Congratulations! Your book is now in print and your publisher wants you to do what? A book signing? Okay. I mean, how hard can it be?
New authors — don’t go into a book signing event unprepared. Here are a few simple, but oh so important, points I learned the hard way:
Too many is better than not enough. If you’re taking your own books to the signing, take a lot. Set out a small supply on the work table and replenish as necessary. (And if a miracle occurs and you do sell out, be sure you have order forms and extra pens available.)
You need a comfortable working space. Arrive early to check out and set up your ‘stage.’ You’ll want a comfortable chair, lots of elbow room, and a clear tabletop space to lay out your books for signing.
One loyal friend is worth their weight in gold. Have someone with you who can direct traffic,
help collect payment, restock supplies, and chat up the fans while they wait their turn for some one-on-one time with the author. And take photos. Always capture your events in pictures.
Everyone likes free stuff. Readers are no different. Encourage them to share your information by having little extras on hand, things like bookmarks, business cards, flyers, brochures, pieces of wrapped candies, or other simple giveaways. Getting your name and your book’s name out there is critical. Some authors even hold drawings or contests and offer prizes for the winners.
A reliable pen may save your life. Have several reliable pens on hand. Colored ink is great, but reliable is more important. There’s nothing uglier than when your pen runs dry in the middle of an inscription or in the middle of your signature, and then you try to match the ink and overwrite. Did I say reliable? I personally prefer a ballpoint pen, one with a heavier stroke rather than a fine line. And blue ink, so it stands out from the black print.
Decide where to sign. Some authors like to write on the title page since that’s where their name appears in print. This is great if you’re penning a “To ___” and leaving a signature. Most books published today offer a blank page near this front. I find this to be a perfect place for longer inscriptions.
(Imperfect Wings, Book 1 in The Imperfect Series, now available on Amazon.com http://ow.ly/JJLsI . Look for Book 2, Imperfect Trust, coming Summer 2015.)
A person’s name to him or her is the sweetest and most important sound in any language. Dale Carnegie has it right. Many readers expect you to personalize an inscription in the book they purchase. Even if you are 100% positive how to spell a name, have them to confirm the spelling. And then use their name when you thank them.
The all important inscription. What you pen on a book flap is as important as what appears between the pages. Your impromptu handwritten message is a reflection of you and deserves the same professional attention you gave your book.
I like to take short lines from my book being purchased. I might change them a little, personalize them for the reader. I also keep two or three signature phrases available. These come in handy when someone purchases multiple books and want different inscriptions for each one. Here are a few of my favorite short inscriptions: All my best, Thanks much for reading my book, I wish you peace and joy, All my best, and May God’s blessings be upon you.
I recommend you write out these messages a time or two before the event. Longhand isn’t common anymore, so we have to think about forming a word on paper. In typing, the brain visualizes whole words. Not so when the hand holds a pen. We actually have to think through the spelling and formation of letters when we write. Practicing your inscriptions ahead of time will develop familiarity, muscle memory, and that all important hand/brain connection. And help you avoid bungling the message—or (akkk!) misspelling a word.
Also, make sure your signature is legible because, believe it or not, some readers like to show off their autographed copy. Make sure they can tie what you sign to the name printed on the book cover.
Capitalize on connections. Just as readers connect with the characters in a book, they also get a kick out of acknowledging a connection with the author. Make your inscriptions personal whenever possible. To my good friend and neighbor, Shirley. To my sweet co-worker, Donna. Thank you to my dear fan, Barry.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. Interact with your fans. Have fun with them. Chat with them so they can see you’re a real person. And be sure to thank them – for buying your book and reading it. Ask them to consider leaving a review on Amazon (or Goodreads, etc.) if they liked it. Make sure they pick up one of your handouts with your contact information (Facebook Twitter, email, website, etc.), and ask them to let you know what they thought of the book. Encourage them to share the book with others, or recommend it for purchase. The more buzz you can manufacture the most interest in your book you’ll create, and we all know how powerful word of mouth can be.