Special Guest Author
Caveat: I have not done hundreds of signings—just a couple dozen or so (thanks mostly to the SENSATIONAL Strathcona Chapters in Edmonton, Alberta), yet my limited repertoire of experiences has already planted some don’t-leave-home-without-‘em tips for YOU to tuck into your back pocket. Here we go:
1. Frivolity First—Make It Look Good
Do you have a lovely linen table cloth? Preferably in a solid color that contrasts in an aesthetically pleasing way with your book cover? Bring it. Same goes for one (or two, not more) props that relate to your story. (And be creative! Your props will be conversation pieces!) Aesthetics sound superficial but they matter. You need to employ everything you can to draw people to your table because:
2. Shoppers Will Treat You Like That Time-Share Salesman They Avoid On The Vegas Strip
Readers have no clue how introverted writers are, and they don’t know it’s killing you to be out in the unforgiving public eye. The fact that bookstore shoppers think we have high-pressure sales tactics that will leave them feeling like a used teabag who’s just been bullied into buying our book is as laughable to us reclusive writer-types as it is to imagine ourselves wearing the persona of Vince from the Sham-Wow commercials—or, worse, when he sells the Slap-Chop (“You’re gonna love my nuts!”). So, moral of the story? Don’t take the avoidance personally; shoppers think you’re gonna go all used car salesman, and people hate having to say no. Also:
3. Sometimes Readers Are Intimidated By You
You seem like a mysterious species, writer. People don’t know how to engage with you or what they’re supposed to say. So sometimes they avoid eye contact and even ignore your pleasant “Hello.” (Which leaves you feeling perplexed and vaguely hurt). Rejection sucks. But again—it’s not you. It’s what you do. Most people don’t understand it so they’re either intimidated to talk to you or freaked out that you’re going to trot out the high-pressure sales pitch (oh, and if you do have a high-pressure sales pitch? Stop. Using. It. Right. NOW.). And get ready, because….
4. Everyone’s a Writer Who Will Tell You All About Their Project
These folks truly don’t care about your book. They are just so stinkin’ happy to see someone who they believe is like them they cannot help themselves: they spill every detail about their own stories, ideas, and plots—most of which they’ve never actually written (they’re not like you; they don’t have time
5. Bring a Sweater, Cardigan, or Dress Warm
You’ll likely be placed near a door. That means drafts (here in Canada it actually means hypothermia). You’ll also be parked all afternoon, without much to get your blood pumping. Dress accordingly. Have a travel mug or thermos of hot coffee, tea, or hot chocolate. You don’t want to be a frozen writerscicle whose teeth are clacking together too hard to carry on a conversation. Also:
6. Pack a Snack! (said Granny)
No one is at their best when they’re hungry, but….no apples, salads, or anything that might wave like a flag once it’s wedged between your teeth. But do try granola bars, grapes, or maybe a few wedges of cheese. Take care of your body! It’s the best machine you’ll ever own.
7. Know Your Books!
Take a look at the titles on the tables or shelves around you. Have you read any? Maybe a few are on your to-be-read list. As readers are browsing, strike up conversations about books they pick up (if you’re familiar with the titles). It’s a great way to break the ice with a potential customer, and even if they don’t buy your book but purchase the one you’ve been chatting about, that’s fantastic—because the store will appreciate your efforts immensely, and a huge part of getting opportunities to sign at stores is to develop excellent relationships with the booksellers themselves.
8. Swag Sells!
Everyone loves a freebie. Bookmarks, business cards, or similar swag provide the contact information many readers who approach you will want to know, and that’s: “Do you have a twitter account? What’s your web page? Are you on Facebook?” and the like. Best part? You can design some swanky looking swag for very cheap, and business cards / bookmarks come in boxes of hundreds.
9. Take It Easy On Yourself: Adjust your expectations.
Chances are you’re not going to have a line of fifty to a hundred people waiting to get a signed novel (but if you do WAHOO!! Way to go!). Yet, even a few sales are still sales and you should be proud and thrilled that you put yourself out there and made personal contact with booksellers and readers. Why? ’Cause it’s nerve-wracking, scary, and you feel a little ridiculous and a whole lot conspicuous as you sit at your table all afternoon, well afar from your comfort zone. Pat yourself on the back for your efforts and remember: even if you only sell ONE BOOK, one book is typically read by MANY PEOPLE (and you know that’s true—how many books have you both borrowed and lent in your lifetime?)
10. Don’t Think It Will Never Be YOU As The Author At A Signing
Stay positive. Keep writing, querying, reading, and getting your name out there. Connect with booksellers. Gift them a copy of your book. Chat libraries up. You want this—and you can have it! Believe. (And pack a sweater, some granola and a whole lot of humor).
Okay! That wraps up what I’ve learned so far. Anyone else have some Signing Savvy to share? A horror story or two? A time when you’ve had to manufacture a smile you felt far from feeling? Share!
Bonnie Randall is a Canadian writer who lives between her two favorite places—the Jasper Rocky Mountains and the City of Champions: Edmonton, Alberta. A clinical counselor who scribbles fiction in notebooks whenever her day job allows, Bonnie is fascinated by the relationships people develop—or covet—with both the known and unknown, the romantic and the arcane.
Her novel Divinity & The Python, a paranormal romantic thriller, was inspired by a cold day in Edmonton when the exhaust rising in the downtown core appeared to be the buildings, releasing their souls.
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