How to Set Up Book Signings and Sell in Stores

book signingsOne really exciting and special aspect of being an author is planning book signings. Author events are a great way to promote and sell self-published books. 

Just because you’re not publishing your book with a major, traditional publisher who will send you on book tour doesn’t mean you can’t host author events. Book readings, book signings, and discussions can help attract readers who may not have heard about you—don’t miss out on them because you self-published.

Why Book Signings and Author Events are Important

Book signings and author events are as important for established authors as they are for new ones. Think of it like a band going on tour: you want to be able to connect with your readers and meet them face-to-face while promoting the book you just published.

Big-time authors, like Stephen King or Roxane Gay, will do huge multi-city tours that last weeks at a time, but self-publishers may not. You don’t need a national tour to promote your book and make sales. Even if you do a couple of book signings or author events (in your own city), this will provide a great space to attract new readers and connect with those who are supporting your work.

Book signings and other meet-and-greet events make fans feel a deeper and more personal connection to the author. Plus, the whole point of doing author events is to sell your book to those in attendance! If you do a reading from the book and sign books afterward, it goes without saying that your audience will purchase copies of their own for you to sign.

How to Set Up a Book Signing or Author Event

The first step in how to host a book signing event is deciding where you want your book signing. Independent bookstores are the perfect spot to host a book signing because they like to support local writers. A lot independent bookstores will have an event coordinator that will be your point of contact.

If you don’t have any independent stores near you, you’ll have to get a little creative. If you’ve self-published a Christian or Religious book, host your event at a local church or house of worship. If you’ve just self-published a Cookbook, host an event at a restaurant. If you’ve self-published a collection of Poetry, a coffee house is a perfect setting for your book signing. Other locations such as community centers are a great option.

Once you have a location in mind, you’ll need to reach out to said location to speak with whoever is in charge of events. What is required of you will vary place to place. You’ll likely have to put together materials in order to pitch your book to the location; maybe this includes marketing materials or press about the book. Your pitch should answer the question, “Why should they host your event?” When pitching to for-profit locations (such as a bookstore, restaurant, or coffee house) think about how this will benefit their business. When pitching to a not-for-profit (like a community center or religious organization), emphasize the community and cultural benefits of the event. Include a copy of your book so they know exactly what they’re going to be promoting.

Preparing for Book Signings

Leading up to the event, you’ll want to promote on social media, that way your readers/friends/family know it’s happening. You can do this for free, by posting as you normally would on your official author social media channels, or you can purchase social media ads to specifically attract readers in your area that fit your target audience.

Most book signings are preceded by a reading. When figuring how how to set up a book signing, you should also consider which part(s) of your book you’ll be reading. What you choose to read is crucial. If you’re reading alongside other authors, keep it short; ten to fifteen minutes should do. If the event is solely yours, you can pick a longer section, but be sure it doesn’t go too long. You want people’s interest to be piqued by your reading, not extinguished. Pick a section that’s understandable for readers who haven’t read the book yet; it should be captivating yet not give too much away. Whet their appetite, basically.

During the signing, depending on how many readers are in attendance, you may want to consider having a friend or assistant asking those in line for their name, putting it on a sticky note, and placing that sticky note on the book you’ll be signing. This speeds the process along considerably.

If it’s a more intimate gathering, with fewer in attendance, feel free to take more time with each reader and write a special, individualized note. This experience will influence their opinion of you and your book.

Selling Your Books in Stores

You’ve done the author event. Now it’s time to sell your books.

Selling copies of your book in a bookstore – where readers can pick them up, feel them, flip through the pages – is something every author dreams of. So much of readers’ buying habits lead them to online distributors, but, still, nothing beats a brick and mortar bookstore where readers can feel and smell the pages.

A lot of self-publishers may think they’re unable to sell their book in stores, but this isn’t true! As with selling online, there are hoops you’ll have to jump through, but if you’re dedicated to your book, you’ll be able to sell it to stores, no problem.

Here’s how to sell your self-published book in bookstores.

  • Figure out how the store buys their books. Do they use a wholesaler? A distributor? Do they buy on consignment?
  • Understand your particular market. This means doing research into your genre. What are the popular titles? How much do these books typically sell for? What do they readers of this genre want?
  • Be prepared to market your book extensively. Bookstores aren’t going to buy and shelve a book unless they know it’s going to make them money. Prove that your book will sell.
  • Contact the store’s book buyer with your official request and marketing materials.

Most larger stores (like Barnes and Noble) get their books from a wholesaler. Wholesalers are companies that act as a middleman; they purchase books at a discount in bulk in order to sell them to retailers (like Barnes and Noble and independent bookstores). Wholesalers like to buy books that they know will sell lots of copies, however some do purchase books from small presses, indie authors, and self-published authors.

Retailers buy their books from a wholesaler’s catalog. Wholesalers (such as Powell’s) will publish catalogs that showcase their title list monthly. These catalogs will include subject matter, book title, ISBN, author, publisher, and price. Bookstores use these catalogs to order the books they then sell at a markup price. This means that wholesalers don’t push your book onto retailers. You’ll still have to market it extensively to a store’s book buyer.

Smaller stores may sometimes buy on consignment. This may be an easier options for self-publishers and the bookstore alike. Under consignment deals, the bookstore does not pay the author for the books until they sell. This type of agreement is really beneficial, because the bookstore doesn’t risk anything by putting the books on their shelves, and when they sell, both the author and the store benefit: the store makes money, and the author sells the book they worked hard to write and publish.

A book signing is a wonderful way to both market and sell your book. Potential readers get to hear a snippet of the book first, and you get the chance to attract new readers. It’s every author’s dream to see their book in the hands of a reader. When you print with DiggyPOD, this dream can be a reality.