Saturday, February 18, 2012

How to Host a Successful Book Signing

by Jannine Gallant

I bet you thought I was going to give you all the answers. Ha! I wish. But I will give you the limited wisdom of my experience and ask for yours in return.

I just brought home a big box filled with 50 copies of my latest book, Bittersweet. My heart pitter-patted in my chest as I flipped through the pages and gazed at my beautiful cover. Then the churning awareness that I had to sell every last one of these little gems took hold. Gulp!

I'm not a novice at book signings, but I'm no pro, either. When my first book, Victim of Desire, released nearly two years ago, I naively ordered 100 copies figuring they'd sell themselves. Okay, you can all stop laughing now. I held 3 signings and learned from each one.

The first was in my small home town of Tahoe City. The paper ran a story for me for free. I rented a room for a modest cost where local artists display their work. I brought lots of appetizers, told all my friends, and was thrilled when they showed up at the appointed time and bought 28 books. A success - I think so. What I learned was that I felt awkward asking for money because I knew these people. The solution, my best friend in the whole world took over the financial transactions. I signed and talked. She collected payment. The atmosphere was convivial and fun! But only one person showed up that I didn't know. So word didn't exactly reach the masses that the hottest new author since J.K. Rowling was making a personal appearance.

My second signing was with a group of authors over two hours from my home. It was a lovely day in a vineyard with music and wine tasting. The other three ladies were chatty and interesting. The problem, no one approached our table. I think the people milling about were afraid they'd have to buy a book from every one of us. Definitely a dilemma. I sold 3 books, which didn't come close to covering the cost of my gas. I'd have to say this one wasn't a success.

My final book signing was in the town where I grew up. My mom, who still lives there, talked to the local librarian. (This is library lovers month, so I didn't totally ignore our topic choices! LOL) This wonderful woman made fliers, brought coffee and cookies, and arranged an article for the paper. She also asked me to plan a presentation. I wanted to pull my hair out just thinking about talking in front of people. On the big day, we arrived, set up, and waited for several of my mom's friends to trickle in. I survived the reading and discussion - even enjoyed it after I quit shaking. But I sold less than 10 books. Again, this signing was a friends only affair. I think we'd have to call this one a toss up as to rather or not it was a success.

So, as I think about arranging signings for my new book, I ask you what I can do differently? What has worked for you in the past? What should I avoid? Please share your experiences.

For more information on my books, please check out my website and blog or follow me on Facebook and Twitter.


Sandra Koehler said...

Hi Janine, thanks for the recap of your book signing experience. It sounds like you used very resourceful ideas. With the demise of Border's and Barnes and Noble only allowing big-name New York authors in, it seems harder and harder to do them. Quite frankly, I've noticed fewer book signings at Barnes & Noble or anywhere from anybody. I get the feeling that with the rise of e-books everything has gone electronic with very little face to face communication, unfortunately!

Alison Chambers

Unknown said...

JANNINE--good for you for trying the best way you know how. I absolutely abhor book signings--I have nine novels, but only five in print and those prints have given me headaches and upset stomachs every time. I fear book signings are sort of a thing of the past, with the advent of the ereaders. Still, statistics show half of all readers still prefer a print book--no matter the increase in sales of ebooks, they still want prints.

I use the pre-sold method I devised with my first one--then held the booksigning at my house. I sold 65 books...but I was a novelty at the time! Now, those same readers still buy my pre-sold (from a sell sheet I email out)--books--not in such great quantities, but between 25-50.
Good luck! See you around.

Barbara Edwards said...

Hi Jannine,
I learned not to have expectations. The number of people who buy a book is out of your control. I've sold anywhere from one up to 32 and couldn't figure out why the difference.

David P Perlmutter said...

I just cant wait to sell one, once I have completed my first book..

Great post and content and have become a follower, follow me at

The very best of luck with the book..

Jannine Gallant said...

I'd skip the whole thing, but none of my friends will read my ebooks. They want print, as do my relatives. I do like the pre-sale idea. E-mailing the location, price, etc. ahead of time seems like a great idea, Celia. Last time, those who couldn't be at the signing still bought books later. Your way they could buy them in advance.

Jannine Gallant said...

Best of luck completing your first book, Dave. It's nice to see a new face here!

David P Perlmutter said...

Thanks and nice to be part of your book life....

Jana Richards said...

I don't have any books in print, other than an anthology I participated in with my writing group and a story in a 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' book. So I've never done a reading. Just the idea of a reading makes me break out in a cold sweat. It's not the idea of reading in front of people so much as no one showing up in the first place! I think you were incrediably brave and resourceful to hold three readings.


Alison Henderson said...

I've done three book signings, and my experience mirrors yours. The most successful was when my college roommate invited me to speak to her book club and sell my books. She told me to expect to sell about 30 books and that's what happened. Of course, I had to pay to fly from Minneapolis to Connecticut, but I wanted to see her anyway, so I considered it a rousing success.

Jannine Gallant said...

Jana, I only had to read at one of them. I probably wouldn't have survived reading at all three!

What fun, Alison. My own book club wouldn't read my book to discuss. We prefer more "literary" books. Yawn. But they all turned out to buy my book at my first signing.

Jannine Gallant said...

I won't be here to respond for most of the day. My daughters have their championship Nordic race. But I'll pop in this evening, so keep the awesome suggestions coming!

Colleen Connally said...

I've never had a book signing. You guys will have to help me. Having one soon.

Lynne Marshall said...

Hi Jannine!
This is such a good topic and an important one for authors. I've never had the guts to do a signing outside of my writer's group because I'm a bit nervous about my book offending people because there are love scenes in it.

I've also arranged with an independent book seller to sell my books at a group book signing, but wound up having to pay a 60/40 split on the sales - I lost about 2 bucks a book that way.

The coolest thing that happened to me was a friend in another city putting my name/book out there to her book club and they chose me for December's meeting. All of those ladies have e-readers and bought my book that way, so there really wasn't anything to sign. Though they invited me out to join them for the meeting - I went and was part of their discussion. It was fabulous - didn't sell a million books - but 11 ladies all enjoyed my book, and will be watching for the next one.

I'd say your 28 copies to friends was fantastic!

Maeve Greyson said...

Great post, Jannine! I'm going to venture into the scary world of book signings in April after I return from RT. I've got two releases coming out in March, so we've arranged a book launch / signing party at a local restaurant. I'll let you know if it was a good idea or not. ;-)

Darcy said...

Thanks, Jannine, and everyone else who's commented for giving me some idea of what book signings are all about. My first (and so far only) book is an e-book, so happily I haven't been faced by that problem since just the thought of doing a signing makes me want to crawl under the nearest table and curl into a fetal position. But if I ever am faced by the need to sign actual print copies of a book, I'll be better prepared for it because of the information you've given. And to you, Jannine, as well as to Maeve and Jerri, best of luck with your coming book signings. Hope you all sell tons of copies.

Karyn Good said...

Timely topic as I've my first book coming out in June. In my city there's a cozy place downtown over a shoe store that writers/artists can rent for functions. I have no idea what it costs but it's a neat idea. There's also a coffee house that hosts readings. But I like the pre-sold idea! So thanks everyone for your suggestions.

Jannine Gallant said...

I'm back from the Nordic race. Both girls skied great. What a lot of wonderful feedback, ladies. I hope I've given a few of you ideas. I like the idea of a coffee shop signing and will look into that for this new release. My town is so small that options are limited. It might be worth it to wait until spring for an outdoor location. Still trying to decide.

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Hannine,
Great blog. Sorry I am a little late coming in here, been at my writers group.
Your experience mirrors mine. My best effort was I did a talk at the local library and sold aboug 20books, plus the library bought two copies of every book I have had published, which was great.



Jannine Gallant said...

Hi Margaret,

My local library said even if I donated a book, they wouldn't garantee it could be shelved. It has to go through a review process at the county level! Couldn't believe it. The library in Crescent City where I did the signing bought 3 copies from the publisher to have on hand before I got there. A smaller system and less bureaucracy, I suppose.