On promotion: Events


Continuing my series on promotion, today I’ll talk about events. Here at magical words we’ve covered a lot of information on conferences and conventions, so I’ll skip those and focus primarily on bookstore events.

When a writer has a new book out (such as David and I do this week), they try to schedule  as many events as possible in the weeks following a release, but unless the writer is a mega best seller, she/he is on their own in financing their ‘tour’. Writers rarely can afford to make multi-city stops, and honestly, the returns on such a tour are can be rather discouraging. For instance, selling 10-20 copies is often considered  a successful bookstore event. The average writer makes 6-8% royalties on each book sold. Let’s take the high side of that and multiply the cost of a book by twenty and then calculate 8% of that total. Got it? Now think of what it costs to fill a tank of gas. Scary, huh?

So why schedule bookstore events at all? There are two reasons: 1)  to meet current readers and thank them for their loyalty and 2) to reach new readers. The focus of this post is on the second, and I hope you walk away with some tips to make your events more successful. With that in mind, let’s start with some general tips that apply to most events and then we’ll look at some specific types of events and tips for them.

Before the event:

  • Always try to schedule your events at least a month in advance. Most chain stores (such as Barnes and Noble) require this much lead  time, but it is a good practice whatever the store as this gives you time to publicize the event.
  • Find out if the store will be making posters or other advertisements about your signing. If not, see if they will display a sign if you have one made. Even if people who see the sign don’t come to the signing, it still puts your cover out in a prominent place. 
  • Offer to send bookmarks to the store several weeks before the signing. They say people have to see something several times before it really makes an impact, so getting your book in front of them as much as possible increases the chance that they will at least pick it up, if not attend the signing. Having bookmarks on the counter also gives booksellers an opening/reminder to tell people about your event.
  • Publicize your event on all of your social media. You are the person most invested in the success of your event, so make sure you’re telling people it exists.

At the event:

  • Be your brand, but remember bookstores have a wider mix of customers then say, a con, so if your brand is a little out there, find a comfortable medium that is you but a little more conservative. 
  • Smile. I know that seems like a no brainer, but I was the assistant manager of a bookstore for a while and you wouldn’t believe the number of authors who forget to smile or only smile at people who approach them. Smile at everyone. A happy person is a person people want to know.
  • Become friendly with the booksellers. Remember that when you are gone, these people are the ones who will be selling your book. (If you make a good enough impression, they might go out of their way to talk you up.)
  • Don’t forget your bookmarks. Not everyone is going to buy your book that day, but if you get them to take your bookmark, they might remember you later and buy it then.

After the signing:

  • Offer to sign whatever stock is left over.
  • Offer to leave some bookmarks with the store.
  • Thank the staff for hosting you at their store.

Easy, right? Now lets move on to some specific types of events.

The signing:
In my opinion, the straight up signing is the most nerve wracking event in a bookstore. While most of us would like to dream that we’ll have a line out the door waiting for us to arrive, the truth is that we will spend most of our time anxiously hoping someone–anyone–puts absolutely anything in front of us to sign. Especially for the first release.  Usually the bookstore will put your signing table at the front of the store in a high traffic area. That is good. You can become the unofficial greeter and say hello to everyone who enters the store.
If things are slow at the signing, stand up instead of sitting behind your table. Maybe hand out bookmarks to people who walk by. If you do sit, make sure your body posture is open and approachable. (And remember to smile!) Make eye-contact with everyone who will let you, but don’t be pushy–no one likes the hard sell. Above all, never look bored.

The reading and signing:
Adding a reading to your signing can have advantages and disadvantages. On one hand, it gives you something to do during the time besides just sit behind a table waiting. On the other, it can be rather disheartening if no one shows for the reading. That said, hopefully you have a friend or someone who can sit in the audience so you can act like you’re reading to someone. If you are reading, there is a very good chance people will stop to listen. Also, most bookstores that have PA systems will announce the reading, stirring up an audience for you. If they don’t do it automatically, ask if they can.
Some tips for the reading:

  • Start no more than a few minutes after you publicized if you have even one person in the audience.
  • Practice what you are going to read before you get to the bookstore.
  • Either bring your own copy of the book marked to the section you are going to read, or get to the bookstore early enough to put a bookmark in one of the store’s copies.
  • Remember to look up and make eye-contact with your audience once in a while as you read.

The big event:
The big event in a bookstore can be any number of things, but almost always involves more than one author. Having other authors with you usually draws in a bigger crowd (as fans for all of you show up) and it takes a little pressure of each of you. This is personally my favorite type of event and what I’ve found to be the most successful.  The big event might just be a multi-person signing, or it might include readings, talks, question and answer sessions, and/or giveaways (or any combination of the above). Of course an event like this is more complicated to arrange as you’ll need to do some networking before you can gather authors for the event.

Okay, this post is getting rather long, so I’m going to leave it at those three event types as that pretty much covers the possibilities (though if you’d like to add others, please do in the comments. The same goes if you have any tips based on what you’ve done or seen that is either successful or a major ‘do not do.’) But before I wrap up, I’m going to take my own advice and do a little publicizing about upcoming events. Here is what I’m doing and where I’ll be to celebrate the release of GRAVE MEMORY:

July 7th: Grave Memory release party and second annual Fantastical Mystery Tour. This year we once again will have lots of great authors for the event, including Rachel Aaron, James Tuck, John Hartness, AJ Hartley, Misty Massey, and Delilah Dawson! We’ll be at the Barnes and Noble on Forest Drive in Columbia, SC from 4-7pm and will do two talks, a Q&A, a signing, and drawings for free stuff (including a nook!) 

July 8th: Signing at Barnes and Noble at 10000 Research Blvd in  Austin, Texas from 3-5pm.

BOOKSIGNING EXTRAVAGANZA with Faith Hunter and D B Jackson:

  • July 16th: The Booknack in Rockhill, SC from 6-8pm.
  • July 17th Barnes and Noble on Harbision in Columbia, SC from 6-8pm
  • July 18th Books-a-million in Charlotte, NC from 6-8pm.


That’s it for me today. I hope you found this study on bookstore events helpful. Have a great Thursday everyone.


8 comments to On promotion: Events

  • Cindy

    Thanks, this is a helpful series. I loved Grave Memories; Alex Craft takes relationship problems to a new level.

  • Kalayna, you covered it all so well. Especially the *be approachable* bit and having a friend around to be the audience and draw people in. Good post!

  • Become friendly with the booksellers. Remember that when you are gone, these people are the ones who will be selling your book.

    Before my first signing, I spent an somewhat insane amount of time hand-making some bookmarks, which I gave out with my books. After the signing, one of the booksellers came over to speak to me, and admired my super-limited-edition bookmarks, so I gave him one, even though he hadn’t bought the book. I found out later that he pushed my book all that weekend!

  • Thanks Cindy! I’m glad it’s helpful.

    Thanks Faith.

    Misty, that’s awesome. Befriending booksellers is a very good thing.

  • Really interesting post. I also used to work in a bookstore, and from a bookseller’s perspective, I agree with everything you said! Authors who are friendly and approachable are much more likely to gain new readers and have booksellers recommend their books. I was always astonished at how unfriendly and downright rude some authors were! If nothing else, being friendly ensures that a bookseller or two will be happy to hang around the signing table or reading area with you if there isn’t a big crowd. And yes, I did sometimes recommend books I hadn’t read because I could tell the customer, “No, I haven’t read the book but the author was here for a signing and s/he was really nice.” Interestingly, that was often all a customer needed to hear before giving the book a try.

  • Razziecat

    This is the really scary part to me. The idea of calling or visiting bookstores to try to set up these events is icky. I’m an introvert. I’d be pretty darn shaky and scared. On the other hand, I’ve worked in advertising for 30 years and I know the value of getting your name and product out there. I guess it would be a case of “suck it up and get on with it.” Strangely, if someone did the setup for me, I could probably pull off the “be open and friendly” bit once I’m there. I haven’t heard of many book signings around here, so maybe the novelty factor would pull some people in!

  • Looking forward to seeing you at the signings, Kalayna. And congrats on the early success of your new book.

    One thing though, I think you have the signing dates off by a day. Our signings are the 16th, 17th, and 18th, I think. See you soon!

  • Thanks SiSi! Good to know you had similar experiences and agree.

    Razziecat, it’s not so bad, though sometimes frustrating, to setup a bookstore appearance. Most people will work with you and are thrilled to get you in the store. Some less so, but those are in the minority.

    David, seriously? **headdesk** those are the dates I’ve been releasing. Off to go make changes on my site and send out an updated newsletter. **feels like an idiot** Thanks for pointing it out before the dates got any closer.