Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Book Signings: Worth the Time and Effort?

Yes, that's me with the hopeful smile. Looks like folks are more interested in the homemade bread than in buying a book. Win a few. Lose a few. Some authors feel book signings are counterproductive and have given them up entirely. I polled five of my fellow writers and asked their opinion regarding book signings. Between us, we have 56 published books with more on the way. Please meet Elizabeth Sinclair, Sparkle Abbey (writing partners, Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter), K.A. Mitchell, Michele Stegman and Meg Benjamin. Please scroll to the bottom of the post for more information about my guests.

!. Do you participate in book signings?

Sparkle Abbey: Yes, we do participate in book signings. Some are local events and others regional and still others are at national conferences. Some are planned for us and some are planned by others.

Elizabeth Sinclair: Yes, but reluctantly. I think unless you're a big name author, they are, for the most part, an exercise in futility. This not entirely due to the author not having hit the NY Times or USA Today list. Often it is more due to the lack of publicity done by the signing's host. for this reason, I prefer group signings to individual signings. The signing host tends to advertise more for a group of authors than a single author.

Meg Benjamin: I do at conferences like Romantic Times or the RWA (Romance Writers of America) annual meetings. I don't do them on my own.

K.A. Mitchell: I choose the locations and opportunities judiciously. Since many of my readers buy digitally, I offer other objects (for free) to sign for them, such as bookmarks, cover flats and postcards. In any promotion I do for the signing, I encourage readers to come and chat, that no purchase is necessary if they want to introduce themselves.

Michele Stegman: Large group signings, yes.

2. Have you been satisfied with the results?

Sparkle Abbey: We've had mixed results. Our first signing was the launch of Desperate Housedogs and we sold more than 100 books. At the Barnes and Noble book signing with both books out, we only sold a handful of books.

Elizabeth: I've been very satisfied with a few book signings. A small, independent bookstore in our area does a large group signing periodically. The owner advertises on TV, in newspapers, in her store and on poster placed around the area for weeks in advance. As a result, the turnout is extremely good, as are sales. the only single book signing I can recall that was hugely successful was at our local Walmart. The store did the same type of advertising as above. In addition, every shopping cart had a flyer announcing the sale. I was set up in the front of the store facing the entrance door and the area I was set up to sign in was nicely presented with silk trees and flowers. This particular Walmart was a huge success, but the best single signings I've had have all been ironically at a Walmart.

Meg: It depends on how you define results. I haven't ever sold many books at signings. On the other hand, I've met some terrific writers who happened to be placed next to me by alphabet (Romantic Times) or whim (RWA) and I've had fun talking to people and watching the spectacle. I've found that it's not particularly great for your ego since you get to see people like J.R. Ward and Susan Elizabeth Phillips with line around the room while you're sitting there by your lonesome. But, it's a decent experience overall.

K.A.: I've been honored to pick up new readers and been able to reward readers with this personal interaction. If I know I'm going to be seeing a super-fan, I try to have something special for that reader. I've also been to disastrous book signings. Usually the failings are due to a lack of promotion or a bad choice of venue. That's why I am selective. A bad book signing isn't necessarily when I don't sell any books, but where I don't even get traffic to expose readers to the genre or my name. Not all readers or writers are hoping to meet face to face. But for those readers who do like that connection, I think a signing can turn a casual fan into a devoted one who hand-sells your work. If she made the trip an stands in line, she deserves some personal interaction even if she doesn't buy a book.

Michele: I haven't sold many books, especially since all my books are now digital only, but I have had fun making contacts, talking to people and handing out my book cards. And, I think anytime you get your name out there, make friends with readers and get your information into their hands, you are helping your cause.

3. Do you plan to do more signings?

Sparkle Abbey: We do plan to continue book signings. If, for not other reason, than to connect with readers. We also like to work with animal rescue groups when we plan events. I guess the bottom lie for us is that we have two goals with our events: 1) Meeting readers. 2) Bringing attention to pet rescue. As long as these two goals are being met, we'll continue.

Elizabeth: I will if asked, but as I said, I prefer group signings. When I attend RWA Annual Conference, I do take part in the Literacy Signing each year.
An aside: I've found there are two questions an author must be prepared to answer at a signing: 1) How do I get my book about fly fishing, pig slopping, barn painting, etc. published? 2) Were's the bathroom located?

Meg: Oh sure, why not? It doesn't really hurt you--just a little boredom and ego bruising. And, every time you meet a potential reader, there's the possibility of a sale whether they buy your book on site or later.

K.A.: I do, but I always plan to have material other than books available for digital readers. In my opinion, a signing should not be about selling books, but about furthering your career, brand and name recognition through interaction with devoted readers and potential new readers, even if the only chance you get is answering the question, "Where is the bathroom?" or "Is Nora here?"

Michele: Yes.

Many thanks to my guests for their insights on book signings. Please visit their websites to find out more about their books.

Sparkle Abbey:

Elizabeth Sinclair:

Meg Benjamin:

K.A. Mitchell:

Michele Stegman:

1 comment:

  1. Interesting to hear everyone's comments! I have had productive and dull book signings, but I still think they're worthwhile. I always stand and mingle with people whether they buy my book or not.