I believe this is a good read for most Authors. Sharing experiences and thoughts is great, and fun. None of us know it all, and I do not feel bad saying I learned by making so many mistakes. I think it is nice from time to time to share an experience. It leads to new ideas for everyone.
Formats: Most authors have done book signings. As we all know, there are a variety of different ways they are done. The most traditional one is where the author is seated behind a table. Their book(s) are on display. People can browse them, and if they choose to buy on, come up to the author for an autograph. I believe the key word here is "traditional." There are many others ways. Most are determined by the space the store has available. Ideally, the best location in a bookstore is a space where there are not books for sale behind the author. There may be people who want to browse them. With that said, that is the exception, not the rule. I am not saying it is a bad thing, just maybe not the most optimal. Let's face it, a bookstore is in the business of selling books. Space is a premium. Many smaller brick and mortar stores do not have the luxury of that much space to isolate on area for an occasional book signing. Author's need to understand this and make the best out of the area they have. Some formats have a smaller table that only seats one person. The author. Other tables are longer, allowing the author to have additional handouts for those who visit. The bottom line is, you must come prepared for any circumstance, and be adaptable. The author may not have the opportunity to visit the store prior to their signing to see how the signing table will be placed. Many times, it is a waste of time because that area may be set up just for the signing.
What do you bring?: Is it a table or a podium? I am not found of podiums because it now presents more of a lecture environment rather than an intimate book signing event. Once again, it boils down to available space. Sometimes a podium does work out well. Tables also comes in various sizes. Therefore, how many table toppers do you want to pay for to show your brand? They can get rather expensive. The good news is, most bookstores will have some type of covering for your table. Ask yourself, do you need one? Personally, I do not have them made. What works really week in my opinion is this type of setup. Here is picture from a book signing at did that was hosted by the Yale University Bookstore this past weekend.
Let' take a minute to look at the layout and why I liked it. They had a nicely covered table next to the podium for guests to browse the books. The retractable picture comes with me to every book signing. That is my brand, It is highly visible, great quality, fits anywhere, easy to carry, and I do not have the need to buy multiple sized table clothes to fit different size tables. This signing was set up as a "Book Talk Event." That is my favorite. As you can see there are chairs placed in front of a podium, I like an intimate seeing. Meaning, I like to be sitting close to my guests, rather than stand behind a podium. This is not a lecture hall, it is a bookstore. Do you really what to separate yourself, or give an impression of separation to your guests? Understand, these are just my opinions. You can certainly do what makes you fell comfortable.
Why it works: I think this works for many reasons. As you can see, I placed a chair in front of the podium facing my guests. In my opinion, this puts me on the same level as my guests, providing them with a much more comfortable feeling. At times, depending on how much seating you have, a semi-circle works the best. This creates a relaxing and more personal atmosphere. In this type of setting, people will sit, chat, and listen. Some may buy your book, others may not. However, this provides you the opportunity to not only sell yourself, but your books. At this signing, there were two books that Yale provided for purchase. Poeple will come and go, others will stay. This also helps me to keep things on the podium as hands out after I sign a book for someone.
What should you bring? That us a matter of personal choice. In my opinion, the must brings are something that represents your brand. In my case, it is the full size picture you see on the right. Let's face it, if people are walking by, they may not know who you are. You need to provide them with a visible reference to you and who you are. I also bring book markers of the books that are being displayed. I also create a thank you flyer mentioning the event, where my books can be purchased, a reminder to leave a review, and yes, my website address. Life is busy for people. One of the hardest things for authors to obtain are book reviews. Why not a simple reminder? These are prepared prior, and the book marks are inserted into the flyer. After I sign the book, I place the insert into the book and give it to the reader. Many authors would be amazed by the number of people that like an autographed photo. I usually bring some 8x10's and leave them on the table. If someone wants one, I am happy to autograph it for them. The nice way about doing it that way is that a reader can choose whether they want one versus you trying to hand it to them. If you look at the table, you will see tow stacks of photos. Each is different. At this event, almost every person who purchased a book, wanted a photo. That will vary.
ETC: Dress business casual. It was winter and cold. I worn jeans, a sport coat, and a mock turtle neck. IF you are formally dressed, many people feel uncomfortable approaching you. Remember, this is not a formal speaking engagement. People are out shopping, and dresses in casual clothes. You do not want to make them feel they are not dressed correctly to approach you. Have the right type of pen for what you are signing. You may need a paint pen for certainly finishes on photos and the color of the photo. A good quality felt tip marker works well for glossy prints. For a darker photo, I find the paint pen to work the best especially on a matte finish. As for your books, use a good quality roller ball pen. You do not want anything that is going to drag on the paper. No one has to go overboard with handouts other than the book that is purchased. However, the right handouts are great.
Summary: These are just a few of my thoughts. Every author needs to do what works for them. In this picture, you can see how a more intimate setting was created rather than me simply standing behind a podium.
My favorite way to speak to smaller groups. You are right in there with them, and it makes it more personal. Keep in mind what I call the writers triangle. One side is the connection between the author and their book. The next side is the connection to the book and the reader. The one side that is often missing and needs to be there, is the last side. The connection between the reader and the author. I take ever opportunity, when available, to put myself right in with the readers. It works. I wish every author great success at their signing. However, do not be hard on yourself. There are many factors that affect your attendance. Weather, time of day, PARKING, (the big one), and the census of the store will all influence how many people come. Look at it this way. Every person you meet, may be one more that did not know about you. When taking photos such as this, try to avoid faces. Many people do not want pictures of their faces posted on social media sites. Also, if you are planning to take a photo with someone and you want to use it, ask their permission. I also keep a release form for someone to sign if I want to use their picture. Many times, a guest may want a friend of theirs to take a picture of them with you. It is not appropriate for you to blast it all over your social media sites without their permission, especially if there is a child in the photo. A simply thing that many forget. Take advantage of the opportunities presented to you, and use them wisely. Please feel free to leave a comment below.
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