Book Signing Etiquette


It’s that time of year again when I get busy doing book signings, and while my intent with this post is not to sound preachy, I would like to point out that we authors can sometimes let our enthusiasm get the best of us. Please consider this a gentle reminder that we all need to mind our manners at book signings.

Looking back, the worst experience I ever had was while I was signing books down in Tombstone, (Arizona). It was one of their big event weekends, and the bookstore had me, along with another author, seated out on the boardwalk in front of the store. Unfortunately, the author they’d seated next to me was a non-stop talker. He talked and talked and talked about anything and everything. Yak, yak, yak, yak yak. He just wouldn’t shut up, not even while I was trying to talk to potential readers about my books, or trying to close a sale. As if this wasn’t bad enough, he started blabbing about a rather controversial book he was planning to write concerning his religious beliefs. So, not only was I stuck with him yapping my ear off as I’m trying very, very hard, to talk my customers, he’s quoting Biblical scripture, chapter and verse, in a very loud voice, in a very public place. So instead of stopping at my table, potential readers were literally running away.

Please don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against religion and I strongly believe that everyone should be free to practice his or her faith. However, there is a time and place for a religious debate, and it is never on a sidewalk in front of a secular bookstore, at a secular event, where other authors are signing non-religious books. So instead of a successful weekend, as I normally have at Tombstone events, I had a disaster. I hardly sold any books. All because the author seated next to me couldn’t keep his freaking mouth shut.

A book signing is where authors come to connect one on one with their readers. So if there are other authors at the same venue then please show some common courtesy. That means keep the conversations with other authors brief, and try to limit the conversations to those times when there are no customers around. Most importantly, keep your mouth shut while other authors are talking to potential buyers. Nothing is more unprofessional than interfering with another author’s sale.

My tip for the day.



Book Signing Essentials

Book Display Tucson Fest 2011Book signings are a strange animal. While they’re a lot of fun, they’re also about as predictable as the weather, and one challenge I’ve frequently encountered is getting passers-by to even notice I’m there in the first place.

My static display skills aren’t bad, however, there is more to a successful display than just a pretty arrangement. The trick is to make your display stand out against the competition. Competition isn’t necessarily other authors signing their books at the same venue. Grouping authors together is usually a benefit, as the multiple book displays tend to stand out more. The competition is the usually rest of the “neighborhood” where the venue is being held. This would be the non-book vendors, brick and mortar shops, restaurants, and whatever activities or events the venue is hosting. A good display is a must if you want to successfully sell your books.

If you’re just starting out, or, if you’re like many of us and have a limited budget, getting everything you need to put together a successful display may seem daunting. However, you’ll find many of your basic display items are inexpensive, and can be found at Wal-Mart, Target, or Michael’s, or even a thrift shop.

First, you’ll need a nice tablecloth. Solid colors work best. If you prefer a tablecloth with a pattern, find a simple one. Think of your tablecloth as the backwash in a painting. Loud, busy fabrics are out. You want the public looking at your books, not at the intricate printed patterns on your tablecloth. I also like to use a small table runner. For most signings I use a simple, ivory lace runner, and I also have a festive Christmas table runner that I use during holiday book signings. If you don’t have a lot of money you can find used tablecloths, or even used draperies or sheets, at thrift stores or yard sales.

Next, you need some small display easels for propping up your books. I’ve found some really nice ones at Michael’s. Try to avoid using the three-legged plate holders. They are unstable and your books will keep being knocked over. If you have the funds, a large bookrack is a really nice display tool. They can be pricey, but they’re a darn good attention grabber and well worth the investment.

You would think that a good book display would be enough for people to understand you’re selling books, but, oftentimes, it not the case. That’s why you also need good signage. If you don’t have a lot of money, you can start out by printing something off your printer and putting it in an attractive photo frame. If you have the tools and the skills, have a have a poster or banner printed and attach it to a piece of foam core board. You should be able to do this for a very reasonable cost. If your funds will allow it, I highly recommend investing in a good quality retractable banner, but keep in mind that retractable banners are not suitable for outdoor use.

I found a sign shop here in Tucson that got me a good deal on a sandwich board. These boards are suitable for outdoor use and they can really take a beating. The signs themselves are easy to remove, so I can swap out different signs for different venues.

And finally, not all venues will provide a table a chair. I found a lightweight, aluminum folding table in the camping department at Wal-Mart for a very reasonable price, along with a couple of cloth folding chairs that are comfortable and easy to carry. That, along with a small dolly or wheeled cart to easily move everything around with, should cover about just about everything that you will need. These items may also be found at thrift stores, yard sales, or craigslist.

Book signings can be fun, and they are one of the best tools out there for promoting and marketing your books. However, as the old adage goes, you will have to spend money to make money, and you should be able do it without going broke in the process.

My tip for the day.