Holiday Book Signings

My newest book was just released and I want to do a book signing tour to encourage shoppers to buy my book as Christmas gifts. I keep telling my publisher that I want to do this, and they keep saying it's a good idea, but so far, no signing dates. Why do you think my publisher is refusing to set up book signings for me?

[Deep breath] Having recently had this conversation with several of my authors, let me say first that publishers do not have the final say in scheduling book signings--unless your publisher is Deseret Book or Covenant, who have their own retail outlets and host signings for their own authors.

As a publisher, even if I thought a book signing tour was the very best way to boost holiday book sales (which I don't, but let's pretend I do), my opinion and enthusiasm won't do us a bit of good unless the book store owner/manager thinks so too. And most of them don't, because the simple fact is that the majority of LDS author book signings are lucky if they generate the sale of a dozen books. Most common scenario for a single author book signing is 2 to 3 hours of the author sitting behind a table trying not to look desperate while the bookstore customers avoid them like the plague.

Whether or not your publisher can convince a bookstore to host your signing depends on several things: how big the publisher is and what their reputation is; how big a discount your publisher can give the bookstore; how well your book is selling in the store; how well known you are/how many customers you can draw; how many other titles you have to your name; how much it is going to cost the publisher to get you there (are you expecting the publisher to pay travel expenses and per diem or are you footing the bill), etc., etc.

Also, book signings are not a bundle of joy for the bookstores. They have to create a space for you to sign, reroute floor traffic, stock extra books, return those they can't sell. A lot of bookstores just flat out don't want to be bothered.

Here are a few other scenario/issues:
1. The Utah/Idaho corridor is where the majority of LDS book sales occur. Most of the bookstores here are DB and Seagull stores who are promoting their own authors with holiday book signings. Yes, they will sometimes let other publishers bring authors to the party, but only if the book is a strong seller and/or they can't fill the slots with their own people. You get a better shot with some of the independent stores in this area, but not all of them will work with you if you're a small publisher, or if you're a lesser known author.

2. Bookstores outside UT/ID are generally smaller stores near a temple. Their bookstore traffic is based on temple traffic, meaning people come to the temple and then drop by the bookstore on their way home. Many of them get very little traffic during the week and are overcrowded on Saturdays. They don't want you getting in their way on Saturday and they don't think you can pull enough customers to make it worth their trouble on a weeknight.

3. Local to you, non-LDS bookstores or variety stores might be willing to host your book signing if you're very local or related to the manager, but they often want deeper discounts than your publisher can afford.

So to overcome that, you or your publisher have to be willing to create an offer they can't refuse. You have to fit in to their schedule. You have to be sure you can pull in customers. You have to be willing to do all the work yourself. Sometimes you have a better chance if you can get a group of authors to do a signing at the same place & time. But even if you and your publisher are willing to totally foot the expense of a launch party complete with advertising and door prizes, some bookstores will still turn you down.

My guess is your publisher is doing their best and just can't get the bookstores to agree. We can't really force them. If you are dead set on doing a signing tour, see if your publisher will consign you some books and try to set something up in your hometown, maybe at the local library or schools or service clubs. Do an event with 4 or 5 other local authors and talk about literacy, or writing, or something that has a literary appeal, then sell your books afterward. Most libraries and some schools will let you do that as a public service, especially if you donate a portion of your proceeds.


Anonymous said...

I found this post very informative and helpful. I didn't really understand much about how booksignings work, and it's an eye opener to find out that bookstore managers often aren't enthusiastic about them.

Plus, it's good to know I'm not the only author who has sat there alone behind my table trying not to look desperate . . .

Anonymous said...

I would also submit that publishers aren't setting up as many signings as they used to, and that it's falling more to the author to do it. A lot of it is for the reasons that LDSP mentioned, but a lot is also that some publishers don't feel they can take the time to do it.

Most I've ever sold at a traditional signing -- five books.

Jeff Savage said...

The first mistake is that you are sitting behind the table. IMHO the main reason you are at the store is NOT to sell books that day. You are there to have the store employees sell your book for the next three months. Otherwise almost no signing would be worthwhile. Let's say you sell ten books and make a whopping $10-$15. Good day right? Except how much is your time, gas, cards, flyers, candy, etc costing you?

Get out from behind that stupid little table. Greet the employees, hand out flyres, let the salespeople here you selling your book. If they know your pitch, they can repeat it. I've carried books out to their car for customers, I've recommended other people's books, I've helped people find CDs for their grandkids.

If you seem excited and happy, the time goes by fast and the employees remember what a fun author you were. If you sit pathetically behind your little table. The employees feel sorry for the poor sad author. Who do you think they recommend after you leave?