On April 6, 2013 I had a book signing event at Barnes and Noble here in Twin Falls, Idaho. It was the second signing with them. The first was shortly after the release of my first novel Requiem back in 2011. I didn't have one for book two, Guardian but now that the trilogy is finished I set one up for it.
There are a lot of things that went on with this signing that I want to touch on for anyone who is interested in doing book signings. I have done other book signings in the past other than Barnes and Noble. When I first walked in and found where they had set up the table, I was nearly floored. The signing was at noon and I was about ten minutes early, what I wasn't expecting were the people waiting, book in hand, for me to sign their copies. It wasn't a big line, just two people, but it was a line none the less and they were waiting for me. So right off the bat, I had four books signed and sold before I even had time to take off my jacket.
Right after that, I still had not had time to set up my display, a news crew from the local TV station showed up and thrust a microphone in my hand for an interview. This was another first. People waiting for me to show up and now TV. They asked me several questions about myself, the books, the process I went through to finish them and what other projects I was working on if any. The spot made the nightly news and you can read about it and see the spot on their website here. http://www.kmvt.com/news/local/Local-author-releases-final-novel-in-sci-fifantasy-trilogy-201776831.html
After all that more than an hour had gone by and I was able to finally get my display set up and the book signing took on a more regular tone. If you're not a superstar author with a blockbuster book, book signings can be intimidating. From what I have been told, most signings don't do well especially for the "local author" types. Often they sell less than five books and sometimes they don't even sell any. I have had a book signing in a restaurant and sold 7 books, and I sold 9 at a flea market so I honestly have no idea how you could sell 0 at a book store, but I'm told it's not uncommon.
I had about a dozen people ask me where the bathrooms were after they entered the store. I expected that from the last time I had a signing. One lady barged into the store on a mission to ruin someone's day and found me sitting behind a table and demanded that I fix or replace her Nook. After pointing her towards a manager she had some unkind things to say to me even after I explained that I was not an employee, but doing a book signing for my trilogy. Even an hour later when she left, she gave me a nasty look on the way out.
The antique green tapestry I use for a table cloth received several offers for purchase. This wasn't unexpected as it happened last time I had a signing, though the offers were not as high as the flea market signing was. You can see it in the photo there of my display when I had it set up. Note that it's missing in the TV interview.
I had a full set of postcards printed up for each book. I used this promo item at my other book signings and have found it to be a successful way to promote the book to people who are hesitant in buying a new book they know nothing about. I also took the whole trilogy and burned it to CD's in e-book format. If anyone bought a book, I offered them the CD for free. This helped sell several copies. It's a hard sell to get someone on the spot to plop down $15 a book let alone $45 for a full set. When people were told they got $15 worth of e-books for free, it was much easier to close the sale. There were two customers who bought books from me that did not want the disk. Their reaction was almost like I was trying to give them a disk of cancer or something. They also let me know what they thought of e-books in general and their utter disdain for them. I agreed with them as much as I could. I personally don't buy e-books or even have an e-reader and still buy mine in physical form. However, they are simply holdouts to the changing publishing world. What they don't know is that in my three years of selling books, I sell and easy 150 e-books to every 1 physical book. E-book's is simply where publishing is at.
One odd observance that I thought was noteworthy. When I offered to sign a postcard for people who didn't buy a book. I asked them if they had a cover preference or what card they wanted. Universally, everyone took the postcard for book two. A couple of people opted for book one and no one took book three's postcard unless I just signed it and gave it to them without asking for their preference. I still don't know why everyone wanted the card for book two.
One older gentleman spent about 15 minutes talking about Scientology. I'm not sure if he was trying to convert me, or borrow money so he could join the church... It reminded me of the Dell days when people would call support because it was a toll free number and they simply wanted to talk to someone.
When it came time to finally pack up and head home, I had sold out of book one. Sold out of book two, and there were only a handful of book three left. In total, 32 books were signed. Most people picked up the first book. Only four people picked up the entire set, and once book one was sold out, sales came to a halt, even with the CD that had them all. Several people asked when the books would be in stock again, but from my experience, it's rare for anyone to remember to come back and buy one even if they took home a signed card or not. It might be different this time with the number of books sold, cards handed out and the TV spot.
Now for the lessons.
If you have an introverted personality, book signings are going to be tough. You have to be a salesman. Simply sitting there hoping someone will see you and your books isn't going to work. Having something to give to people is a must. But it has to something they are going to want to keep and not toss on the floor, into a garbage bin, or shoved into the bookshelf somewhere for an employee to clean up later. A lot of authors use bookmarks and when I talk to the people who work at B&N, bookmarks seem to be the least bothersome ideas. They still get dropped and shoved into the shelves by people who don't want them but nothing like paper flyers do. If you hand out 300 paper flyers and the employees spend the next week picking them up and out of other books, they are going to hate you.
Don't be this guy.
I haven't had any complaints about the postcards. They are larger than a bookmark, made of heavy stock, look great and when a person sees me sign it for them it instantly gives the card a perceived value so they are not thrown away, littered, or crammed into the shelves.
The e-book on CD idea I feel was a success and I will continue to do that going forward. It costs me nothing other than 25 cents for a CD and it helps sell books. It would have been nice if they had a printed label with cover art or something instead of a memorex disk and a sharpie, but I don't have the equipment to do something like that and when I looked into services that offered them, the cost per disk was unreasonable. $1.50-$5 a disk and order requirements in the low hundreds to thousands.
The only other advice I can say if you are looking at having a book signing is to engage as many people as you possibly can. You are basically getting impulse buys so almost everyone is going to turn you down. My first signing at B&N for Requiem sold 18 copies and it was a much busier day than this one was. I averaged about one book sold for every 15 to 20 people that I managed to greet and engage. That's about 5-7% sales rate, so don't get discouraged.