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Signing Books

by Libby Malin

A funny video by mystery author Parnell Hall (like moi, an Edgar nominee!) has been making the rounds. Maybe you've seen it. If not, here 'tis:

Whew -- that's the first time I embedded a video. Hope it comes through okay. If not, you can go to this link to see it.

Parnell's poking good-natured fun at challenges all authors who aren't bestsellers face--how do you get the word out and draw crowds to book signings and to buy your book in general?

Here's the secret --

Okay, you didn't really think I'd give away the secret, did you? Especially when I don't know what it is myself! :-)

Seriously, most authors do their best to attract folks to a book signing with the usual tricks of the trade. Personally, I send out postcards announcing the signing to a growing list of folks interested in my books. I have one list of all the folks in my neighborhood and I'm sure to add a little label on those letting recipients know I live in their development.

I also send press releases to local media and give out postcard invitations to people I encounter the week before the event. And, finally, I do broadcast emails and announcements on Facebook.

Still, sometimes you face a poor showing at a signing. If the weather's good -- which it was at my last signing -- attendance can be down. Who wants to spend one of the first nice spring afternoons after a bunch of rainy ones in a bookstore? And, although I wasn't sitting next to Mary Higgins Clark (as Parnell was at one signing), I was tucked in a corner of the store while the big Nook display, along with very good salesman, attracted customers upon entry.

But you know what? Sometimes the book signing isn't just about the book signing. In other words, the actual number of people who came into the store to have my book signed that day doesn't measure the full impact of the signing. The signing, after all, allowed me to send out the press release, which resulted in notices about the book in numerous little papers in the area. The postcards announcing the signing caught the attention of a local book club that has now asked me to speak about my book at their next meeting. And, I collected emails of passers-by at the signing to add to my collection of folks I can reach the next time I have book news.

I've never had an unpleasant experience at a book signing. I enjoy being in bookstores and usually end up buying something before I leave.

For you authors out there, have you had any experiences at signings that are funny or memorable? And what about readers--any book signings you've attended that stick out in memory?


  1. Hillarious!! Showed the video to my husband so he could get a good laugh too. I haven't had any negative experiences at signings... yet. I am planning to go to RWA and do the signing with all those fab authors. I feel better suited to be a fan girl than an author!

  2. I showed the video to my husband, too, Amanda, and he also had a good laugh! Parnell really nails it, doesn't he? I've not read his books but my sister has enjoyed one of his series.

    I'm on the road today, ladies, so if I don't weigh in right away, that's why!

  3. I've found that often the signed books are snatched up at the store after I leave! :) So, yes, it helps.

    My funniest experience was saying to potential fans: "Are you interested in a hot romance?" That way if readers didn't care for romance or hotter romances, they would say no, and that would be that. Wellll....I was doing pretty well with that...No, no, no...smiles, no...(I live in the Baptist Bible Belt) so then a man comes along--probably 60 or so, and dummy me doesn't change the spiel. "Are you interested in a hot romance?"

    *sigh* Well, I embarrassed myself and made his day!!!! He came back two more times to tell me just how much he appreciated me asking, that he hadn't been asked that in years. LOL!!!! I'm sure he told his wife and all his friends!!!

    And in another case, my redheaded daughter was acting as my publicist, and some guy fell in love with her and bought a book, more interested in dating her than anything else. Yep, you use whatever means you can! :)

  4. Libby: That's the cleverest video. Yes, you never know about signings. I've had some where I ran out of books and had to take names and mail the books later, and I've had some where no one comes. You just never know, but like you said, there can be other rewards. Like you, from a signing where no books were sold, I made a Book Club contact and later got invited to speak at a large women's club, so you just never know.

  5. I've had good experiences and some that were a bit letdown. You just never know how they'll turn out.

  6. Very funny video!

    Signings for me have been hit and miss. I always enjoy them and I do think it has a potential impact beyond what we see in actual sales. Folks do read about you in the newspaper blurb or take your card home to think about it. You never really know.

    That being said, they do take a great deal of time and effort, so to be honest I do not go out of my way to line up a ton of signings. If it comes my way as part of a group thing or I am invited, then I will do it happily.

    Thanks for a fun post, Libby!

  7. That video is great! I've had wonderful and horrible signings. Yesterday at Borders I saw a couple signing a children's book. I felt so bad for them. They were sitting there, looking so bored for like a half an hour and no one came to get a book. I almost wanted to buy a book because I felt so bad, but my little one can't even read the 100+ books she has already.

  8. Those are some good ideas, Libby. I like your idea of follow up press releases.

    Yah, I saw this video a couple of weeks ago and it cracked me up. It's also a smart marketing ploy on his part.

    I try to support booksignings when they come to my neck of the woods. The last one was three author who signed together and they made it fun. Lots of laughter from that corner which, of course, drew people over.

  9. Probably too many to count. One where a friend and I had a signing at a mall, seated outside B Dalton and a gangbanger came up. He was very impressed we actually wrote the books and shook our hands.

    One where an elderly lady was miffed at me for switching from Linda Wisdom in my early Silhouette days to Linda Randall Wisdom when I started writing for Dell Ecstasy. I was supposed to tell a body these things. :} When I attended the conference several years later she showed up with many of my backlist for me to sign.

    A signing in Virginia City where Janet Dailey's bookcover poster was behind me and kept bopping me in the head. Until it somehow landed in the gully behind us.

  10. Loved the video and the post! I have had a few interesting signings. One was when a lady picked up my book and read the back cover, talked to me and then said she didn't have money with her and couldn't buy it but when walking away she saw Virginia Henly's latest and turned back to me and said, "Well, I do have enough money with me to buy this one." I just smiled becaue I like Virginia too! There was another time a man wouldn't leave but kept hanging around. Very creepy. The manager asked him to leave and he did and just to be sure, the manager walked me to my car. So always be careful of strangers!
    Too cute about the JD poster, Linda!

  11. These are terrific stories. Thanks for sharing them. I was very nervous for my very first book signing, but have become quite sanguine, if that's the right word, over them through the years. I did one signing where not a single new release of mine was sold but several of my old YAs sold! Go

  12. Love that video. Wonder how his sales are doing now. LOL.

    I had a woman come up to me at one of my first signings and GUSH about loving romance and how she was going to buy my book (ended up buying a bunch of them), and then she joined our RWA chapter. Turns out she wants to be an author, too. So it was a good day for both of us!

  13. The video was great! I'm stealing it and spreading it around - thanks for posting it.
    Working in bookselling, I've seen lot of sparsely attended signings, so at least my expectations were realistic! So many new writers look forward to signings and are disappointed when adoring hordes don't show up.
    I had fun doing local signings where people know me, and when events aren't well-attended, you have more time to connect with the few that show up.
    Interestingly, when I signed in Denver, I sold more books to men than women! All for their wives and daughters, of course:)

  14. Believe it or not, before I worked in publishing, I was never really intersted in book signings... I just wanted to read the books! But now, whenever I'm in my local bookstores and I see an author signing books, even if I'm not interested in the books (which is rare, I read A LOT), I stop by and talk with them a bit, take a postcard/bookmark, or even buy the book!

    Great post, Libby!


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