of the cases have meant buyers have listed my books as regular inventory for that location. That results in restocking orders. And that results in better royalties.

Lorina Stephens 8/10/2010

1 comment:

  1. Very good advice, Lorina!
    I will never, ever - scrunch, glop, slurp!- eat during a chhigning - --crunch, burps!