Top Tips for Book Signings – A Light Hearted Look

Sunday saw me at my first (and only) book signing at my local Waterstones branch. I chose this one for two reasons: it’s in a humongous shopping mall that’s always busy, plenty of free parking and close to an intersection of two major motorways; and at the moment the store is promoting local authors and you don’t get much more local than me at only 10 minutes’ walk away! The staff were wonderful, so friendly and helpful but it took a great deal of courage for me to go in and ask if I could use the store for my debut! I like to learn something new each day and having gone through the experience, thought I would pass on my top tips, the do’s and the don’ts for book signings.

1) Don’t pick a day when major sporting events are on television. In my case, the Wimbledon final and the British Grand Prix. The first couple of hours were busy, time flew by and books sold. Come 2 o’clock, the store was pretty much deserted.

2) Although very much out of our hands, try to pick a day that you know will be wet. The shopping malls and stores are always much busier at weekends when it’s raining. Or in my case, rain was forecast but they got it wrong again – the afternoon was bright and dry and mild.

3) Wait until all the furore over the latest current best seller has died down or else you won’t get so much as a glance. In my case, the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy at discount was flying off the shelves, stacked at the entrance to the store, thus few ventured deeper into the bowels of the shop where my table was in the fiction section. I should have written a sex novel, even badly, and had a husband who was a PR manager. My book, Every Step of the Way, is set in West London in the locations where I grew up. Guess what? The author of Fifty Shades also comes from West London apparently. From my home town! Perhaps we know each other? I will have to find out… I wonder if her husband would be my PR manager too if I ask.

4) Don’t stagger in with extra copies of your book in case the store run out of stock. Be realistic. I didn’t and I was. I left my extra copies in the boot of the car, just in case some miracle might happen. It didn’t.

5) Do rally the troups, cajole, plead, beg and persuade, or in my case bribe with offers of a free lunch, family and friends to come into the store, preferably all at the same time. This creates a queue at your table and a crowd gathered around you. Great stuff – people are always curious and nosey and want to see what is going on, see what they are missing. Worked a treat. Thank you everyone who came in to say hello, take photos, buy the book. I love you dearly. Family – where the hell were you? Oh yes, I forgot. Most of  mine live 80 or more miles away, some even further afield, abroad. So, dear family in Spain. I am in need of a holiday and some sun. Can you arrange a book signing for me there? P…l…e…a…s…e…

6) Do contact your local paper in advance to tell them, particularly if they have previously covered you writing the book. They love a follow on story. … Except in my case. They didn’t and still haven’t returned my calls or emails. Shame on you.

7) Do approach people in the store with your book, it creates more sales and interest. Oh heck! When the manager told me this, I nearly fainted and backed out. You see, I’m a shy, nervous person who finds it exceedingly difficult to strike up a conversation with a stranger. My mum told me never to talk to strangers and it’s sort of inbred in me. The crowd around the table helped to spark interest. One or two did approach me later. The rest, I plucked up the courage and approached. “Hey, I love  your dress, where did you get it from?” “Are you here to buy anything specific or just browsing?” “Do you read historical fiction?” “Interested in the 1950s?” “Have you read this great book set in London and the West Country?” I felt like a shop assistant, particularly when someone approached me (smile, Kit, here comes another sale…) and asked if I worked there and could I tell them where they could find a book about some Russian or other. A teddy bear was thrown at my feet by a child in a pushchair. A friendly smile from me as I gracefully bent to retrieve and hand back the discarded toy, all the while thinking this is a good way to begin talking to the parent about my book. Well, it would have been if it had been a woman. “No sorry, love, I don’t do books. I’m here with the wife. She’s at the till buying Fifty Shades of Sex or whatever it is. I keep telling her she spends too much on books.” Oh well, foiled again.

8) Don’t drink copious amounts of tea or coffee or gin beforehand to calm the nerves else you’ll need to leave your table at frequent intervals and miss potential sales.  A swift coffee when I arrived and no food passed my lips all morning because I know what my body is like under stress. Too much detail? Okay, I’ll move on.

9) Don’t get your hair stylist to cut your hair a few days before the big day, particularly if they are zealous with the scissors. I looked like Ellie from Ice Age… still, I suppose I am that old. A bit of a relic, or is that wreck?

10) Whatever you do, enjoy yourself. It was a great experience, and as a writer, there was plenty to observe and note mentally. All good research material to use in a book one day. And you never know, I might one day be back there signing another new novel.

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34 thoughts on “Top Tips for Book Signings – A Light Hearted Look

  1. Thanks for the tips. My manuscript has just gone through its first round of editing and I’m dreading the publishing and promoting part. I much prefer being behind the scenes! A question, do authors do a short reading when doing a book signing? I was just thinking that people might be drawn in by the story that way, although perhaps it would be an annoyance in a book store…

    • Hi. Thanks for dropping in and your comment. In answer to your question: No, authors do not give short readings at book signings. The blurb and quality of writing is what draws people, that and plenty of promotion. Good luck with your book. 🙂

  2. Welcome to the Weird and Wonderful World of Book Signers, Kit!

    You seem to have cracked the code very quickly. Very, very well done!

    Soon you will be having Waterstone’s phoning and asking if YOU have a space to fit THEM into your very busy schedule as an author. I loved that transition…when my Manager no longer had to telephone the Stores and ask to have me…as he was receiving calls asking if ‘Carrie could possibly come for a Book Signing when she is free?’ Oh and joy of joys when I first sold out (in Hastings), and was asked to return two weeks later……you will get there and all these teething nerves will be a thing of the Past and you will laugh and grin at tall Posters of yourself in Waterstone’s windows……I asked to have my first ones (!) there were three of them in a row…….then I promptly gave them to some Students from Ohio I gave a Talk to….I kind of wished I had kept at least one…….so you must remember to.

    Keep me posted and I look forward to the time when you have such a long queue that even if you were bursting to go to the loo, you wouldn’t want to stop and leave your eager fans!

    The Pains of it all….are so, so worth it!

    Much love to a fellow author,

    Carrie

    • Thank you, Carrie. Waterstones ringing me to ask?? In my dreams… But then what are writers if not dreamers. Keep in touch and I’ll let you know if I ever get that elusive call. Kit 🙂

    • Thank you, Georgette, for visiting and commenting. At least I managed to sell a few books, many, I’ve heard tell, have sold a big zero at these signings. Am sure your day will come. 🙂

      • Kit and Georgette,
        I once heard a very famous Lady (and I mean that), tell on Radio 4 how her Publishers arranged a Book Signing at a huge Asda Store. So convinced were they that she would sell well that they stationed her in front of a massive pile of her books. She started at ten in the morning and by four she had not sold one copy. Just as she was about to give up and pack up, a well dressed lady approached and said, “Excuse me….” The author was delighted that her Book Sale and Signing was not a total ‘nil point’, so she beamed at the prospective buyer, who continued,
        “Could you tell me where I can find the Panty Hose?”

        • How do you spell ‘Panty’? Is it Pantie? Sorry I am but a Writer (whoops that accolade….’CK is the British Mark Twain: The San Francisco Chronicle’, has surely slipped)! Does anyone happen to know if he could spell well?

        • Reminds me of time I worked as a Saturday girl in Woolworths on the hardware counter. A customer come up and asked where she could find sanitary towels, she said the sales assistant she had just asked had pointed her to my counter!

  3. Well done Kit – I think you are very brave and you looked lovely. I’m sure book signings are the sort of thing that you get better with practice and confidence. Although, to be honest, you look like you cracked it. Thanks for the tips for if/whenever I get to do one! xx

  4. Well, it looked like you were really enjoying yourself! So there HAS to be event no. 2 … where next? Thanks for the tips, hopefully I’ll be doing a bit of that myself, but not just yet … and you looked absolutely lovely!!

    • Hi Linn.Thank you. Between you and me, am trying to psych myself up to approach Waterstones in Brentford, where the book is based to do a signing there. We shall see. Hope the tour is going well. You must be exhausted by now! 😉

    • Hi Anneli. It was a good day thanks to the lovely staff in the bookshop and support of friends before and on the day and at least managed to make a few new fans (hopefully). 😉

  5. Great tips Kit and you are sooooo brave. I’m not sure I could manage a one author signing. Maybe a group or at least one other author. And, I keep going back to what Eleanor Roosevelt said. “Everyday do something that scares you.” However she didn’t say “terrifies you” and that’s what a book signing would be for me.

  6. What a lot of fantastic advice. Have printed post out and tacked to my wall. Am internalising every last piece of advice, especially about hairdressing and advance drinking. Of TEA, mind. Thanks for sharing, Kit, and I think you did splendidly whatever. X

  7. Great advice Kit.
    I approached my local Waterstones and got the cold shoulder with my last novel even though they sold 95 copies of it in the first two months. I think I timed it wrong and they weren’t up for helping local authors at that time. I’m trying a different Waterstones this time round.
    I am doing my first signing for ‘Surfing in Stilettos’ in a local store in August so this advice will help hugely. Now, I just need to cajole some friends and family…oh well, friends then.

  8. You are hilarious Kit and I can’t wait to read your book, you have a great turn of phrase!
    I bought it about a month ago but i’m trying to get the one I was reading finished before I start another one….and no it’s not “50 shades of grey”!

    • Thanks Noeleen. Don’t think I’ll bother with 50 Shades. To quote, been there, done that, got the marks to prove it. Ha ha, I jest again. Hope you enjoy the book when you get to it. 🙂

  9. Hi Kit
    Well done on takng this big step. Can’t be easy the first time – maybe not ever! I do hope the shop is still interested in local authors come the autumn – then I’ll be the one asking for back-up!
    AliB

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