Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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February 2, 2015

7 Secrets to Selling More Books at Events

Penny Sansevieri

Author EventSo you got a book event...Great! Now you want to maximize it, right? You've heard your writing buddies (or perhaps read online) about the lack of attendance at signings so figuring out how to maximize the event, regardless of the numbers, might be tricky.

1. Marketing

First and foremost is the marketing of your event. But I'm not talking about the marketing you do through media (though that is great too). I'm speaking of in-store marketing, this is what most folks seem to overlook. This is where you supply things to the store to help them market your event. Because the first phase of a successful event is driving people to it.

Here are a few thoughts.

  • Do bag stuffers. You can easily do this in your favorite computer program, do two up on a page, meaning that you use one 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper to do two fliers. You'll want to ask the store first if they mind that you provide this, most stores or event venues don't.
  • Bookmarks: while most in the industry see these as passé, people still love them. You can do bookmarks and bag stuffers (or staple them to the flier) or you can do custom bookmarks with the date and time of your event. Nowadays it's pretty easy to get these done cheaply. Keep in mind that if you are having the event in a mall or other type shopping area, you might be able to drop the bookmarks (or bag stuffers) off at the nearby stores to see if they'll help promote the event.

2. Book signings are boring

Regardless of where you do the event, plan to do a talk instead of a signing. People are drawn into a discussion and are often turned off by an author just sitting at a table. Marketing is about message and movement so stand up and speak. If speaking in public is intimidating to you, go to Toastmasters or some other local networking/speaking group and see what you can learn.

3. Unique places

If you want to get more attention for your event, consider doing events in unique places. We've done them in video stores, electronics stores, gyms, even restaurants (on slow nights), doing outside-the-bookstore events is a great way to gain more interest for your talk. Why? Because you aren't competing with everyone else at the bookstore for your crowd. When you do an event at a locale that doesn't normally do events, you'll gather more people just because it's considered "unique."

4. Show up early and talk it up

OK so let's say you're in the store and there are a ton of people in there shopping (a book event dream, yes?). I suggest that you take your extra bag stuffers or custom bookmarks and just hand them to the people in the store. Let them know you are doing an event at such and such time and you'd love it if they can sit in. You'll be surprised how many new people you might pull in this way.

5. Customize

Regardless of what your talk is about, poll the audience first to see a) what brought them there, or b) what they hope to learn if your talk is educational. I suggest this because the more you can customize your discussion, the more likely you are to sell a book. If you can solve problems (and this is often done during the Q&A) all the better. You'll look like the answer machine you are and readers love that. If you have the answers they'll want to buy from you. I promise.

6. Make friends

Get to know the bookstore people, but not just on the day of the event. Go in prior and make friends, tell them who you are and maybe even hand them your flier or bookmark (or a stack if you can). Often stores have Information Centers, see if you can leave some fliers there instead of just at the register. Getting to know the people who are selling the book is a great way to help gather more people into your event.

If your event isn't in a bookstore but attached to a shopping area or mall, go around to the stores (and perhaps you did this when you passed out the fliers) and let them know you have an event and what can you do to help them promote it. If you can rally the troops to help you market your talk, you could triple the numbers of people at your event. No kidding.

7. Take names

I always, always recommend that you get names and (email) addresses from the folks who attended. Sign them up for your mailing list is a great way to stay in touch with them and stay on your reader's radar screen. If you have a giveaway or drawing, great! This will help you to collect names. If you don't, offer them a freebie or ebook after the event. Often if I'm doing a PowerPoint presentation I will put together a set of them (delivered in PDF) after the event. Attendees need to sign up to get them and then once they do, I include them in our newsletter list which helps me to stay on their radar screen.

What do you like or dislike about book signings? Have you been to any that really stood out? Do you have questions for Penny?

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About Penny

Author MarkketingPenny C. Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert and an Adjunct Professor with NYU. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. She is the author of fourteen books, including How to Sell Books by the Truckload. AME is the first marketing and publicity firm to use Internet promotion to its full impact through online promotion and their signature program called: The Virtual Author Tour™

To learn more about Penny’s books or her promotional services, you can visit her web site at http://www.amarketingexpert.com. To subscribe to her free newsletter, send a blank email to: mailto:subscribe@amarketingexpert.com

Copyright @2015 Penny C. Sansevieri


Top photo by Rachel James (Flickr) - CC License

29 comments on “7 Secrets to Selling More Books at Events”

  1. Great information, Penny! I think you talked me into bookmarks, and I've always been against them! Love taking the flyers to other stores. You've given me ideas!

    I did a unique event - since I write about Bull Riding, I went together with another Western Author, and sold our books at the PBR Finals, in Las Vegas. We didn't sell as many books as we'd have liked, but we talked to a TON of people, and got our names out there.

    You never know what happens down the road with things like that, but I'm sure it gained us readers.

    1. You've got a lot to work with on the bookmark front, Laura. I'd love to see you make some and leave them at the library with a book giveaway for the month. You could do that a few times a year and gain tons of readers.

    2. Laura hi there! I love this, thanks for the feedback! I love doing events because you never know what will happen or what could come of it. I've gotten big speaking gigs from smallish events I've done so you can never tell. Also, along with the bookmarks consider trading cards either with tips from the book or book characters. Readers love these!

  2. Thanks, Penny. Great ideas although I'll admit it would be hard for me to approach strangers since I am shy. 🙂 Since I write about shape-shifting mermaids, maybe one day I could attend a mermaid festival. Yes, they are out there!

    1. Everything is out there somewhere. I met a lady who paints custom mermaid tails in her spare time... 🙂
      good luck!

    2. There was one last month, called NCMerfest. It was held over New Years' Day weekend. They're planning another one in Cozumel later this year, but details aren't final yet. NCMerfest will be back next year, but probably on a different date.

    3. I would love to see a mermaid festival! However, there are also tons of mermaid themed areas in stores, especially in beachy towns. I'll bet you could work something out with those boutiques.

      1. Thanks for al the replies everyone! I'd love to get in some beachy boutiques - what woman wouldn't want to read a mermaid romance at the beach? Okay, I'm biased. 🙂

        1. I've been in some shops in San Diego and Hawaii that would LOVE to have your books, Deb. I'll bet you could find plenty along the Southern coastline too. Road trip?

    4. Shy? She accosted me at a Harlequin PJ party just because I had an Aggie T-shirt on! Don't let that sweet face fool you, she can do 'Bama trashtallk with the best of them!

    5. Mermaid events? That's fantastic - I'm so there. And remember, YOU are the best promoter of your work so get out there and make people love your work as much as you do! 🙂

  3. I *love* the idea of leaving bag stuffers at nearby stores! That's something easy to do, especially with two book signings I have coming up. One doesn't have room for a presentation, although she stations me next to the front door and I can talk to everyone. The other is a library event which hopefully will entail a presentation. Thanks for the ideas!

    1. Jennifer you can also do a lot of this yourself. I had a client who did kisses with a trading card attached to a small pouch she got at a craft store. It was pretty inexpensive to do it and had a great impact. People love chocolate 🙂

  4. Penny, I love this post because it's so darn USEFUL. I find that doing "meet and greet" sorts of signings are actually very fun, once you get over the weirdness of approaching strangers, and bookmarks are GREAT, as are other freebie sorts of giveaways--I gave away bookmarks and sea glass at my "meet and greet" signings at Barnes & Noble for my last book because it had a beach setting, and people loved it--they also bought books. I love all of your ideas here. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Holly, I went to a Janet Evanovich signing and her daughter "worked the line" for her - it was incredible. She had trays of snacks, giveaways, etc. I know we can't hope for that kind of line (YET) but what stood out to me was how much easier it would be for someone else to do the store marketing for any of the introverted authors. I'm a big fan of two people signings now. 🙂

    2. Holly so the thing about in person events is that we do so much virtually, readers LOVE meeting their fav author in person. In an age where we're everything digital, there's a particular magic to in-person. The excitement, the energy - it's hard to compete with that! Thank you for the comments!

  5. I've picked up some new ideas, too. Thanks! write for Love Inspired Historical and live in a town of 300 people, and my local library (a 14x40 building) is always filled to the brim for my signings. Of course, I'm a bit of a celebrity (LOL) in a town this size. My librarian makes every signing an event, and decorates the library in the theme of the books (Wolf Creek Wedding was a wedding chapel, and we got fancy with the "reception" table and served what they had at the wedding in the book. The hero of Wolf Creek Homecoming owned the mercantile, and she had the library looking like a mercantile down to the pot belly stove and the table where the old timers played checkers. A friend from Texas came for a signing, and her heroine's name was Poppy and she had a plant care business for the rich. Yep. Every surface was covered with plants, and everything we served had poppy seeds. I usually have about 1/3 of the town show up and sell about 150-60 books. For my giveaways, I also do that related to something about the book. I also do a little "mini keepsake book" myself with trivia facts about the occupations of the characters. Doctors, lawmen, whatever. This is a huge social event for out little town, and people now come just to see what she'll come up with next. Didn't mean to go on so long, but I hope these ideas help get you all brainstorming about your next signing. BTW, I love Writers In the Storm.

    1. Penny LOVE this! Here's what you hit on that I failed to mention in my piece: when it comes to fiction readers love, love, love connecting with the characters. You're so smart to do character based gifts. The trivia I love, too ---- help readers dig deeper. So love that. Rock on! Keep up the great work!

  6. These sound like great tips. As an author I'm always looking for new ideas. The only thing I would change, and that's just from my perspective as a customer, is when you say "plan to do a talk instead of a signing." I would change it to "plan to do a talk in addition to a signing." If I'm meeting an author, I would like to get my book signed. In fact, this is how most authors with talks do this. They speak, then sign their books.

  7. Great post Penny! Although I'm not sure what you meant by "I will put together a set of them (delivered in PDF) after the event." What is that you deliver in .pdf format after the event to those who sign up for them?

    1. John yes, Jenny beat me to it 🙂 Folks love the slides, it's also a nice way to get in touch with them after - because you have their email. Not in an annoying way (never pester) but just to stay in touch.

  8. this is a gorgeous backdrop. i'm always up for new ideas tho have to fight with myself to meet and greet the public. i've tried to do the freebies w/o a lot of success. still have bookmarks tho--maybe i'll try it again--outside of the (book)box.

  9. Jenny / Penny - I hadn't heard of doing a PowerPoint presentation as part of a reading/signing event.

    Although in my past life as a garden designer, I've done a number of PowerPoint presentations to garden clubs, I have no idea what images would be appropriate for a reading and signing (unless I was promoting a book of photographs!).

    Since my genre is mystery, I prefer to build images in my listeners' minds with a short passage or two from the story. Not sure I can imagine carrying a laptop, digital projector and screen into a bookstore and then expect the store to turn down their lighting…

    But wait! My protagonist, Penny Summers, is a garden designer. Perhaps a short PPT on garden design…. Hmmm.

  10. What a Lot of great ideas. One I'm unfamiliar with is trading cards. Are they like baseball or gaming cards based on the book--characters, or settings, or themes, or ...?

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