It’s the icing on the cake. The cherry on the sundae. The crowning glory. When you look at the long line of people snaking out the bookstore waiting to meet you and get a signed copy of your book, your heart soars. It’s the ultimate validation that you’ve made it as an author. Or is it?

Book signings have their ups and downs.

The upsides are countless. I’ve already mentioned how great it is to feel affirmed that readers enjoy your book and want to meet you. Before I stepped into writing for adults, I traditionally published a children’s book. Upon the release of the book my publisher encouraged book signings. I had tons of fun doing them. From bookstores to libraries, I had a great time meeting people, signing books, and giving little book talks. It was a blast. 

There were also a few downsides. Book signings are a lot of work. From organizing them, driving to them, hauling books back and forth (I didn’t have an assistant or publicist). Of course, you must always expect the unexpected. For example, I once did an activity with kids at a book signing. It got a little out of control and several parents disappeared, leaving me alone to watch their kids. Truth! Well, you can imagine that was an exhausting day. 

There are a lot of authors, like me, who adore book signings; others, not so much. The Author’s Journey is the opportunity to peak behind the curtain of how a book goes from idea to bookshelf and the blood, sweat, and tears the author experiences along the way. It’s all about the raw reality, highs, and lows and yes, I like to keep it real. In reaching out to my author friends to hear their perspectives, I had one state emphatically that he “hates book signings and won’t do them.” Well, okay. I don’t know why, and I didn’t push for an explanation, but let’s chalk it up to a bad experience.

As I do with every Author’s Journey, I now turn the mic over to my author friends for their “ups and downs.” 

“The downs of book signings are invariably the lack of attendees once you’ve burned through friends and family. This is particularly true in cities, I think. I’m in the Los Angeles area and can’t even get a signing scheduled locally unless I either pay for it or guarantee 50 people. So, I drive almost two hours to a mystery bookstore in the next county. I take comfort from hearing Louise Penny say she had one person show up to her first L.A. signing!

But I never, ever pass up a signing at a bookstore or library. For one thing, you’re supporting a critical reading establishment and the passionate bookstore owners and librarians who’ve dedicated their lives to literature. For another, as your reputation grows, so will your readership. You know how many people show up to a Louise Penny signing now? Hundreds. Even thousands!” ~ Ellen Byron, USA Today Bestselling and Agatha Award-winning mystery author.

First, book signings may not be formal arrangements. Readers might approach you at any time, hold out a copy of your book, smiling, and not say a single word. The first time this happened to me, I was excited that someone had my book, and I said, ‘You have my book! That’s awesome!’ Then we stood there in awkward silence, until he finally said, ‘Do you need a pen?’ (It was also my first time someone asked me to sign one of my books.)

Second, having exotic names is not only common, but a matter of pride. Also, there is nothing more personal than a person’s name! I recommend having a piece of paper handy for someone to write out his or her name so you can spell it correctly. 

Last, if you are being asked to sign one of your books, the reader is a fan. Don’t take that for granted. Take the time to ask a few questions to personalize a sentence or two for the signing, rather than just signing your name and passing it back. It really doesn’t take that much more time and can really make a big difference in a person’s life. In the end, we’re all in this together. Take that time to give a little back. You won’t regret it.” ~
W.D. Kilpack III, author of the Award-Winning Epic Fantasy New Blood Saga

“There’s some debate in the publishing community over the effectiveness of book signings. I tend to go with those encouraging authors to combine their book signings with special events. Or at the very least, consider combining your signing with a reading or presentation about your book’s content. In all things, consider your readers (and potential readers) first. Ask yourself, “How can I engage them?” Then do that.” ~ M.N. Stroh, author of the Tale of the Clans series.

“Here are my tips for two types of book signing tips: First, the “Book Launch Party/Signing.” You can expect family and friends at these events, the people who support and cheer you on. No matter how good you are with names, when you’re caught up in the excitement of the day, you’ll have trouble remembering names you’d know at any other time.

It’s especially embarrassing at a book signing. Ask a friend or event organizer to walk down the line with a stack of Post-It notes and write down people’s names, then stick the note on the title page. You’ll have an easier time flipping to the the page to sign and have the name (and spelling) right in front of you.

Second, the “Book Store Signing.” Even if you’re shy, be prepared to initiate conversations and talk to people, especially if it’s a multi-author book signing. People want to make a connection with you and some will buy your book because they like you, even if it’s not a book they would ordinarily purchase. Hopefully they’ll enjoy the book and talking with you, and share those things with others. It’s a good way to connect with potential readers and build word-of-mouth marketing.” ~ Dawn Camp, author of It All Began in a Garden and My Essential Oil Companion.

“Whether you have participated in countless book signing events or are preparing for your first one, regard it as an opportunity to connect with your readers. Don’t base the success of the event on the number of people that show up but rather on the quality of the connection that you make with the readers that did. My most memorable signings have been the ones when I spent quality time with those that came. Be authentic and be present. And do not forget to bring your own signing pen. There is nothing more stressful than having to search for a pen when you are ready to sign a book. And don’t forget to enjoy every moment.” ~ Tanja Bauerle, award-winning illustrator & children’s book writer.

As you can see, there are plenty of ups and downs to book signings, but my biggest takeaway is it’s the golden gift of authors meeting their readers face to face. As an author and reader, I love book signings, attending them and hosting them. I would say the same is true for most. 

What do you think? Are you an author, reader, or both? What are your book signing ups and downs?

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