How To Set Up a Book Signing (Pro Tips & Checklist)
You’ve launched your new book and you’re ready to start promoting. You’ve done your book launch party and posted on social media. But you feel there’s still more you can do to give your book and yourself a good platform.
It’s time to hold a Book signing!
You may feel excited and hyped to have a book signing. Or you may feel that pang of anxiety. What if there are too many people and you blank out? Or what if no one turns up?
Fear not, we’re going to explain everything you need to know about your next book signing, and how to make it a success. Let’s jump in!
What Is a Book Signing
A book signing is an event where the author meets fans (and potential fans) and signs their copies of a newly launched book.
But providing your John Hancock isn’t the only thing you’ll be doing. You’ll have a Q&A, read a passage from the book, do fun activities like giveaways, and connect with people.
Being amongst crowds of people may sound irksome to a few. So, why waste the ink when you can chat to fans on social media? These are some awesome benefits to reap that you should not miss out on:
- Added value: Your fans will cherish their personalized messages, plus a signed book increases in value for collectors.
- No refunds: Signed books can’t be returned.
- Engagement: You build a stronger relationship with your readers and introduce your books to a new audience. This will solidify your author platform.
- Sell, Sell, Sell: when planned right, you’ll pull in new readers to buy your books. You can always discount your books or sell a bundle of your books for a better price to sweeten the deal.
- Fan interactions: You get to meet your fans face to face and pick their brains for feedback, share some updates, and build personal bonds. It’s rewarding to hear your fans praise your books and tell you what your work means to them.
- Share the publicity: The location hosting your book signing gets exposure too. A win-win situation!
Besides the anxiety some may feel for these types of events, there are some logical disadvantages to keep in mind, not deter you but, rather, to help you prepare:
- Expenses and logistics: If you’re a self-published author, all the costs fall on you. Cost of equipment, planning, traveling, merchandise, etc. If you have representation, these tasks will be less time-consuming and less costly.
- Effort: Marketing, and arrangements to make the event a success need to be done with care. Be prepared to, well, do a lot of preparation.
We’re going to provide some simple steps in this blog to make these disadvantages more of an opportunity. Because a book signing is something every author should experience at least once.
So, give it a try. If you have a healthy amount of book reviews and a solid author platform, it’ll be that much easier to garner a following for the event.
The Book Signing Pre-Plan
You’re not just signing books; you’re selling your authorship to the public. You need to come prepared and make sure you’re selling to the right audience. Here’s the pre-plan:
Picking The Location
A place where books are sold would be the obvious (and wise) choice. A local bookstore, a Barnes and Noble or even a Library will do well to host this type of event.
Places like Barnes and Noble have policies, so be sure to do research on the requirements these types of locations have for events.
But bookstores aren’t the only options! Think about your target audience’s interests and link that to locations.
If you’re a Christian author, consider having it at a church. If you’re a children’s author, you can have it at a day-care or school. Get creative with it!
If you’re stuck for ideas, ask the writing communities on Facebook and Reddit.
Getting In Touch
Once you’ve narrowed down your options, start contacting your preferred location. You want to contact them about 3-6 months before the book signing date.
First, you’ll have to call the location and get the email and number of the person that handles event planning so you can direct all your queries and information to them.
Try to speak to them in person or over the phone for the initial request. A personal touch goes a long way.
If that’s not possible, emailing is the next best way to ask. Remember, whichever method you choose, be respectful, friendly, and personable.
They’ll appreciate the research you’ve done, as well as getting to know who they might be working with, should they say yes.
Provide your portfolio, so they have all the information needed to decide whether to host you or not.
What you didn’t find in your research, should be asked upfront so you are well prepared for next steps:
- Books: Will they provide the books, or will you have to bring them?
- Payment methods: Will they handle payment for books bought? If not, you will need to bring cash or another convenient payment method.
- Marketing: How do they handle marketing for these events (and mention you are willing to help with providing any material needed)? If their marketing isn’t extensive, then you will have to do a bit more of your own marketing.
- Equipment: What equipment will they use on the day of the book signing? You need to know whether you need to arrange your own equipment.
- Best Media outlets: Ask which trusted media sources they use or would recommend you use to do some author marketing for the week of your book signing. Whether it be a local newspaper, radio station, or TV network.
Promoting the Book Signing
You’ve finally gotten the yes! You have a location! Now comes the real planning.
Here are some ways to promote your book signing and get the best turn-out possible:
- Website: Your author website is your online home for those interested in your work. Make sure to post the details about your event here. You can even do a blog post on it.
- Invite buddies: A handwritten note inviting friends, family, and author friends to attend will help make the book signing a more comfortable experience. And they’ll probably do some free promotion too since they’re your close supporters.
- Local promo: Contact the local newspapers, magazines, and radio stations and provide a promotional copy of the book, offer to do interviews, and invite those people to the book signing too.
- Fliers: Go to the community of the venue and meet the owners of coffee shops and retailers and ask to put your book signing fliers up.
- Get Social: Post book signing details on your Facebook Author Page, Instagram, Twitter, and other platforms to get the word out. Keep your followers up to date and encourage them to attend!
- Announcement: Write a few announcements for the venue to use, since they’ll circulate the details a few times before the day.
Plan For The Book Signing Day
Next up: How do you ensure the book signing goes smoothly?
Practice the excerpt you plan to read. If you want to make the experience more interactive you can ask the audience to pick a chapter for you to read.
Also, jot down some interesting questions for the staff of the venue to ask if the audience needs someone to break the ice.
If you have a massive following, your book signing can be up to 3 hours. If not, then 2 hours maximum should be enough time to read your excerpt, do a Q&A, and sign books.
Have a Helper
If you don’t have someone part of your author team that will assist you at your table, ask a friend!
This person will invite people to the table, take pictures for you to post on all the socials after, make sure your books are stocked on the table, etc.
Your Set Up
You should pick a comfortable chair and table that’s easy to get to the location. Your table should be large enough to hold all your books and other promotional items. A nice lengthy black tablecloth (that hides drink stains from beverage-sipping fans) will do nicely to hide any tucked-away boxes.
When it comes to decorating your area, bring banners and posters to make it super obvious what the event is about and attract people to the table. If you need a graphic designer for a banner, you can use Upwork or Fiverr.
Include some business cards to give out. You never know what opportunities may present themselves at a book signing.
Having a bowl of candies on your table will also help draw people in.
And most importantly, display the books! You can use wire book stands to stock your books. You can get creative and have shelves beside your table to hold your books.
Lay out a clipboard with a pen for interested readers to sign up for your email list. You could put a QR code out for people to scan and be taken to your author website…but technology isn’t always reliable. Sometimes going old fashioned is best.
This reader magnet works as it encourages those who bought your book to check your other work. And those who didn’t buy your book can buy at a later stage or check out your other books.
Something to take away
Make custom bookmarks and other promo material (like pins, notebooks, etc) that you can pop into reader’s bags. They’ll have your details like social media handles, author website domain, and information about the book signing. It should have a cool graphic related to the book.
You can even hand these out to those who didn’t buy your book. They’ll have a reminder from the event and could end up a future reader since they have your details.
Bring some merch along to the book signing for a giveaway or raffle. This could be mugs, hats, pens, T-shirts, or any collectible that relates to your books. Also, have extra for those who didn’t win the giveaway but still want to buy it.
You could also add a free book or a collection of short stories to the raffle. Don’t forget to sign the prizes to make it special!
You want everyone to take something away from the event that could turn readers into fans and fans into superfans.
How To Autograph a Book
When signing a book you need to be quick and consistent. It needs to look interesting but also easy to see.
You’re not signing legal documents. So you can use just your first name, both first and last name or just your last name. It depends on what fans know you as…and how long your names are. You don’t want to be running out of space on a page just for your signature!
We recommend you practice your signature until you can do it with your eyes closed. You don’t want to forget your signature or ruin your fan’s book with a messy autograph.
Also, remember to use a good quality pen that fits comfortably in your hand and dries quickly. You don’t want to get hand cramps and smudge your signature across the page.
A calligraphy pen or a sharpie should do the trick. Or even a ballpoint, rollerball or gel pen that doesn’t bleed through the page will be good.
Black or white inks are popular options, but you can get creative depending on where you plan to sign the books and how it will look in the books.
Who Should I Make This Out To?
Remember to ask who the signed book will be for. Never assume it’s the person you’re speaking to.
Top Tip: Have some sticky notes or a notepad with you so you can jot their name down. Best to avoid the embarrassment of spelling Jon with an H.
Book Signing Ideas
Coming up with what to say before your signature can be difficult. The person is hovering, and you have to be fast. You can’t pace around the room, tap your head with your pen or contort your face like you would in the comfort of your writing space.
Here are some ideas you can use to make signing a book much easier:
The best way to come up with original, personal messages is to work with the material you’re given…ask the fan questions! Learn about them.
Find out what’s going on in their lives and wish them luck in your message. For example,“Wishing you all the best for college!”
Come up with a cool message that relates to your book. It could be a quote from the main character or related to the themes in your book.
For example, if you’re a lifestyle author, “Good luck on your self-improvement journey.”
Sometimes you need some quick go-to’s that never fail. Here are a few generic messages you could use when you’re stuck:
- Thanks for reading
- Thanks for your support
- I appreciate your support
- Enjoy reading
Details Of The Event
Add the date and even the name of the event or the location before your signature. This will remind the fan of that special moment.
Where to Sign a Book
Now you know what you’re going to inscribe…but where do you inscribe it?
The most common place for signing a book would be the blank page in the title. But, in truth, anywhere that doesn’t disrupt the writing itself should be fine!
Also, if you plan to sign this huge message, pick out a space you know will fit that text.
Book Signing Tips
Besides the basics, we thought we’d make a list of tips that will make your book signing a more comfortable experience:
- Extra pens: You don’t want to run out of pens or not have a back-up if one malfunctions
- Guest Book: Bring a book for all attendees to sign and write messages. It makes for a lovely memory and inspiration to write your next books.
- Snacks and Water: Stay hydrated and bring healthy snacks that keep your energy up (these events can be draining)
- Comfort first: Pick comfortable clothing, you don’t want to keep adjusting your outfit or start feeling too hot or cold in it.
- Take pictures: Don’t forget to take lots of pictures with fans, staff, and friends to post later on social media and to keep for memories!
- Don’t stay at your table: Walk around and talk to people, even if they’re not fans. This event is also about networking and engaging with people.
- Hand out your books: While strolling about the store, hand out some books. People may seem interested but may not pick the book up…so just put one in their hands to encourage them.
- Prepare the pitch: Practice the summary of your book to share with people who ask you what it’s about. You don’t want to blank out or ramble away and lose the sale.
- Ask the staff to help: Brief the staff on the book so they can help sell it
- Be friendly with the staff: Building meaningful connections with the people working there will help make the event more fun and increase your chances of hosting a future book signing there.
- Be there early, leave late: Arriving early to set up and talk to people in the location and staying late to sign extra books for those who came late could make the difference in sales
- Sign extra: Before leaving, sign some books for the store to keep for future sales
- Getting around: Get a wagon or cart to carry your supplies and books from the car to the venue
- Take mini breaks: You may be having fun during the event, but you need to take small breaks and maybe do some touch-ups to make sure you’re still picture ready
- Be Thankful: Whether it’s with a gift basket, a kind note or a speech, make sure to thank the staff for helping, as well as the fans showing up!
- Checklist: You don’t want to forget crucial planning points. So, here’s a downloadable checklist for you to tick off when preparing for your book signing:
Don’t be Disappointed
Your first crack at something new won’t always be a roaring success. Don’t feel down if you don’t sell many books.
A good number of books sold would be about 10-20 books. But don’t worry if you don’t sell those numbers on your first attempt. Make it a stepping stone to more successful book signings!
A Book Signing To Remember
A book signing is an author’s opportunity to turn a book into a cherished memory for fans. But a book signing is as much about networking as it is about the actual signing. So, it’s important to socialize and have fun!
A book signing is your chance to convince uncertain folks to become book buyers and a chance to give back to the fans while marketing yourself and your book.
Looking for more ways to market yourself? Consider getting an author website. Meeting fans in person is awesome, but every author needs an online presence to maintain staying power in this ever-changing industry.
Luckily, we can help! We build custom, user-friendly designs that complement authors. Just fill in our author website enquiry and we’ll be happy to help.
Want help with your author marketing? Get our FREE ebook and cheat sheet: 6 Steps To Getting More Readers.
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