What I Learned About Book Signings From Beverly Lewis

Sharlene MacLaren, Beverly Lewis, and Me

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

I admit. In the past, I've been rather cynical about book signings.

I've had a handful of them over the past several years, and very few have been raving successes.

Time and time again, I hear stories about other authors (even big-name authors) who have only a few people show up to their signings. I'm usually relieved when I hear those kinds of stories because then I don't feel like quite a loser!

Of course, I've tried to analyze why book signings seem to be a dying form of marketing. One of the conclusions I've come to is that with the invention of the internet, readers don't need to go to stores to buy books or interact with their favorite authors.

They can easily order books and have them delivered to their doorsteps (or eReaders). And they can also communicate with authors from the comfort of their couches. In fact, they can jump onto Facebook or Twitter and chat with an author, see pictures of the author's family, hear what the author had for dinner, and even get glimpses of her vacation.

With social media, authors are becoming increasingly visible and available. Why would a reader need to bother getting out of her sweat pants and putting on makeup to go stand in a line at a bookstore so that she can talk to the author? She has no need for more author-talk when she's already been getting her fill of it online.

I'm sure there are other more "scientific" reasons why book signings don't draw the same crowds they used to—perhaps the growing popularity of ebooks, the increasing busyness of the modern culture, the growth in less popular mid-list authors, or the increased diversity in genres and reading tastes.

Whatever the case, I'd almost buried book signings in the graveyard and written the funeral eulogy . . . until I had a couple of book signings last week with NYT best-selling author Beverly Lewis.

The two book signings I did with her were wildly successful events. Of course, I wasn't surprised that people came out to see her. She's been writing books for over twenty years and is credited with starting the Amish fiction movement. She's incredibly popular and has over a million readers. So, I'd expected a portion of her die-hard fans to come out to a signing so that they could meet her.

But what I hadn't expected was how open her readers would be to meeting me too.

Granted the first signing I had with Beverly was in my home town of Midland, Michigan. So I think plenty of friends and readers came out to support my new release which is set locally. Another popular Michigan author, Sharlene MacLaren, was also there with her Michigan setting books.

I learned many things about book signings from my time with Beverly. Here are just a few:

1. Book signings aren't dead yet.

The line out the back door and into the parking lot!
I never got an exact count on how many people came to the Midland signing, but the line wrapped around the interior of the store went out the back door all the way through the parking lot. Many people had to wait over two hours to get books signed.

Having a NYT best-selling author was definitely exciting for people. But Pathway Bookstore, a little indie bookstore, did a fantastic job promoting the event. I'd have to take an entire blog post to list all of the many things they did to get the word out. Pathway spread enthusiasm for the event throughout the community, and because of that people were excited to come out.

2. Make it an event, not just a signing.

The manager of the event, Jeanette Blackson, thought of every detail, including having Amish food for those waiting in line. She even placed the line strategically through shelves of our books so that everyone could browse through the books while they waited. So smart!

As I watched and talked with Beverly, I learned that she makes the signing special for each person that comes. She stands during the entire event so that she is at eye-level and can engage readers more personally. And she spends a little bit of time chatting with each person, hugging them, asking them questions, and letting them share about themselves as well as take pictures with her.

3. If possible, make it a multiple author event.

As a fairly new author, I'm not sure how much I helped Beverly gain new readers as a result of having the signings together. But she certainly helped me (and I'm deeply grateful for her willingness to team up). Most of the people who came to see her also purchased one or more of my books (or at the very least stopped and talked with me about my books).

Having the event with multiple authors was fun for readers too. Numerous people mentioned that they appreciated getting to discover new authors and try new books.

So what about you? 

Authors do you like to do book signings? What's your experience been so far with them?

And readers, what would it take for you to attend a book signing? Do you like them? Have you ever attended one?

This is the LAST week of my "Fun Secrets" Blog Tour. Stop by the blogs listed below to learn my deep, dark secrets! ;-) You could also win a signed copy of my newest release, Unending Devotion. 

Monday, Sept. 24: Secret #14: My biggest fear. Lindsey Bell’s blog

Tuesday, Sept. 25: Secret #15: The thing I like least about being an author. Charity Lane's blog

Wednesday, Sept. 26: Secret #16: My entertainment addiction. Lindsay Harrel’s blog

For a list of all my secrets, check out my Events Page!

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