Book signings are more than just opportunities to scribble our names on paper. They’re celebrations of our books even existing. Why not make a big deal out of that?
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at a few ways to make book signings really pop. Here's how you can meet new fans, engage with existing ones, and strike up new relationships with bookstores and businesses around where you live.
First, Here’s Why You Should Do a Book Signing
Some authors are reluctant to try them. They fear no one will show up, that they might embarrass themselves, or, I don’t know, that aliens will show up and abduct people. The reality is that book signings are actually a lot of fun!
Sure, there probably won't be many folks at your first few events. But that's because, for most writers, it takes years of hard work toiling in the shadows before readers discover us. So be patient. Enjoy the signing. Build your reputation.
Now for the ideas!
1. Give Something Away for Free
This may seem counter-intuitive. If you’ve got people there to buy your book, why give something away for free?
Well, there are a few reasons. For starters, some attendees might’ve already purchased your book! If that’s the case, you don’t want them leaving empty-handed.
Furthermore, freebies are kind of like free advertising—so long as it’s something people want to use. For example, at my recent signing, I considered creating business cards. But everybody has business cards. So instead, I offered bookmarks.
Not a revolutionary concept, but I was pleased with the result. The bookmarks looked great, and they’re far more likely to have enduring relevance to attendees than business cards. Plus, I added a QR code so people could easily find my website.
2. Do a Raffle
Credit for this idea goes to my brother-in-law, who was kind enough to organize my last reading. (Thanks again, Dan!) This goes along with our previous idea of providing value to those who’ve already read the book. Also, it’s just plain fun.
If possible, select raffle items with relevance to your book. Start with a free copy of the book, sure. But feel free to sweeten the pot.
For my raffle, for example, we added a bag of prestigious local coffee grounds. Though everybody loves coffee, that wasn’t the only reason for adding it; I’ve got a short story in my book about a guy who falls in love with coffee. That was a nice tie-in.
3. Offer a Selection
Even if you’re doing a signing for a specific book, it helps to have a selection of previous works. I’ve only got two myself, so it’s tough to make a variety out of that. But it can still be done.
An easy idea: offer both paperback and hardcover versions. Though it might be hard to sell an audiobook in person, you can include instructions on how to buy those. Or bundle various books or versions together into a multi-buy.
4. Stream It
Have fans who can’t make it in person? Start a live stream so they can watch from home!
This is one of the coolest capabilities afforded by social media. Pretty much every network offers a live stream option these days, and they’re all super easy to use on your phone. You might want a tripod and an external charger, but other than that, you should be set.
Many platforms, such as Facebook, save recordings of your streams, which then gives you something fun to share on social media. That could bring more fans to the next book signing.
5. Have Attendees Choose Your Reading
This was an idea I toyed with at my signing, but ultimately I chickened out. Try it out and show more bravery than I did.
Most signings also include a reading, right? For yours, try practicing not one passage, but several. Then pitch each option to the crowd and have them choose what they want to hear.
Of course, the challenge here is that you won’t know what you’re actually reading until the vote. However, I think the payoff is the audience interaction. If I’ve learned anything from copious karaoke singing, it’s this: crowds love when they get to participate, too!
Try Them Out!
Next time you have a book reading or signing, try these tips out. Let me know which ones work for you!