Monday, December 12, 2011


Me siging.
Note the swag,
and candy!
 There's a two-word phrase that rattles the nerves of most authors: BOOKSTORE SIGNING.  Why? The notion seems thrilling.  You show up at a bookstore, read a bit, sell and sign copies, and meet readers. Easy-peasy, huh?  Ask a few published authors (and not Stephenie Meyer (no disrespect) and the thrill may morph into something like nausea.  Because, unless you're a MAJOR, best-selling, movie-deal type author with a massive fan base and tons of publisher-publicity support, the scenario very well may go something more like this:

  • Find an opportunity to sign your book at a bookstore.
  • Help bookstore publicize as much as you can (and tell all of your friends and relatives).
  • Show up and pray some folks are there to hear you.
  • Sell a few books.
  • Go home.
  • Drink wine.
I know, I know, it's holiday time. Why am I stomping on your jollies? Don't worry, some cheer will follow.  First, I want to explain WHY many book signings go like this. Note that I am not referring to the special case of book launch parties here but signings more generally.)

So...WHY do many book signings turn out as described above?

1. You are competing with nearly INFINITE OPTIONS for peoples' time. In the case of MG and YA readers, you've got homework, sports, extracurriculars, birthday parties, the commitments of the parents who'd need to drive them, favorite television programs, plans with friends... In sum, kids are oversubscribed.
2. You are inviting folks to something they don't necessarily understand all that well. This is a sad fact for folks like me but, face it, book signings are not mainstream entertainment. So, they require a LOT of explaining and incentivizing to get past barrier #1 above.  If you're a debut author on top of this, you've only got one title to offer, limiting the interest and incentives even further.

3. You may also be trying to invite a second population: the adult YA writer-reader community. They're often a more reliable crowd than tween/teen readers but are, again, over-committed (often with kids of their own). PLUS, targeting your event to two readership groups may mean your event isn't ideally structured and/or marketed to either.

4. Publicizing any book signing is very difficult. There are great indies with weekly events, a newsletter, a dynamic website--even if you're listed in all these venues, the events folks will tell you turnout is a roll of the dice. Listings in newspapers, radio, etc., are difficult to get and, again, yield major roll-of-the-dice results.

5. Book signings are often in competition with each other. Despite the end of Borders, the plights of the indies, etc., there are still many bookstores in some urban centers.  I did one group signing in LA on a Saturday when it turned out there were FIVE OTHER YA/MG book events happening in the city that afternoon.  I also did a signing at a bookstore that had hosted another event the previous night (burnout for the local crowd) that was also just an hour after another bookstore in that city had hosted an event for an AWESOME, NYT-bestselling YA author (I would have gone if I didn't have my own event that night!).

So, what's an author to do? First, don't worry. THERE ARE WAYS TO UP THE ODDS, CREATE GREAT EVENTS, and SPREAD THE WORD EFFECTIVELY. Plus, tune back on Wednesday when I'll be posting a survey where you can share your own information.


Katherine Grace Bond said...

Waiting with baited breath. I've been wracking my brain trying to think of good bookstore signing lures.

Pam Harris said...

Great post. Definitely something for me to consider if I'm lucky enough to have a book signing one day. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi there!
I'm doing a giveaway on my blog, at the moment and one of the books Penguin sent me to giveaway was Audition! It is open to Australians only, but if you would be able to spread the word, that would be amazing!