Never Eat Popcorn at a Book Signing, and Other Tips

Signing Placerville 12-21-13

The Placerville News, in operation since 1856.

I’ve done a fair number of book signings, sometimes alone, sometimes with other authors. I’ve done them in bookstores, at libraries, and outdoors. I’ve done talks and then signed my books, or just sat at a table with my books piled high, watching folks avoid eye contact with me as they passed me on their way to the cookbook or self-help section. 🙂

Usually I’m indoors. Or when I am outdoors, it’s in a lovely, temperate season (such as the springtime book signings I did at a lovely daylily farm). I’ve had signing where I’ve sold many books, a few books, one book, and zero books. I always start my signings full of hope, but while I do my best to pitch my books to passersby, it’s considered bad form to tackle them and force it into their hands.

Me and the Cowboys

Always handy to have a few cowboys at your side.

My most recent signing was a real adventure in that it was outdoors and it was freaking cold. Combine Placerville’s nearly 2000 foot elevation with the first official day of winter, add in me standing in the shade along a section of street with a wind tunnel effect, and you have one mighty cold writer. It didn’t help that I hadn’t brought a jacket. By the end of the three hours I stood behind my table, I was a Popsicle.

I do learn something at every book signing I do. Here are a few new tips in no particular order:

Stagecoach 12-21-13

This pair of Standardbred horses pulling the stagecoach are 28 years old and former harness racers. When they trot up the alley, you’d better get out of their way.

  • Make sure you understand the terms

I’d arranged with Placerville News to do the book signing, but I’d brought my own copies. I’d expected to sell the books myself from my table. The store expected that customers would bring the books inside to purchase them and the store would take a cut. I was able to negotiate the split with the store, but I should have gotten that worked out before signing day.

  • For outdoor signings, be prepared for the weather

I shoulda known better. I’d brought a heavy coat the year before, but I didn’t want to wear wear it this year because it was kinda ugly. I suffered for that decision. Did I mention how cold I was?

  • Stand behind the table rather than sit

    Full Cover-s

    Click on cover to buy CLEAN BURN

I’ve actually been following this tip for quite a while. If you stand, you’re at eye level with your potential readers. It’s much easier to engage with them. You’re able to at least say hi as they pass by, and maybe they’ll get curious enough to stop and check out your books. Of course if you’re physically unable to stand all that time, you’ll have to sit. But you’ll still want to say hi and smile, smile, smile.

  • Stay off your cell phone

I was a little naughty in ignoring this tip. I was pretty discouraged at first with how my signing was going. I texted a pity-me message to my husband, then got preoccupied with checking for his response. But for the most part, I left that distracting device in my pocket. It’s too hard to engage with potential buyers if you’re texting or playing Words with Friends.

Awakening Final cover-s

Click on cover to buy AWAKENING

  • Don’t eat popcorn during a signing

Yes, I munched a box of popcorn during the signing. And was horrified afterward when I saw my teeth. Ugh. Very embarrassing. My only excuse is that because the signing started at noon, I hadn’t had lunch beforehand. I was starving. People kept coming out of the store with popcorn and I just couldn’t resist. Now I understand why kids who wear braces aren’t allowed to eat popcorn. That stuff sticks everywhere. Double ugh.

  • Have fun

It’s tough sometimes when you’ve stood there for what seems like an eternity and you haven’t sold even one book. But you never know if the person you engage in conversation during a book signing will later check out your books online and become one of your biggest fans. That memory of meeting you will stick with them, and you want to leave them with a positive impression.

Anyone have any tips of your own? Experiences (or horror stories) that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

About karensandler

Lover of chocolate. A couple felines short of full-fledged Cat Lady. Author of the YA Tankborn Trilogy (TANKBORN, AWAKENING, and REBELLION), from Tu Books. Founding team member of We Need Diverse Books. Opinions expressed here are my own.
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