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!


  1. Never been to one, Jody.

    But Good morning to you and thank you for this! Happy that all went well.


  2. Um, Jody, there seems to be no link to Charity's blog. I don't know if it's just me. I'd appreciate it if you could help, please! :-)

    And I'm just thinking about it now, it'd be interesting to attend a book signing. *grin*

    1. Hi Ganise!

      I haven't heard back from the host of today's "Secret" yet! So I'm not sure if we'll have that post today or not! So sorry to confuse everybody. I took it out of the round up for now, and if I hear back from her with the link, I'll add it back in. Thanks for being interested and following along. It has meant so much, Ganise! :-)

    2. It's been so fun, Jody!

      Loved getting to know you! Many thanks for sharing.


  3. From what I can tell, from the signings I've gone to and through blog posts is that signings are great once you have a big fan base like Beverly Lewis. Other than that it's basically friends coming out and maybe a few others. That's so awesome you got to sign with her! Sounds like she's a pro at this.

  4. I haven't been published yet and I've never been able to attend a booksigning in person, but I think I'd still love the opportunity to get to know the author that way. Of course, blog tours are wonderful too!!

  5. That line is amazing. Our local chapter is having a multiple author book signing, and I'm looking forward to it so much more than if I was going to be by myself!

  6. So glad you had such a great experience with the book signing. I've read many of Beverly's books, and I agree, she is an awesome author. The picture of the fan line is amazing!

    I've been to book signings, but usually for friends or people I already know. But I've also seen authors in bookstores and shops standing there....waiting...crickets chirping. That always makes me feel so sad, and I usually walk over to chat. I think that having a well-known author at a book signing with newer authors is a great idea, and it does give fans the opportunity to discover some wonderful talent.

    I've often thought that if I ever get to do my own book signing (as I've been published mostly in children's mags and regional/educational resources up to this point), I will most definitely appreciate anyone and everyone who takes the time to come over to talk...even if they don't buy a book.

    You've given us a lot to think about. Great post!
    Amy O'Quinn

  7. Yesterday, I attended a reading by poet Li-Young Lee at our local community college. I love watching an artist at work whether it be painting, reading poetry, acting, making music, or whatever. That's what gets me out of the house and to an event. Then, I make a connection with the artist and want to buy his or her work.
    Thanks for your insight, Jody!

  8. Missed you at ACFW... but WOW... I see you were BUSY!!!!

    Honestly, the thought of booksignings scare me to DEATH! Even at ACFW when someone would ask me to sign my book, a little trickle of nervous sweat would inch down my back. what if I mess it up???? And I really do NOT feel important enough to "sign" my autograph, ha ha ha!

    I DO have my first booksigning scheduled for October during Lifeway fiction days... *biting nails* They usually schedule multiple authors so here is to hoping I'm not the only one!!!

    1. Krista, I am the same way!

      When somebody buying my book asks me to sign it, I'm like, "Really? Oh! Okay, sure!"

      Even in hoping my book will be of benefit to someone, I just don't think in terms of my autograph adding value...

  9. I've never been to a book signing...which may explain why I've never done a book signing, either...

    It's difficult to promote an event (as an author) that I would be unlikely to attend (as a reader).

    You've made some good points and offered some good suggestions, though. Definitely food for thought...

    Thanks, Jody!

  10. I would love to attend an author book signing, except there aren't ever any here in central Maine (or at least I haven't heard of any). So I read the author blogs, which I find to be very enjoyable, although not the same as personally meeting the author.

    I have enjoyed reading The Doctor's Lady and Unending Devotion and look forward to reading more of your books in the future.



  11. "I'd have to take an entire blog post to list all of the many things they did to get the word out."

    Jody, please do that! :)

    1. Good idea, Sally! The bookstore did a fabulous job promoting! And it helped a ton!

  12. These are great reminders, Judy. I think we all forget to ask readers questions about themselves at book signings. And LOVE the pic! So sweet to see you did a book signing with Shar. Love her! Such a sweetheart!

  13. How fabulous to get to do a book signing with Bev Lewis! That would be a dream.

    I've never had much of a line at any book signing I've done. I feel like it's a good day if I sell over 20. LOL. How wonderful that your bookstore really promoted this as an event. That makes a huge difference, I'm sure.

    So happy for you, Jody. I hope you picked up a lot of new readers!

    1. Thank you, Karen!! I hear you on most book signings. Selling 20 books is a really good day! :-)

      And congratulations on your Carol WIN!!! Even though I wasn't there, I was cheering for you!! I was really excited to hear that you won!

    2. Karen~

      If you were in driving distance of my house, I can guarantee I'd be there with bells on and drum up as much of a crowd as I possibly could.

      I've read three of your four books, and loved them all. I started reading Head in the Clouds this summer at a friend's house. I didn't finish, but she wouldn't let me bring it home. :(

  14. Thanks, Jody! I'm still a little stunned and a lot euphoric. :-)

    Missed you at ACFW this year. Maybe we'll meet up in Indiana next year!

    1. Congrats, Karen! I squealed out loud (was watching online) when I heard. Truly am happy for you! And I truly am fan!


  15. I'm not big enough to have done a book signing, but would love to be part of one later. The last time I went to one for an author I really admire, I felt like a kid waiting to see Santa at the mall. Like you said, I think they're still relevant in the book world today.

    That being said, I saw a book signing a few weeks ago that was a great example of how authors shouldn't behave. I took my kids to the bookstore to buy presents for their mom's birthday. At the front of the store were two authors sitting at tables with nobody there. One author was on his phone. We had trouble finding what we were looking for, and so went to customer service. One of the authors and his wife pushed their way in front of us to argue with a store employee about the number of books supplied for the signing. I was not amused in the least.

  16. This is great information, Jody! I too thought book signings were dying, but it's great to know they can still work with the right efforts.

  17. What an awesome opportunity, Jody! I love the clever things the Midland store did for you...brilliant. :)

  18. Great info, Jody. I like how Beverly interacts with her readers.

    What an exciting opportunity!

  19. What a cool experience! I love that you shared details of why you think it was such a success. It certainly sounds as if Beverly's warm personality was a big part!

  20. I like to go to book signings and meet my favorite authors. I long for the day I'm the one signing books- even if it is only a few people (wink).

    Sounds like you had a blast, so happy for you.
    Glad I found you through Lindsey's blog. Hope to win a copy of your book.

  21. Oh goodness! I wish I could have attended that book signing, hours in line or no! What a fantastic turnout. I've heard Beverly is very sweet. :)

  22. What a wonderful turnout! So glad it went well. I appreciate hearing about what you learned. I've never attended a book signing but I have had authors sign their books at writing conferences, not exactly the same but it was still nice. :)

  23. What would it take to get me to a book signing?

    Hold it within driving distance of my house. Driving distance increases in direct proportion to how much I love the author, or how many authors I love are in attendance.

    I've been to two Beverly Lewis book signings in Springfield, MO (about an hour's drive). One several years ago when she was with Lori Copeland...and maybe someone else. I bought both of their books. And again just last year when she was with Julie Klassen. That time she was gracious enough to have a picture taken with me even though I didn't buy her book.

    I also went to one in Tulsa, OK (roughly three hours' drive) with another Ozarker. Mary Connealy, Tina Radcliffe, and Ruth Logan Herne (of Seekerville) were all there, and we couldn't resist. The road trip was great. The book signing was great. We got to eat dinner with them, and that was really great.

    Yeah. I like book signings...

  24. I love the idea of having a newer author paired with a more established author for book signings.

    I used to work at a small bookstore, and I remember a few book signing that had hardly any visitors - usually because the author was new and relatively unknown.


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