Tips for Bookstore Signings
Back in June I received the most exciting news of my author career, I was set up for my very first Barnes and Noble book signing. It was pretty awesome sitting there in the store among all the other books and discussing my own book with new readers! I took some photos, signed some books, and the manager mentioned they may even invite me back before Christmas for another signing. To my great surprise, the manager even asked that I sign the rest of the copies left for them to place on display at the customer service desk! I was ecstatic!
Previous to this I had pretty much only done signings at small bookstores and primarily science fiction conventions. A bookstore is a bit different then signing at a convention, primarily because they order their own copies which leaves you with a lot less stuff to bring! At conventions, the busier the table the better, it catches the eye. In a bookstore there is plenty of visual noise among the rainbow of different books- a simple and professional looking table is better.
There are plenty of articles around that share what you will need to bring to a bookstore signing so I won’t spend much time on that here. I will say though, for Barnes and Noble, don’t expect that they will have a full size table prepared for you. At my store they only had a smaller display table the size of a living room end table and were happy to have me bring in my own 5ft folding table from my car. You will also want to invest in a solid color floor length tablecloth (the next item on my to-do list). This will present a more professional set up.
Remember to bring your guest book to build your e-mail list, bookmarks and business cards, perhaps even a banner.
The biggest tip I can give you about bookstore signings is to make sure you call a day or two ahead of time to make sure they have everything they need for your event. Books go missing, calendars get messed up, employees leave. Best to call ahead.
But I’m betting you are wanting to know the secret to how I managed to get INTO Barnes and Noble in the first place.
Getting into Barnes & Noble- It’s Not Easy!
The first step is to make sure you have all your ducks in a row. Barnes and Noble wants to know whether your books are returnable, this can be a major hurdle to cross for many authors. You will also want to be prepared with a professional looking headshot (no selfies), a list of methods you will be using to promote the event, as well as a list of previous signings you have done. They will also most likely ask for your book blurb and author bio/ website details.
The second step is to make contact. BUT NEVER IN PERSON!!! Authors- I must repeat that- do NOT approach Barnes and Noble in person and ask them to host you for a signing- this almost never works! Instead, “hire” your husband or a friend to speak on your behalf as your “publicist”. You may need to train them. The goal is to present yourself as professionally as possible. Your representative could call or go in person. Ask to speak to the store manager.
Here are a few ways this might go down:
Your “publicist” may call and get told “Yes! Sure! Here’s a date!” = Best day ever, right?
Most likely your “publicist will get asked to send in a ton of information by e-mail. Always call back later to make sure the manager actually saw that e-mail. They are very busy people!
If you don’t hear back after a week or so, feel free to have your representative call again. Inform them that the information has already been sent in and you were wondering if you could get a date set for a signing.
Then cross your fingers HARD!
Most stores prefer to schedule signings a bare minimum of a month out. Many stores have restrictions about how soon after another signing they will schedule theirs. Some prefer to schedule you only if this is to be your FIRST Barnes and Noble signing.
Once you get a no… unfortunately you should wait another season or so before asking again.
When you DO get a date, after you stop dancing around out of pure joy, make sure you do your part to help promote the event. The more books you manage to sell, the more likely they are to ask you to come back again. So, create your Facebook event sharing the news. Share it on your blog. Post about it on twitter. Contact your local newspaper.
I took a picture of the bookstore from the parking lot and shared it on instagram with the news of the date of the signing. Then I superimposed my book cover beside the store to create my Facebook event photo. This serves to help remind local people where you will be. My husband even shared the news with all of his coworkers which even resulted in a few of them coming out to meet me!
The store will create a poster with your author photo and book cover, their logo and the date of the event. If you can manage to find out when they are placing it in the store you could go and take a photo of it and share that on social media as well. Some stores may even add you to their event list.
Before you leave your signing, ask the manager if they would like you to sign a few copies for the store. Some stores will, some stores prefer to return the unsold copies and may decline. I leave a stack of bookmarks to go with each book the store wants me to sign for them. If they happen to set your book up for display before you leave, take a picture and share the proof that your book is in their store! Encourage others to go and buy a copy!
Remember to smile and have fun! Stand and talk to someone who approaches your table. Offer to shake their hand and pass them a book to look at. Bring along a friend who will take pictures for you. Be courteous and professional in your contact not only with customers but also with staff; without them you wouldn’t be here.
When V.L. Jennings isn't traveling to other worlds through her imagination, she calls Dillon, South Carolina her home. Virginia is the author of "The Alien Mind," a science fiction novel published by PDMI Publishing, LLC. Her second title, "Visionary From The Stars" is expected to be re-released through PDMI as well, in 2016. She has also illustrated a children's book for PDMI, titled "Wiggle Worm's Shape Adventures," written by Karen and Kathy Sills. Lately, Virginia spends her time writing flash fiction on her blog and working towards her Associates Degree in Electronics Engineering.
You can find out more about Virginia and catch up on reading her short stories at: virginialorijennings.com