By Colleen Gorsky
Location– Find the location that works for both your book’s message and audience. Consider how your book relates to the store or location where you’d like to have your signing. While some authors may think getting into a large store will equate to more sales, this isn’t always the case. The size of the store matters less than how authors present themselves in reaching the right customer. Think outside the box when considering the location. Your book event could take place at a local festival, fundraiser, school, restaurant, gift shop, or even a health store. Find a place that fits your topic, too. If the book is about business, consider being part of a seminar being held by a company (they usually do this once a year). If things go well, the company might even buy their employees copies of your book – and depending on the company, that could be a lot of copies! The same goes for schools; usually schools have a budget for author presentations or the parent teacher committee aids in paying fees for events. You could also opt to waive a presentation fee depending on the circumstances (certain number of books purchased or exposure to a large number of people).
Timing- Consider timing, too. Try to line up your book signing with other events happening at the location to reach a larger audience. I know you can’t always plan when your book will be published, but take into account the time of the year – seasons correlate with holidays, vacations, and general traveling. Also, if you have a book that takes place during a certain season, definitely aim to have your event around that time of the year. Check to see if there are any local book festivals that you can be part of, or if they take part during a certain time of year, and see why they have them scheduled at that time. If a store has a calendar of events, see what other authors they have signings set up with and try to find a time that works for both you and the store.
Communication– It’s important to establish a good relationship with the store, shop owner, or event coordinator by keeping the lines of communication open. Whether it’s through emails or phone calls, the store will appreciate the effort you put into communicating with them about your event. While communication is important, be careful to not overdo it since they have a business to run and can’t always respond in a timely manner. However, be sure to let them know how you plan on promoting your signing and what time you plan on arriving. Ask questions that pertain to your event set up, like if there is anything that they need you to bring or what they will provide for you. Keep your communication brief and concise, but also be friendly and professional in your approach.
During the signing, be respectful of the store and their rules, but don’t be afraid to get up from behind the table and stand next to or behind it rather than sitting the whole time. This approach can appear to be more welcoming and informal to nearby customers. If you are near the front of the store, try to welcome the customers into the store with a warm smile (try not to be too pushy or aggressive, just be as pleasant as you can, while also respecting the customers’ space). At this point you don’t need to sell your book, because the customer should notice that you are near a table with a display and will approach you if they are interested. If a store is willing to make announcements this is great, but usually they don’t have the time. This is why it’s so crucial that authors promote their book signings ahead of time. Again, don’t get down on yourself or get upset with the store if you only sell one copy. Oftentimes, one copy is all you need to reach a new reader, and help spread the word about your book to others. Who knows, they might become your biggest fan! Stay as positive as you can and enjoy the experience.
Marketing– Once the location and date have been set, it’s up to you to promote your book by letting friends, family, co-workers, book clubs, your audience and your community know when and where the signing will take place. There are several avenues that you can take with marketing. You can reach out through social media, newspapers, radio, mailing lists, and flyers/signage (and a book display if the store or location will allow it).
-Social Media: With social media, you can do live streams leading up to your signing to build anticipation and spread awareness for your event. TikTok is the leading platform for short-form video content, especially among the younger generation, and the algorithm allows for videos to get mass exposure and go viral within a few short hours. You have the option to become an advertiser or set up an account as a regular user, but both options allow you to promote your book via a short video, typically infused with music. YouTube is another platform where you can promote your book, and the website has a dedicated community known as ‘booktube’ that aims to uplift authors of all sizes. Facebook has a fantastic setup for live streams, and is likely the best and easiest platform to use during your signing. Instagram is also great because you can take photos of your book and describe it in the caption. Instagram and TikTok focus more on the visual side, Twitter and LinkedIn are more informational based, and Facebook and YouTube are a mixture of both visual and informational content.
Don’t forget to use hashtags (#) when posting on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Instagram can have up to 30 hashtags. You typically only need a couple for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. You will want to create relevant hashtags that focus on the industry, subject, and location where your book signing will take place or what your book is about, helping to garner a stronger engagement from your audience. This will also help create more followers and, in turn, usually translates to more customers or readers for your book. Hashtags are very important because you can end up reaching thousands, or even millions, of followers with the descriptions you use. Just don’t over do it with the hashtags, typically on Instagram nine has been found to be the magic hashtag number. Again, having a social media presence is extremely important in this day and age. If you have a website, you can also promote your upcoming signings on the main page with links or a video about the signing. Make sure that you have all of your handles to your social media links listed at the bottom of the webpage, so that people have quick access and can follow you on different digital platforms.
-Newspaper: Most newspapers have shifted towards a digital presence through their emails and social media accounts, but there are still loyal subscribers who receive the physical paper. In fact, most of the newspaper audience prefers to read print. The best departments to notify about your book or upcoming signing are the Arts & Entertainment or Local News sections. They may do a write up about your book or even a short interview. Most newspapers will send out daily emails about their top stories, but subscribers can also request what type of news they would like to receive and how often. Smaller papers love to do write-ups on local people and businesses who are part of their community or will be coming to their community. Newspaper advertising can target a particular audience demographic, just by the zip code they cover. You can also place your ad in a special section, which will show the information about your event to a more focused audience. When it comes to newspaper advertising, you’ll want to place the advertisement in both print and online. Since newspaper readers are highly engaged and place more value on the news they receive, this will also instill trust in your reader. In the same vein, magazines fall under this category with their subscribers.
-Radio: Radio ads are often expensive, but serve as a great way to deliver a message about your book or event. You can also look into public radio, who often needs underwriters and will advertise on your behalf in exchange for supporting their station. Most stations will also allow events to be posted on their website, typically at no cost if it’s a local event. There are many hosts in radio, so if your book fits under what their segment or show covers you’ll have a higher chance of getting an interview on air. In radio advertising you’ll want to write the copy yourself, since you know your book the best and what words will appeal to an audience. Definitely consider the time that you would like your ad or interview to be aired, since radio time is usually divided into A.M. drive time, midday and P.M. drive time. Also keep in mind that running your content at peak times will be more expensive than non-peak times. Typical advertisements run for 15, 30 or 60 seconds, so make sure the message is easily conveyed and simple yet powerful. A successful ad should have a call to action, a next step, (maybe where to buy the book, your website address, or information on your book signing) and utilize repetition. Even if you write the ad yourself, make sure the radio station can provide a voice-over artist who sounds appropriate for your book, or one of their own radio hosts.
-Mailing Lists: While mailing lists may seem outdated, most people sign up for a mailing list because they trust who the mail is coming from – meaning they made the decision to get on the mailing list in the first place, and thoroughly believe in the seller or product. Mailing lists are great for conveying your message through monthly or quarterly newsletters, which keep your audience up-to-date on everything you’ve got coming up. If you have a loyal following, most people find that it’s easier to forward an email to share with others than to text them the information. They might also sign someone up or get more people to join your list. If you have a website, be sure to promote a link on the homepage that easily allows people to join your mailing list.
-Signage or Posters: It’s very important to promote your book signing through a visual aid, such as a poster, sign, bookmark, or pin. Most stores will allow authors to display their sign or poster for a couple weeks leading up to the signing, but this also depends on how much space they have and other events they may be hosting prior to your signing. Larger bookstores have an in-house marketing team who can create signage for the event, while independent stores rely on the author bringing their own sign. It’s more economical to create a general sign for your book, leaving just enough space at the bottom to add a date and time when needed. Bookmarks are great because they can be handed out ahead of time, or displayed on the table during the signing. Similarly, pins are another great giveaway to help promote your book.
Follow Up: After your signing, make sure to follow up with the store that hosted your signing. The quickest way is through a phone call or email, but the most appreciated way is through a handwritten card. Writing a thank you letter is sure to make you memorable, and may even open the door for future signings.
About the Author
Colleen is the Events/Sales Director for Bright Communications LLC and has more than 10 years of experience working with authors and publishers on events both large and small, and handling everything from marketing and purchasing to location and setup. In her previous role as a Community Business Development Manager with Barnes & Noble, she was always looking for ways to team authors with events happening in the store, with schools, businesses, and the community.
Colleen earned her Bachelor’s degree in Communication from Penn State University. In her free time she loves planning parties, decorating, staging and organizing homes, and exploring new places.
Colleen is a Lehigh Valley native and lives in Easton with her husband, Patrick, and daughter, Anastasia. Whenever there are gatherings at their home, her husband and daughter always joke in saying, “Here we go again—another Colleen Production!” Needless to say, she loves to entertain and takes pride in making sure that every detail is well thought out and everyone feels welcome.