Monday, March 22, 2010

Book Signing

I came across this series of questions from The Rocky Mountain Writers Summit about book signings when my publishers and I launched my book tour.

I'm sharing this because book signings can be tricky whether you arrange your own tour or your publicist does it for you.

Question #1: Does the bookstore have a special events coordinator? Usually the answer is yes. If not, ask for the manager or owner – especially if the bookstore is locally owned.

Question #2: Will the bookstore be ordering the books directly from the distributor or would they consider buying them directly from the author?

Bookstores usually want to order their own inventory of books from their own distributors, however they are going to be frugal on the number of books they order. Authors need to bring at least 30 books with them in the event that the bookstore had a problem with fulfillment or if they don’t order enough books. The bookstore will usually be very willing buy books directly from the author (especially if they’re very likely to be or are already sold).

Question #3: If the bookstore is willing to buy books from the author, the bookstore will want to know the discount the author is offering.

Before answering, the author should inquire how much they typically require. Anywhere between 30%-60% is reasonable. Typical breakdowns are 30% if the bookstore is only willing to buy books that sell during the signing, or 40% if the bookstore is willing to buy books before the signing and have them on display to help promote the event. If the bookstore wants or demands more than 40% when buying directly from the author, then that author must decide if the venue is worth that big of a percentage of sales.

Question #4: How many books do you sell on average at a book signing?

The answer to this question will give the author a clue as to how many books the bookstore is likely to buy from the distributor and how many the author should bring to supplement the signing if the bookstore orders short. It will also give the author an indication if this is a good location or not to really do a book signing. Asking for the ‘average’ number as opposed to listening to tales of their ‘greatest one ever' will also ground the author into a realistic expectation of the venue.

Question #5: When do they have the best foot traffic? (In my opinion, this is crucial for a successful signing. Also, get the best seat in the house, usually at the store front. Don't let them stick you off somewhere upstairs, back in the business book section.)

Authors should do quite a bit of pre-publicity for their book signings. However, the reality is that most don’t. So to optimize the potential for the book signing, the author needs to be at the store when it is at its busiest.

Question #6: The bookstore will ask the author…. “Is your book ‘Print on Demand’?

Some bookstores will ask the local talent if their book is ‘Print on Demand’. What the bookstore is assuming is that ‘Print on Demand’ books are not returnable. If the author short circuits that question with a description of their return policy, the objection will usually be overcome. A bookstore doesn’t really care whether your book was made on a digital press or an offset press, that is irrelevant to them. What is important is whether or not they’re going to be stuck with a bunch of books that don’t sell after a book signing has finished. The author must stand behind everything they sell! Especially today, bookstores need risk-free propositions. If they buy the books from their distributor, the return policy is already in place. If they buy books from the author, they will insist on a return policy. Authors should, at a minimum, always honor a 120-day full refund guarantee.

For more information on creating a very successful book signing - read this Squidoo article – 10 Tips for a successful book signing.

The Tattered Cover in Denver has a full page of more information about working with local authors on special events at: Visit the Rocky Mountain Writer’s Summit’s website and look for the writer’s tips on every single page of the site. Read all 50 tips and glean this free insight from the publishing services providers of the Rocky Mountain Writer’s Summit.

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