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Recipe for a Successful Booksigning

I once dreamed of my first booksigning. Lines of readers dying to meet me wound all around the block, friends and family there for support, and consistently selling out of books. Reality hit when my first book was published Print on Demand back in 2001. The lines didn’t form, I was amazed at the friends and family who came, even more amazed at the ones who didn’t, and I came nowhere near selling out. It was a learning experience. By the time I was traditionally published in 2010, I had a plan.

      1.    Free advertising. Before a signing or event, write up a press release and send it to the newspaper. Press releases are free. In your hometown, they’ll likely do them free on a continuous basis as long as you come up with a new spin. Other cities will do a one time free press release. If you’ve already used up your free press release, call the newspaper and ask about getting an interview. Offer to do the interview at the newspaper office for their convenience.

If the newspaper has a special events column–get your event in there. Some local radio stations have community calendars–get your event in there. Tweet about your signings and post them on Facebook. Print up flyers and ask local churches to post them on their bulletin boards. And spell it out. Readers often have never been to a signing. Let them know you’ll be selling and signing books. That way, they’ll know they can buy a book or if they’ve already bought it, they can get it signed.

      2.    Don’t just sit there. You can’t wait for people to come to you. They won’t. Print up a nice tri-fold, color brochure about you and your books. When a customer walks in, pass out silly bands, or whatever the latest inexpensive trend is, to the kids. Give adults a brochure and offer chocolate. Chances are they’ll read your brochure while they browse and come back to buy a book before they leave. I’ve had very successful signings and made lots of cold sales with brochures. Mother’s Day and Christmas have been my most successful.

     3.    Go where the readers are. Don’t limit yourself to signings at stores. My most successful events have been out of the box. I had my book launch party at The Romance Waterfalls, which is featured in all three of my books. I sold out in about 10 minutes and had to take orders. In Scott, Arkansas, I attended the High Cotton on the Bayou Festival, an outdoor event with vendors under tents. I didn’t know a soul there, but I sold over 30 books. Many of the people I met that day have contacted me wanting to know how to get my new releases and have purchased them.  How did they contact me? My e-mail was on the brochure I passed out.

I also had a signing at the Rambler Café in Rose Bud, which is featured in all three of my books. Again, I sold over 30 books. I had a signing at the Darden-Gifford House, a historical two story plantation home featured in my third book and gracing the cover. It’s one of those houses you can’t drive past without craning your neck to get a better look. People came out of the woodwork at the chance to tour the house. While they were there, they bought books. Lots of them.

My single most successful signing was at my son’s school. The librarian asked if I could do a workshop for the 3rd and 4th grade. I taught them about writing short stories and set up a contest. The school provided prizes and I judged the entries. While I was there, I sold over a hundred books to the teachers. And when my third book released, they invited me to set up shop in the teacher’s lounge for a few hours so they could all get book three.

I’m still learning. My most unsuccessful/successful event, I went to a bookstore known for big name signings. The store has a signing room—in the back. This probably works great for the big names, which I’m not–yet. On top of that, it wasn’t a Christian book store. The customers weren’t looking for inspirational romance. I only sold 8 books. Maybe if I’d been up front where the people were, I’d have sold more, but I figured the owner knew what she was doing.  What made it a success? Those 8 buyers might not have been Christians, so maybe I planted some seeds. Across the street, there was a Christian book store, I probably could have sold more, but would I have touched lives? Lesson learned: Don’t just sit where they put me. Ask if I can move up front. And next time–hit both stores.

The most important thing I’ve learned is not to overbook myself. I had signings every Saturday for six weeks straight. Midway through, I was tired and really didn’t care if I sold any books or not. I had to muster up the energy to connect with readers. I do best if I have a free weekend in between events. Two Saturdays in a row are okay, but then I need a break.

Have you heard any tips for signings? Anything you’ve done that worked? I’d love to hear some more ideas.

  1. Jamie Adams03-18-11

    Very interesting article Shannon. It’s great to be able to learn from your experiences and maybe one day put it in use 🙂 Thanks!

  2. Jenny Carlisle03-23-11

    Lots of very practical ideas here. Making your presence known has got to be key to selling books. Hope I get the chance to find out someday!

  3. Shannon Taylor Vannatter03-23-11

    Hi Jamie and Jenny,
    Here’s a nother tip. I never said if I get published. I always said when I get published. It helped keep my spirits up as each of my over 200 rejections came in. So just know you’ll get there someday.

  4. Sheila Covey03-25-11

    Loved your post! I know you’ve worked hard–but you are doing great 🙂

  5. Debbie Archer05-16-11

    Think positive! I like it!!

  6. Shannon Taylor Vannatter05-17-11

    Hey Sheila,
    Thanks for the vote of confidence. I’m tired at the moment and taking at least a month off from events.

    Debbie,
    Thinking positive is a must in the up and down, roller coaster ride on the journey to publication. Where else do people send off their dreams and get crushed by rejections hundreds of time. Rejections come even after you get numerous books published.

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