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Book Signing Folly #2 Poor Planning

Congratulations! You’ve picked the perfect location for your book signing (See Folly #1), securing the place and a liaison, and determining a percentage of profit for the venue. You also know what tables to bring (or the site will provide), and you’ve chosen a position near the “customer walk-through” action, to set up your signing.

But there’s still much to plan, and I hope you have a couple months for these details:

1. Order the books you’ll sell. How many? I’ve sold as many as 55 books at a book signing. Try to determine which of your books are most popular for the specific book signing audience, then order accordingly. New release? Bring more copies of that title. Consider bringing 20 of your most popular book; 5-10 each of the others. Some will choose to buy e-book versions…encourage them to do so.

2. Determine the swag you’ll give out; order it. A note about giveaways: it’s best to provide something free that serves as a conversation starter, a way to begin a discussion with a stranger about the books you write. Better yet, provide a freebie connected with a concept or plot turn in one of your books. Remember, some people who stop to talk with you will order your book for their e-readers. For them, be sure to provide a postcard with information about your books, including your website address.

Example of a cool swag: I give out a little waterproof notebooks, the type stuck in the back pocket of a murdered man in LIE CATCHERS. Many don’t know about waterproof paper; they love the idea of owning a waterproof notebook!

3. Determine what to raffle. For people who stop by, the way to get their e-mail addresses depends on their signing up for a raffle (you’ll need their e-mail address to tell them they’ve won your raffle item(s); you’ll also be asking for their permission to send newsletters. THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT TASK AT A BOOK SIGNING: GATHER E-MAIL ADDRESSES OF YOUR READERS!

-raffle off an e-book version of one of your books

-raffle off the chance for a reader to be named as one of your characters

-raffle off a basket of goodies or a relevant (to a novel) piece of art

Once you’ve determined what you’ll raffle off, copy off 1 by 3 slips for your table visitors to fill out. When people buy more than one book, I let them fill out as many slips as the number of books they buy.

4. Ask about the publicity resources/avenues you can piggy-back with your venue: all the websites, facebook sites, newsletters, etc, your store/site uses already. Find out processes/deadlines for entering information in each. (You’ll need all this information for your advertising plan)

5. Determine a date. Pick a day of the week/month that brings in the most people who are ‘reader potentials.’ Select a time of that day best suited for the highest foot traffic. Example: I chose 1:00 to 4:00 in a gift/book store to sell LIE CATCHERS, on a Saturday when a cruise ship showed up at port in Petersburg, Alaska (the setting for my novel). Locals and tourists made up the customers in those hours, in the biggest numbers.

6. Know exactly how much table space you’ll want to use and get ready to decorate that table with your books, your swag, your postcards, the prices of your books, specials you’re offering, etc. Set up a dummy table; ask friends to assess how your decorations/signs capture the customer’s interest.

7. Use a Square or some other attachment to your computer/ipad, which allows you to process credit cards. If you need one, order it now. Most people don’t carry much cash with them. Naturally, you should have cash/change on hand, but for sure, know how to take credit cards.

8. Decide how you will autograph books. Think of an interesting phrase to use with your autograph that fits with a novel’s concepts. Example: For my golf novel, BAD LIES, I usually sign:

“To Fred…All Good Lies for you!” or “Fred…May all your Lies be Good ones. Enjoy!” Remember to ask how to address the autograph and have a piece of paper on hand to write down the spelling of that name. It’s amazing how oddly ordinary names are spelled these days. Ask your reader to spell out his/her name.

In my next blog, I’ll speak of the pitfalls of publicizing, Folly #3. Let’s face it, you might have planned well so far, but if you don’t get the word out expertly, no one will show up at your book signing!

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