How to Plan a Successful Book Signing

As a first-time author of two children’s books, God is with Me through the Day and God is with Me through the Night, I was surprised to discover that the most challenging part of the journey was marketing.

I had worked as a marketing writer for years; but marketing my own work was…well…icky. As a friend put it: “It’s a bit like standing in front of the mirror with a stranger and asking them to say nice things about you.”

Despite my reluctance, I was grateful to experience many successful book signings after the launch of my children’s books. When I sold more than 100 books at several signings, the bookstore managers were amazed. They couldn’t believe I was having such strong turnouts as a first-time author.

One Barnes & Noble community resource manager hit the nail on the head when he said he’d never had an author market the event as much as I had. That behind-the-scenes work was responsible for the second-largest signing of his career.

When planning your next author event, keep these tips in mind:

1. Your biggest ally is word-of-mouth. Reach out to anyone you know in a community and ask them to invite friends, family, neighbors, church members, school peers, etc. You’d be surprised how interested folks become when they have a personal connection to the author.

2. Send out press releases to local media outlets. Look for television news programs and radio shows that routinely support local events. Contact regional magazines, and reach out to the newspapers for a book review and/or author interview.

3. Post the event on all community calendars, since many media outlets will share the event both online and in print.

4. Contact local churches to invite their church community to join you. You can also offer to visit the church for a personal author event. Some churches have been extremely kind and generous to me by promoting the event in their Sunday Bulletin or weekly newsletter.

5. Use the Internet to locate your target audience and reach out to them via email, direct mail, phone calls, or – of course – word of mouth. Depending on your book, you may want to contact veterans groups, healthcare workers, mothers groups, or schools.

6. Use key social networking tools such as Facebook, Twitter, iGoogle, and a personal blog to boost interest in your books. Also consider pitching high-traffic blogsites to serve as a guest blogger.

7. Don’t be shy. When you’re at the event, engage attendees in conversation. Remember, humor is key. Get people laughing and they’ll want to hear more. Marketing does take time, but the extra hours pay off in most cases.

Now that my first novel, Into the Free, will hit shelves in February, I plan to use these strategies again when planning my upcoming book tour. How do you help ensure your book signing will be a success? Do you provide free giveaways? Tagalong with a larger event? Mail postcards prior to the big day? We invite you to share your ideas to help all of us make the most of our time on the road.

Happy book signing!


45 Replies to “How to Plan a Successful Book Signing”

  1. Great tips, Julie. I’m glad your book signings have been such a success. Good job!!!

    1. Thanks, Deborah. I think signings are a lot of fun, but we’ve all had some that aren’t well attended too. I just make the most of those by enjoying chatting with bookstore employees. Always wonderful folks!

  2. Julie, appreciate your ideas. I’m bookmarking your page. I’ve had many people say “don’t bother” when it comes to book signings. You’ve obviously made it work for you!

    1. Thanks, Beth. I have heard many say the same thing…but I think, if nothing else, you get to meet new folks and get to know the booksellers which is always a treat. I think you have to enjoy hitting the road and talking to new people though…otherwise it might not be so much fun. Would love to hear what you’ve discovered. j

    1. OOOH…Erica, What FUN! Hope you have a wonderful adventure and that you’ll come back to share the smiles with us at the cooler. I’ll be sending happy wishes your way! j

  3. Thanks for sharing your experience and congrats on such a successful signing! I’m planning to make my e-books available in paperback next year, and I’m adding this to my collection of useful tips.

    1. Hi WordWrestler! I’m completely clueless when it comes to e-books, so I hope you’ll share your tips with us here. Kudos on your upcoming paperback release and thanks for chatting. j

  4. Julie, I am preparing for my own book launch party held in 31 days. I’m excited and nervous at the same time. Your tips are great. I’m using some of them, but you gave me ideas how to spread the word even more. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Great tips! Thank you for sharing. I also have a background in marketing, and second the opinion that it seems so much easier to market others than to market yourself – but the same rules apply!

  6. Thank you for the good advise. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. My target audience is middle school boys. They don’t read blogs according to my son. I’m trying to figure the best way to reach them.

    1. Hi Kay – wow…if there’s a need in the publishing world it’s certainly books for middle school boys! i think you’re right about blogs, BUT…they do listen to podcasts and watch funny clips on YouTube. They also text, a LOT! and spend time on facebook. you also might check into bookstores, particularly INDIE stores, who have monthly or weekly bookgroups for tweens and teens. also, many school districts now choose titles for their required readings, and some invite authors to visit (purchasing books for the entire grade), etc. i think you’ve got a lot of great opportunities to reach middle school boys, and a mother of one…we’ll be looking for your books! best of luck, and keep me posted! j

    1. Wow, Shellie…Thank you SO very much! I still can’t believe you like it, and I’m honored beyond words. You’ve managed what my husband has wished for years…to make me speechless! 🙂 Thanks again for your support. I’m thrilled!

    1. Thanks for your kind note, Shirley. Absolutely –Word of Mouth is better than anything in the world. I look forward to hearing more about your memoir and wish you the best of luck! j

  7. Hello Julie,

    I found your post to be very helpful. I’m an aspiring author (my manuscript is currently under review) and I’m collecting information should I get the approval. May I link it to my blog for other new writers?

    1. Hi Jonathan, Thanks for your kind comment. I’d be honored for you to link to the blog/this post, and I hope you hear wonderful news soon about your book. Cheers, j

  8. Book signings are rough. Often no one shows up — so your tips are great tools for doing all you can to ensure that doesn’t happen. (Don’t count on the bookstore doing much to promote you!)

    1. Hi Sheri, You’re right. Everyone has that nightmare signing where no one comes. BUT…even in those cases, you’ve gained an opportunity to meet the bookstore staff and share you book with them. If they like you and your book, they will sell your title long after that signing is over. So…it’s still worth it. Plus, you get to meet new people and experience a new place…always fun. Thanks for sharing! j

  9. Been there done that with all my signings. The problem is that no matter how well the signing is planned or promoted, it doesn’t guarantee a successful event. The average author may only sell 4-7 copies. Realistic expectations need to be set. And with many book stores closing, author needs to think outside brick and mortar.

  10. Thank you so much for sharing this. Your advice was very helpful. My first novel was just published by OakTara (To Dance Once More) and I am just beginning to plan book signings. I’ve already been guest posting on blogs and been Twitterviewed several times. Now I’m ready to do book signings! Thanks again!

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