The Three P’s of a Successful Book Signing

Written by Ahmed A. Khan | July 29, 2015

Many writers dream of reaching their audience, making a difference in people’s lives, or simply selling books. This article is all about reaching your readers with a book signing. This can not only be incredibly gratifying, it can help you sell a lot of books.

My recent foray into book signing happened when Chapters-Indigo arranged such an event for two of my books at their London, Ontario location. The two books were: “Sparks”, my first collection of short stories published by Golden Acorn Press and “A Mosque Among the Stars”, an anthology of speculative fiction published by ZC Books.

The book signing session turned out to be successful beyond my expectations, thanks to the three P’s: placement, publicity, and PR.  Exactly in that order.

PLACEMENT

This refers to the placement of your event in space and time. Space-wise, the book signing table should be set close to the main entrance and conspicuously visible. Time-wise, afternoons and evenings in weekends work better because these are the times when the stores have the most traffic. For my own event, in consultation with the bookstore manager, I selected a slot of 3 hours – 2 PM to 5 PM – on a Saturday. It also helps if your book signing is a few weeks before a holiday that involves gift-giving, i.e. Christmas, New Year, etc., as autographed books make a good gift item.

PUBLICITY

This is perhaps the most important and the most time consuming part of the whole procedure. As soon as the date and time of your event is finalized with the bookstore manager, design an attractive invitation to the event on your computer.

The invitation should have a nice picture of the cover of your book, any positive comments that your book received and, of course, the place, date and time of the book signing. Once the invitation is designed and saved, open up your email and start sending the invitation to all the people on your address book, requesting them to forward the invitation to as many people as they can with a request to forward it to as many people as they can with a request to – you get the picture.

Send the invitation out to the local media – the newspapers, the radio channels, TV if there is a local channel around. Print out your invitation, preferably in color, and start carrying copies of it with you wherever you go. Put it up all around the city where you live – in the grocery stores, at your barber’s, in the local schools, community centres, malls, in the libraries – whatever place you can think of, where there is good walk-in traffic and where you are allowed to put up the posters.

Pick up your little notebook where you keep the phone numbers of all your friends and contacts and start phoning them and telling them about the event. Don’t forget to tell them to spread the word to their friends and contacts as well.

Tell everyone at your workplace.

Put the announcement of the event on your blog and on the blog of your friends and friends of your friends. Send the announcement out to your friends on the facebook, myspace, twitter, whatever.

You think you are all done?

Not at all. A day before the book signing, get in touch with all your contacts once again, over the phone or via email, and remind them of the upcoming event. People are quite forgetful, you know.

In short, give publicity your full attention and go the extra mile. The success of the book signing event depends upon this step more than anything.

Take note that all the above mentioned channels and methods of publicity do not cost you much. The only expense you will incur is in printing out the invitations (particularly if you are doing it in color) and the gas you will use when you are going from place to place in the city putting up the invitations.

 

PR

Public relations is important. At the time of the signing, be approachable. The dress is an important factor. A totally formal dress reduces your approachability. A totally casual dress reduces your image. The dress should be balanced on the fine edge of casual and formal.

Don’t just sit at the table all the time. During slack times get up and walk around a little. Smile and say your hi, hellos to the walkers-by. Be ready to talk about your book at the drop of the proverbial hat.

If yours is a children’s book, then having a bowl of candy and/or cookies on your table is not a bad idea either.

Now that we are done with the three P’s of a success book signing, I would like to add a fourth P – promotional offers. Think up of something that would add value to the customer and offer it exclusively at the book signing. It may be a full color poster of the cover art for your book, a book mark, a plush toy that goes with your book, etc. In my case – as I was signing for two books – I put up the promotional offer that whoever buys both “Sparks” and “A Mosque Among the Stars” gets a free signed copy of an earlier published anthology of mine, “SF Waxes Philosophical”. The idea worked like a charm and one in every three customers who was going to buy only one of my books went for the other upon hearing of this offer.

Another word of advice: Do not be discouraged if the book signing seems to be going very slowly at first. My own book signing started very flat. For one full hour, from 2 PM to 3 PM, I did not sell a single book. But then suddenly it picked and went full speed until the closing time.

Bio: Ahmed A. Khan is a Canadian writer whose works have appeared in venues like Interzone, Strange Horizons, Murderous Intent, C/Oasis, etc. He is the co-editor of the anthology, “A Mosque Among the Stars”. He maintains a very irregular blog at http://ahmedakhan.livejournal.com.