TUTORIAL TUESDAY

What I Learned From a Year of Book Signings

preparing for an author event

Rachel Rivera, PJV Tutorials

28 March 2017

The weekend that passed, was Booking in Biloxi, a large author even that is held every year in the city of Biloxi, Mississippi. The BiB signing was the first signing that I participated in as a new author. It took me almost a year to work myself up to do a signing – and – also to make it onto a list. So, after this recent event, I had successfully (loose interpretation of successful) completed one year of signings. This is what I’ve learned.

Money. You won’t make any from a signing. Yes, you will make some money. But, you won’t make a return on the money spent.

Output:

  • Table Fees – $100 to $500
  • Cost of Books – $50 to $500 (depending on how many books you have and where you have to purchase them from). My Books cost me about $3 to $5 each (not including shipping). I like to have 10 copies of each book. With seven books in my library, the initial investment runs me about $250, shipping can be another $50.
  • Swag – $50 to infinity. This is where a lot of the money goes. You buy bookmarks, $50. Then you think, that’s not good enough. So you get some pins, $75. Then you think you should make some hand-crafted stuff…$100.
  • Travel – Travel and Hotel accommodations. Biloxi is only an hour and a half away, so it’s a really good option for me. But, I wanted to stay overnight because I had author friends coming in town. So, that cost me about $300. If I would have had to fly, that would have been another $300. Depending on where it is, connecting flights, hotel prices, travel, and expenses, eating out every night etc. will be the biggest investment.

Total Costs:
Books: $300
Swag: $600
Travel: $1K
Food: $300
Table Fees: $250

$2450

Total Earned:
40 of 70 Books Sold: $400
Square Fees: 22.50

$377.50

-$2072.50

 

Photo Source: pexel.com

I’m sorry if this disappoints you. But, it’s always good to keep in your mind, so you won’t feel “unsuccessful” after a signing. You are there to network, meet readers, put yourself out there, and showcase your books. Not to make money. Repeat after me – You Are Not There To Make Money. It’s almost impossible. Now, that we’ve gotten that out of the way. Let’s move onto the fun things.

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Things To Bring

  • Table Cloth (Color That Matches Your Theme: most events will come with certain table covers. BiB came with white, so I brought a black table cloth.
  • Rolling Cart or Rolling Luggage: I suggest that you use a plastic tub with a lid to keep your books and swag in (in case of errant rain or high humidity) or a rolling luggage case. If you use a plastic tub, I would also suggest buying a dolly or wagon to haul them. 
  • Cash: Lock box and cash to make change
  • Books: From polling other authors, it seems the going amount is 10 copies per book if you have a good library. I usually bring 10 of the first in the series and 5 of 2nd, 3rd etc. If you only have 1 or 2 books in your library you should bring 25 or more of each. 
  • Book display: If you have a significant library, I would suggest building your own DIY stand (tutorial to come soon) or purchase one, like this one from Clear Solutions. The one shown below I made myself. 

  • Paper Swag: Bookmarks, rack cards, postcards etc. Get them professionally designed, you have only one chance to make a first impression and this for most authors, will be their first impression. It should do the work of an advertisement. If you need help with printed swag, please email me
  • Fun Swag: This is optional, authors choose to do buttons, pens, chapstick. It can get pricey, but can draw readers to your table. There is always the negative of – they are only coming for the free stuff, though. 
  • Lures: Candy, toys, etc. 
  • Pens: What will you sign your books with? A few authors choose to sign with acid-free pens. I like sharpies. 
  • Promotional Signs: It is very common for an author to have a pop-up banner to place behind their table. This is to advertise yourself and draw in readers. 

  • Newsletter Sign-up Sheet: Use a notebook, or an iPad, just get those email addresses.
  • Sustenance: Water & meal replacement bars. Keep hydrated and fed. Some places will offer food, or sell food, which can get pricey. 
  • Fixers: Duct tape, take, safety pins, clothes pins, velcro, scissors, tissue etc. 

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Do’s & Don’ts at the Signing

  • Do arrive early to set-up.
  • Do walk around and visit other authors. Don’t be afraid to get ideas from their displays. Don’t copy, though.
  • Don’t Sit. Do stand up and welcome people to your table.
  • Don’t look at your phone! Put it down and you should only pick it up to take pictures or credit cards.
  • Do have your pitch ready, you should have a quick, down and dirty descriptions of your books/series.

Promote The Event Beforehand

Don’t leave promotion to the event host:

  • Promot on social media
  • Offer a giveaway for entrance tickets if there is a charge
  • Send out your newsletter

How to decided on which signings to participate in:

Finding the Right Event

Facebook is a great way of finding events. There are several groups that showcase author events, like Author Events Around the US. If you are looking for books in a certain area, there are groups for just certain states, like Texas and Florida. 

Watch the Dates & Locales

You should always keep dates in mind, and in correlation with the locations. If you are going to a location you are not familiar with, google their local website and check their calendar. I noticed they have a local signing in New Orleans scheduled for 2018 and got excited. I like local signings because there is no travel involved. But then I saw the date. It’s February 10th, 2018, which is the day of Endymion. The BIGGEST Mardi Gras parade in the city. It’s also 3 days before Mardi Gras, which means hotel prices are high – and usually sold-out. The event is also being held on the parade route. A parade route that people camp out for days to get a prime spot. There is no traffic going in or out beginning that morning and is on lock down until that evening. If I could even manage to get down there, parking would be impossible, so I would have to Uber (which would be special rates), getting out would be impossible – Uber shuts down near the parade route. And then, who would show up? Because all the potential readers would be going through the same thing. So dates and locales are very important.

But, other than these insane coincidences…you should also keep in mind that certain dates might bring the most likely people with money. First of the month is usually hard for people, since mortgages/rent and other bills are due, so look for signings near the middle of the month.

Ask your readers where they are located, and see if there are any signings in those areas.  If there are, ask them about those signings.

Stay Savvy

Check pricing and availability. Before you fill out interest forms willy-nilly, check all the pricing information. There is nothing like a big surprise when you get that invoice. Which happened to me. I either didn’t read the form correctly, or it wasn’t ALL listed. I’m thinking I didn’t read it well.

Gravitate toward seasoned events, instead of debuts. I only signed up for debut events IF I knew of the host, or they had hosted something else in another city/venue. There have been a few events that have been canceled, and a few authors have lost money when the “host” disappeared.

What To Avoid:

 

  1. Lack of transparency. The “host” is going by a fake name and does not have an established social media account.
  2. Messy & Unorganized. The graphics are hastily put together. The host seems unorganized and doesn’t answer question promptly.
  3. No experience. The host has no experience with event planning.
  4. Lack of Paperwork. The host should be able to show the contract for the venue and you should always ask for this before you sign up.
  5. Feeling of Inadequacy. You are doing them a favor, paying them money to participate. You shouldn’t feel like you are not good enough. If they make you feel like you have to “beg on” to participate, and you can’t get a lot of information for the event, unless you pay the deposit, this isn’t a good sign.

The point of participating in a book signing is to have fun and to connect with readers. It can be a little overwhelming, and you can feel a bit anxious when you sign up for your next signing. It’s a chance you take. Will you be well received? Will you sit there by yourself with no one coming to your table? Probably not. Even if readers only come up to pick up your book and ask you about it – that’s one more person that knows about your book. Even if you direct them to download the eBook for the bargain price of $4.99 – that’s one more reader that you wouldn’t have had before. And that’s why you’re there.

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