If you’re a writer, chances are you’re also a reader. Writers read. And if you’re a reader, chances are you have a favorite author.
Have you ever perused through a bookstore, checking out titles by your favorite authors, and wished you could meet the author in person?
That’s what a book signing is for.
Maybe you’ve attended one before. Whether it was at a conference, a bookstore, or a different event entirely, book signings are common for authors. The hype surrounding a book signing varies from author to author, but no matter what stage you are at in the process, you can host a book signing.
This guide to book signings covers:
- What is a book signing?
- Are book signings worth it?
- How to set up a book signing?
- How do I find a book signing?
- How do book signings work?
- How to have a successful book signing
- What to bring to a book signing
- What to wear to a book signing
- What do you say when signing a book?
- How long should a book signing last?
Before jumping in, there may be one big question on your mind.
“I’m an introvert,” you might be thinking. “I love writing, and attending a book signing sounds alright, but my own book signing sounds way out of my comfort zone. Are they really necessary?”
We’ll discuss the different aspects of book signing, and by the end of this article, you can make your own informed decision.
Let’s start with the basics.
What is a book signing?
A book signing is an event, often at a bookstore, library, or writing conference, where an author spends a period of time reading a portion of their book, interacting with readers via a question and answer time, and signing readers’ books. A book signing is a great way to bring readers together and meet the people who read your books.
From a reader’s perspective, a book signing is an exciting way to meet the author of the stories they know and love.
From an author’s perspective, a book signing is a great way to meet your target audience and actually see and interact with the people who are reading your book. It’s one thing to write to your ideal reader—the person who exists in your head after you’ve researched your comparable titles, the market, and social media analytics. It’s another thing entirely to look a reader in the eye, shake their hand, and see them as a real person.
A book signing is also meant to be an interactive event. Readers can interact with each other, discuss their favorite parts of your books, banter over which character is best and why, and go away inspired and eager for your next release.
Think of a book signing as an organic way to bring readers together as well as create buzz around you, the author.
Now you know what a book signing is, but…
Are book signings worth it?
Whether or not a book signing is worth it is largely dependent on who shows up. Just as marketing the release of your newest book is crucial to its reception in the market, marketing your event is imperative to a successful book signing.
Before attending your book signing, make sure to schedule and market it in advance. It’s important to balance how far out you market your event with when it is scheduled. If you are a smaller name author and begin marketing your book signing nine months in advance, readers are unlikely to feel it’s necessary to put the event on the calendar. They have nine months to worry about it!
If you’re a big name author and begin marketing your event 24 hours in advance, you’ll likely have some readers show up, but also have many readers who are disappointed they couldn’t attend.
As you schedule your book signing, do your best to be aware of what’s best for your readers.
That begs the question…
How to set up a book signing?
The location of your book signing will influence the details of how you set up your event.
However, whichever location you choose, be sure to reach out to the venue well in advance. Venues schedule months out, so if you want to have a spring book signing, reach out to the venue in the winter to ensure you can book your slot.
If your book signing takes place at a local bookstore, ask the venue if they carry your book and if so, how many copies they usually keep stocked. Be prepared to bring your own copies to sell, with the understanding that the venue may request a percentage of your sales.
As the date draws closer, make sure to contact the venue and ensure your date is still available and that they expect you. Ask if you can arrive early to set up your table and any merchandise or books you plan to bring.
How do I find a book signing?
If you want to attend a book signing, simply check with your local bookstores or do an internet search. You may also want to ask your writing community, whether it is in person or online, if they have heard of any events in your area. If you are willing to travel, consider looking up your favorite authors’ websites. Many times, authors list tour dates on their website.
How do book signings work?
A book signing is similar to a networking event, minus the pressure. If you are a reader attending, simply show up to the signing and purchase the author’s book. Some venues may allow you to bring your own, or if there is an entrance fee, a free book may be included.
Because authors use book signings to promote and therefore sell their work, it is a polite gesture to purchase a book at the signing.
The author may speak, take questions, and then there will be a line for readers to meet the author, have a conversation (length depends on the particular author, as well as how many readers show up), and get their book signed.
How to have a successful book signing
A successful book signing depends on your particular goals, but there are several steps you can take to ensure your book signing is an enjoyable experience for those involved.
What to bring to a book signing
If you are the author, make sure you have everything you need prior to the day of the signing.
While the venue may provide a signing table and chair, be prepared to bring your own if necessary. You will also want to bring a banner with your name or your book title on it, copies of your books, a great pen, business cards, and any merchandise or swag readers may want to purchase.
If you are a reader, simply bring a copy of the book you want the author to sign, or better yet, come prepared to purchase their book and ask the author to sign the new copy.
What to wear to a book signing
A book signing is a fun event, so you want to be comfortable, but put together. Dress professionally, but for the occasion.
Remember, feeling like yourself is key. You don’t need to wear a suit or dress to be well-perceived. A simple but fashionable outfit can give you the extra confidence you need, while allowing you to still feel like yourself.
Specifically, if you are the author, wear something camera-ready. Chances are, readers will want a photo with you.
If you are a reader, dress well but remember that the event is for you. The author wants to interact with you and ensure you have a good time. Dress well, but comfortably.
What do you say when signing a book?
You readers make your career possible. Without them, you may be an author but you won’t have sales.
Keep simple phrases top of mind as you move through the line. It’s not necessary to have a long conversation with every reader, but simply saying, “Thank you for reading,” can go a long way.
Here are some phrases to refer to as you prepare for your book signing:
- Thank you for your support.
- I appreciate you coming out.
- Thank you for prioritizing this event.
- I hope you enjoyed the book!
If you have a bit more time, you could ask a simple question. Remember, if you ask a leading question, some readers may have an extended answer. (If you’re unsure how to have a brief conversation, maybe consider using these options later.) But if you have the time, expressing interest in their reading experience can go a long way.
- Who was your favorite character?
- What was your favorite scene?
- Did ______ surprise you?
How long should a book signing last?
How long a book signing lasts is partially dependent on the author. It’s important that readers feel they had enough time to enjoy the event, but it’s also important not to drag the event out.
If you are a bestselling author, your event may last for three hours. You may start with a reading by the author, proceed into a time of question and answer, and then finish with a book signing. However, if you’re not as well known yet, a half hour for a reading, fifteen minutes for questions, and thirty to forty-five minutes to sign books may be sufficient.
Regardless of where you’re at as an author, don’t let a book signing intimidate you. You are the author. You are the reason the readers come. They want to meet you, interact with you, and hear you read your work. They are for you.
Be yourself. Resist any anxious nerves. The readers are probably just as nervous to meet you as you may be to meet them. Instead, relax. Enjoy the fact that you are at your own book signing! That is a huge step, and not one every author takes.
Back to you…
Is a book signing worth it? That’s up to you, the author.
A book signing is a great way to interact with your target audience and meet them in a more intimate environment. It’s also a great way to hear from their own mouths what they love most about your book. It’s one thing to share a poll on Instagram and ask which character readers like more…it’s another thing to hear their inflection and see their facial expression as they describe what they loved about your protagonist.
Book signings are a great way to market yourself and create buzz for your upcoming books. Simply meeting a reader in person can go a long way.
As you prepare for your book signing, remember that the readers are there for you and you are there for your readers. That’s a win-win.
Prepare, get those business cards, set up your table, bring your books, dress well…and then enjoy. You’ve done the hard work. You’ve written your book. Published your book. Now you get to interact with your readers.
Squash those nerves and have an amazing time!
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