What makes a good booksigning?

I’m doing a few booksignings over the next few weekends and I wanted to ask you what makes a good booksigning, from both sides of the table.
I signed recently at the New Jersey RWA Literacy Bookfair which was a lot of fun. I sat next to Colleen Gleason, one of the authors for Bespelling Jane Austen. We had chocolate. We had bookmarks, magnets, coverflats and big grins on our faces. We had great tottering piles of books and signs with our names on them that tended to fall over.

I’m happy to report that the piles of books did become slightly smaller as time went on and I had time to wander around, admire others’ covers, and even buy a couple of books myself.

So what makes a good signing? First, you have to sell books. Second, you need to know where the bathroom is because, particularly in bookstores, people always ask. You must have things around other than the books, because even if people throw out the bookmarks as soon as they get home, the subliminal message of buy my books for all your friends, pay off my daughter’s college loans, and vote Democrat has imprinted on their brains. In another post I’ll tell you how to design the subliminal message.

I like to do group signings because if a customer approaches you can ask them what they like to read and engage them in conversation, which is the best possible thing you can do. If they don’t read books like yours, you can refer them to the other writers at the table, and they may buy yours anyway. I find I do better at engaging a customer by standing up, smiling, and offering chocolate. I’ve even walked around the bookstore and chatted to people who are browsing and invited them to the table. For me the worst possible scenario is the single lonely writer sitting behind a pile of books and occasionally directing someone to the bathroom.

If I go to a signing I like to feel that I have shared a few seconds or moments exclusively with the writer(s) and that I’m not part of some sort of signing conveyor belt.

I’m signing this Saturday at Borders, Bowie MD, from 2:00–4:00 pm at a Halloween signing. I shall wear special earrings. My partners in crime are Rebecca York, Pamela Palmer, and Catherine Asaro. Members of my local RWA® chapter will appear as costumed minions to herd people over to the table and the store staff will also dress up.

Also the multitalented Catherine Asaro will perform songs from the companion CD to her latest release Diamond Star.

I hope if you’re in the area you’ll drop by. It should be a lot of fun.

What have been your good booksigning experiences? Your worst?

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9 Responses to What makes a good booksigning?

  1. “the subliminal message of buy my books for all your friends, pay off my daughter’s college loans, and vote Democrat has imprinted on their brains”

    I would love to have a bookmark that can say all that! Can’t wait for your design tips 🙂 As a writer, I will only do group signings because I am way to shy to do it on my own (plus it makes it seem more like a fun party readers might want to join!), and it definitely helps to have freebies to give away. As a reader, I also love enthusiastic, friendly writers who give me free things…

  2. Diane Gaston says:

    I had one group signing at a local bookstore in a mall where I only sold one book and that was when I was packing up. Even my sister who dropped by did not buy a book! (she already had a copy, but that’s beside the point!)

    But I agree. Don’t sit and look dejected. Stand up. Say hello to passersby. Offer chocolate and bookmarks. Interest them in your fellow authors.

    One trick I learned is to alert your family and friends about the booksigning. Even if they don’t buy (!!), they make you look popular and the time passes more pleasantly.

    The only time I’ll do an alone signing is when I know there is an interest in buying MY books. I did one at my Curves once and sold about 40 books. I did a talk at a small used bookstore that had a big romance readership and that was also a hit. But both times, interested readers knew I was coming.

    I hope you have a good turnout!You have stellar attractions! You’ll be competing with John Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity ont the Mall, although the participants might be able to make it to the bookstore before 4 if they hurry.

  3. peggy says:

    As a reader I think I would like to see a friendly smile an author who will take time to talk to her fans.and to ask the person if they wanted the book signed with the fan’s name that would mean a lot to me as a reader also I like when an author ask me to e maiil them and let them no what i thought of there book.

  4. Daz says:

    I have kept all my bookmarks so subliminally something must be happening to me. *grin* I don’t use them anymore since I mostly read on the Kindle now but I like pulling them out and looking at them.

  5. Sounds like your book signing will be loads of fun!

    I don’t think I have had a bad experience at a book signing. Then again, I have only participated as a buyer and not as an author. YET !

    I do remember my friends and I getting a real chuckle when I bought Forbidden Shores at the RWA book signing in San Francisco because you put the book in a brown paper bag after you signed it!

    I attended a Stephanie Laurens book signing in Birmingham, Alabama where a fan brought every single Stephanie Laurens book she had to be signed. Those of us in line behind her were NOT amused.

    Subliminal messages are always a plus. I keep all of my bookmarks in colorful mugs on my desks and nightstands so I always have one handy. And my fridge is COVERED with authors magnets. And I have a lovely collection of signed cover flats hanging in my writing studio as inspiration.

  6. Oh, I wish I could attend the booksigning in Bowie!

    I have been to book signings where the authors look uninterested in talking to readers (no one here at Riskies).

    You already know the story of how I discovered you – I attended a group signing for two other WRW members. They introduced me to you and viola! I love Janet Mullany!

    I am also looking forward to reading about the subliminal messages in bookmarks.

  7. Elena Greene says:

    I’ve had all sorts of booksignings but the worst was the one where I didn’t show up.

    I had arranged the date with the store’s events coordinator, but later she called me and told me that policies had changed and the signing was cancelled. I was disappointed but glad I hadn’t sent out any promo yet. Then the day after the date, a friend called. She said she happened to be at the store, that there was a sign advertising my booksigning but no one knew where I was. I called the store and discovered that the events coordinator was no longer there and she had not left any contact information for me. The store manager never quite explained what happened but she was very apologetic and we arranged another date. I still feel bad that people saw that sign and thought I was a no-show!

  8. Carolyn says:

    I had the manager of a Very Large Chain contact me to set up a signing for me (Yay! I thought) and I said yes and rearranged my schedule to be there.

    When I arrived, the manager apologized and said they’d 1) forgotten to order my book and so didn’t have any copies and 2) didn’t do any advance promo.

    Luckily, I’d brought some copies of my own, some of which sold. The book store kept the money. Even though they were my books.

    That signing was the last time I have ever done a signing alone. I doubt I’ll ever do one alone again. It’s too lonely.

  9. Susan/DC says:

    Rats! I was all set to drive to Bowie on Sunday because I saw the witch and assumed the booksigning was on Halloween. A closer examination of the fine print made me realize it’s on Saturday. Since the “vote Democrat” part of the subliminal message has sunk in, I’ll be at the John Stewart rally on the 30th. I’ll think of you as I stand with the crowds on the Mall. I do promise, however, to buy a copy of your book to help with the other parts of the message.

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