One Significant Way to Make a Book Signing More Successful

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

I tend to shy away from having traditional book signings at bookstores. Most authors these days usually end up twiddling their thumbs at the book table and carrying on a conversation with themselves.

Fortunately, most of my bookstore signings have been moderately successful, especially the one I had last fall with mega-bestselling author Beverly Lewis when she came to my hometown. She drew in droves of readers which in turn helped me immensely.

Nevertheless, even though my book signing experiences have been mostly positive, I still don't do many. I think most authors and publishers agree that book signings don't have the same turnout or significance that they once had (unless you're a mega-bestselling author).

There are a number of reasons why the average author doesn't draw a crowd at book signings. The number of authors has exploded in recent years. Readers are being spread thin among that growing base of authors. And if readers DO want to connect with an author, they can easily do so online.

All that to say, I still occasionally (very sparingly!) agree to do book signings. And one such occasion arose at the end of August a few weeks ago. My book, Unending Devotion, is set in Harrison Michigan, and as a result, the Harrison city clerk (who had read the book) invited me to do a book signing as part of their annual Harrison Street Fair.

Instead of just setting up under a canopy and attempting to sell and sign books, my Bethany House publicist encouraged me to make the signing more of an event. We partnered with a local gift shop to sell my books in their store. My publisher designed posters and sent those to the city to use for promotion. Both the Harrison newspaper and radio station contacted me for interviews. And many locals who had already read Unending Devotion helped spread the buzz.

ALL of that helped immensely in having a fabulous turnout and selling out of books. (Yes, I still get giddy when I think about the bookstore running out!)

But one of the most significant aspects of the day, was the book presentation I had before the signing. In the early stages of planning, I contacted the local library and asked if they would be open to hosting me for a talk about my writing journey and books. They were very agreeable to the idea. And so we lined up the presentation to take place right before the signing.

As it turned out, the library was directly across from the gift shop. After the presentation I was able to easily walk to the book signing (and invite all those who'd come to my presentation to go over).

Through the Harrison event and the other presentations to local groups I've done over the past couple of years, I've realized that my 45 minute talk with a power point slide show is an incredible way to generate interest in my books.

I start my presentation by sharing how I got started writing along with my journey to publication. I talk about the difficulty in finding an agent, how I finally got my big break, and how I broke into traditional publication. I also share a little bit about each of my books including pictures that inspired the characters as well as fun, real-life photos from the era of each book.

At the end of the presentation, I leave time for questions and answers, which allows me to get even more specific and personal about my books and writing journey.

What I've found through each talk is that people not only enjoy hearing about what it takes to become an author, but they also really like being able to get an inside glimpse into my different books. All of the pictures and information combined stir an interest in the audience. Afterward, people who may not have ever thought of purchasing a book are much more eager to do so.

Whether at a street fair, church, or at a DAR ladies group, I always sell far more books after sharing my presentation than I do when I simply go for a signing.

The key is to generate interest in your books, in the subject matter, in the story, and in yourself. Make yourself and your books irresistible! And your book signing will turn from thumb-twiddling to thumb-aching (from all the signatures you sign!).

Writers, have you considered having a presentation with a signing afterward?

Readers, do you think a presentation from an author would make you more likely to go to a book signing? Why or why not?

Don't forget to check out my Media Page for the "Rebellious Heart 20 Book Giveaway." You can enter to win a copy of my new release at several blogs this week!

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  1. I stopped doing booksignings in 2009, when I was still being traditionally published. As you stated above, I'd noticed a dwindling response. In the heyday a good signing would be 60-80 books. In the later years I was lucky to sell 15.

    I never just sat behind a table. I would stand by the front door and greet people when they came in. I'd read from the book (Barnes & Noble stores were equipped with a mike). I'd engage people in conversation. I'd tell them where the restrooms were...anything. I think talking to people was key.

    I've done pre-signing presentations at libraries and stores. It didn't really make a difference, but I'm glad it worked out for you!

    1. Thanks for sharing your perspective, Bettye! Yes, presentations may not always work to draw more attention. But I've found them to be useful, especially if the venue hosting the event does a bit of promotion to get people to come out to the presentation.

  2. I never thought about the fact that people who don't aspire to be writers might nevertheless find an inside-scoop presentation very interesting. Thanks for the tip--hopefully I can use it someday!

    1. Hi Susan,

      Yes! I always leave a time for Q & A at the end too. And I'm always surprised by the questions I get from readers and their interest in what it's like being a published author. I think they really enjoy getting that inside glimpse.

  3. I like this idea, Jody! I've been considering a presentation and like the pairing idea.

    1. Hi Carla,

      I've found it especially successful when the group helps to promote the event (via their own circles of influence). For example, one church group put up posters and listed it in the paper. So they drew in a crowd of over 40 ladies to the presentation.

  4. Jody, I liken it to sports. I am not the type of person to watch or go to sporting events unless we have a child playing. But, give me some history and info about a person who is playing (a good life story) and I'll root for the person and follow his/her career. I like to know who people really are.

    So, an author giving a presentation or talking to a person like they really matter (like you did with Sarah at your first book signing) is something that really draws me to that author and makes me follower him/her. It's a great way of finding something in common and click with that author.

    A person's kindness goes a long way! And you, my dear, are one of the kindest authors I know.

    1. Hi Deanna,

      I think you and your daughters were some of the first people I met at a book signing back when I was just beginning! You made the experience so worthwhile! I've realized since then what a blessing it was to have you come up and talk and be so friendly! That doesn't happen at most signings! :-)

  5. Hi Jody!

    From a very avid readers perspective,I feel a presentation is an excellent way to promote your books. Not only does it make the books "come alive" and truly meaningful,but it is also very exciting when the author is presenting and certainly cements a "bond" between the reader and author.
    From my experience of being so fortunate to have met (and come to know and love) some of my favourite authors on a personal level,has been a complete privilege and I will always treasure my time spent with them. This is re inforced, every time I open my books and read the inscription inside.:0)

    I mentioned about making books "come alive"from presentations and I will use an analogy here. For me,this literally happened, when I was asked to do a presentation at one of our national Nurses conferences.I felt so honoured yet scared,at the same time.

    It was one of the most difficult presentations I have ever done,as it was a tribute to one of our well known, highly skilled and professional Nurses, who tragically lost her life in an MVA. She was also a very great friend of mine,which made it extremely hard considering the emotions involved. I not only had to try and incorporate her nursing prowess,(she was passionate about her nursing committment,and outstanding in the leadership role she exhibited...a fine example to Aus nurses)but also,I had to delicately convey the highly sensitive,caring and beautiful attributes she possessed,that came from her inner self.

    Ultimately,the aim of my presentation was to ensure that "Terri's" memory remained "alive"...not only within the nursing fraternity but outside as well.

    She was truly an inspiration while she was physically with us but Spiritually, she will ALWAYS be with us "shining the light". She truly is "The Lady With The Lamp"...a modern day Florence Nightingale.

    I apologise for this lengthy comment,but I felt it was important to stress about the books "coming" alive and used my presentation as an example.I hope you don't mind.

    Jody, I would certainly attend a book signing. Readers will never forget the authors,if they are fortunate to be given the opportunity to meet them. It's the icing on the cake! I say this in all sincerity.

    I very much enjoyed reading your Post, dear lady. Thank You!:0)

    1. Hi Rosie!

      Sounds like you did a wonderful job of bringing your friend honor and keeping her memory alive in a beautiful and touching way! You're so right that our presentations bringing people to life (and books). I think most people relate best to real life examples and stories.

      I would consider it an honor and delight to meet you some day! But I'm so glad for the internet and the ability it has to connect us even though we are half a world apart.

      I hope that you're doing well!

  6. Jody I'd love to attend a presentation and book signing. The one problem I've always had is that the majority of book signings I've seen are set in the evening. I understand this is to draw in those that work during the day but I feel it leaves out a lot of people such as those who do shift work and those, like me, who no longer drive or want to be out in the evenings.

    1. Hi Molly,

      Good point! There are a lot of signings and presentations that are scheduled at night. I personally have had most of mine during the day. That's what has worked best for most of the groups I've spoken with. But I know that time will be a factor for many people, especially with the busy lives so many people lead!

  7. Jody, thanks for sharing what's worked for you. I hope to have a book published one day, and if I ever get to do a signing, I'll keep this in mind! :)

  8. Thanks so much for these wonderful tips! Appreciate your insight. :)

  9. Hi Jody -

    I'll be doing a couple of events in October for my recently-released book, The Moses Conspiracy. These tips are really valuable. Thank you so much.

    Susan :)

  10. I think it would! Because if I was going to the author's book signing, I know the author, I like their work, I want to actually engage with them, not just grab an autograph and go!

  11. I really liked your idea. Thanks for sharing with all.

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