What I Learned From Publishing: Part 2- Book Signings and Events

What author isn’t excited about book signings and book promotion events? People buying signed copies of your book! It’s a celebration of the book that you wrote! You shake people’s hands, talk about your book, and take pictures. It’s an exciting thing to do.

But the reality soon kicks in…this isn’t what I thought it would be. In theory, book signing should garner exposure for your book and make money for the author. You do book signings to meet readers and sell books. Book signing seem like a good way for an author to turn a profit without having to splitting the profit three ways; between the publishing company, the distributor, and yourself. But book signings are not that simple.

One of the most difficult things for an unknown author to do is to get a bookstore to host a signing event. Most small bookstores will simply say no when asked and those bookstores that will consider it usually want to do a 60\40 split and that’s with the author supplying the books. One small bookstore wanted to charge me $150.00 fee to host a signing. Assuming I earned a $5 profit off the sale of one book, I’d have to sell over 30 books just to see a profit for myself after that cost. I passed on that one. The big chain stores often have crazy rules, where they will purchase your books in advance on consignment. Then they will host a book signing for your book, but if all copies of your book aren’t sold, they return the books to you at your expense (the cost of the books and the shipping). This usually leads to an overall lost. So, you learn to be very careful, so you don’t end up with hundreds of copies of your that didn’t sell in bookstores. I was fortunate to find one chain of stores that allowed me to set up and sell my book in their store with no profit-sharing requirement. This chain store, Half-Price Books, didn’t charge anything for hosting my signing, and they were extremely nice.

Another thing authors learn quickly is to be wary of authors’ expos and authors’ fairs. These events showcase authors and their new books. Often there are a wide variety of vendors at these events, trying sell their products. The problem is many of these events have no customer traffic! Many of these expos are just a gathering of authors sitting around talking to each other. All of these expos and fairs charge a small fee for a table, and you can see the authors waiting for this big crowd to come in but it never arrives! There is usually small crowds at these events. Normally, fewer than 100 people that came to support their author/vendor friends and family. Many of the authors in up buying books from each other. I went to several expos and saw the same faces and I firmly believe that the only people that made money were the ones hosting on the events.

Therefore, my advice to new authors trying to get their books exposed and in the hands of readers and reviewers is be careful about the events you select. Do your research before paying out your money. Ask yourself two questions: 1) Can I make the money I invest in this event back and a profit? 2) Will there be enough customer traffic coming through the event to get my book and myself the exposure I need to continue making a profit? If the answer to either one of these questions is NO, I’d suggest your pass on the event and spend that time find other ways to market or working on your next creative project.

With a new tour year starting for me and my team, I will be trying a few new places. We will try churches, school visits, festivals, and malls. We closed out the last book tour at a mall. It was a great experience. With it being the Christmas holidays, there was a great flow of customer traffic and sells were great! At this last event, a kiosk at the mall, I learned very quickly if I wanted to sell books, I had to be an enthusiastic and convincing salesman.

I’ve learned a great deal from the 2018 book tour. I’ll continue to do select book signings and expos, carefully selecting the events and weighing the profitability and the marketing exposure of each. I’ll have to resist the temptations of jumping on every event so that I get my books out there to the world, and seriously consider each because I must admit that there is nothing like seeing that smile on a child’s face after receiving your autographed book.

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