Do Your Research
Before you agree do go to a signing…before one penny is deposited, ask around about the event. Ask how many years they have been hosting them, ask for a list of authors who went, and check in with those authors. If any event coordinator gives you a hard time about providing this information, say ‘no’ right then and there. There has been a wave of signings that have fallen to the wayside, leaving authors without their deposits returned. Make sure the signing is going to be worth your time and hard earned money before you say yes.
You Won’t Make Money
Be smart with your money because you aren’t going to make it back at the signing. I repeat, you will not make back what you spent at this, or any other signing (unless you are a super famous author). Table costs, swag, banners, hotel, food, gas, flights–all add up to an event that will put you in the red. Know this going in.
You are at a signing to make connections with readers and other professionals. You are there to market yourself. If you sell a few books, bonus. After you’ve done your research on the event and said yes, make sure you actually go. Readers are counting on your attendance. Some may have even agreed to go to the signing just to see you. If you have to pull out, make sure your readers know why. Post on the event page and on your own. Otherwise, you’ll come out looking like the bad guy who disappointed an eager reader.
Plan Your Table Layout
Once you’ve purchased your table, you now need to come up with a plan for how you will design it. Sure you can just slap a few books down and call it good, but this is a business where you have to stand out. Spend a little bit of time thinking about how your table will draw in a reluctant reader.
Now, you don’t have to buy a fancy table runner which can cost you hundreds of dollars if you don’t want to. Most events come with the tables covered, and if they don’t? An ironed sheet works just the same. Sew a few together if you have to.
Make the tablecloth work for your books. Got a romance? Grab a silk sheet in lush reds or pinks. Got a murder mystery? Take a white sheet and splatter some ‘blood’ on it. All your covers have some teal in it? Grab a teal sheet. There are lots of ways to dress up a table, and it doesn’t need to break the bank. Go to the dollar store and grab some fun things to put on your table that match the theme of your books.
You’re Gonna Need Swag
What about swag? You’re gonna need it, but you don’t need to go crazy on it either. It’s real easy to fall down the rabbit hole in purchasing swag, trust me on this. But remember, swag is essentially disposable items. Only the rare fan is going to hold onto your swag for long.
Swag is a vessel to communicate your name and books to potential readers when they get home and sort through their bounty of collected items. You want yours to stand out, sure, but you also don’t want to be going bankrupt either. Save the pricier stuff for giveaways or beta readers. Go cheap, go bulk, go light weight. Flat swag will be your best friend as that’s easy to mail and pack. Whether it be business cards or bookmarks, postcards, whatever, make sure your info. is on there–the name of your book(s), how to find your books, and how to find you.
I have a huge stack of swag that doesn’t have my contact info on it. *Head desk* Let my mistake be your lesson. If you can leave a spot for signing it, even better. Try to bring as much swag as there are attendees. Not that everyone who comes is going to make it to your table and want your stuff, but you may be able to give out a small stash to a blogger or have them take a few to give to friends. It’s better to have too much, than not enough. You can always use the extra at other events or mailings.
Prepare For Plastic And Cash
Get a credit card reader and know how to use it. More and more people are packing plastic at these events and you don’t want to miss out on potential sales because you didn’t get a card reader. At the same time, have change on hand. If someone hands you a $50 to buy your $10 book, you don’t want to have to turn them away because you forgot to bring small bills.
When You’re Smiling…
Smile. Smile like you’ve never smiled before. I don’t care if you normally have resting bitch face, at a signing you have to have a permanent, genuine smile. Readers will not approach a table if the person sitting behind it looks mean. They just won’t. I’ve seen it first-hand at every signing I’ve been to. They will walk right by a table if the author doesn’t look friendly.
As my acting professor used to say: kill them with kindness. You want to make a connection with potential readers and you don’t want their first impression of you to be anything but positive. I know it’s hard. I’m an introvert, big time, but at events, I force myself to be extroverted, to engage, to say hello, to talk about my books to them even if they don’t ask. You are a salesperson at a signing. You are pushing a product. Be approachable. Don’t be sitting on your cell phone. Eyes up, smile on.
Prepare Your Pitch
Have your ‘speech’ ready. If someone asks you ‘What are your books about?’ have a short, well-rehearsed answer at the ready. It shouldn’t take any more than three sentences to sum up what your books are about. Any longer and their interest will wane. Practice those lines, over and over so they become second nature.
Use An Order Form
Don’t bring too many books, especially if you are flying. You can always have an order form on hand if you sell out.
Three Things You Have to Have
Bring sharpies, water and a snack. You are going to need all three. And finally?
Signings are work, but they should also be fun. This is the time to network with other professionals in your field. Reach out, exchange information. Learn together. Grow your support network of writers. Lift each other up.