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Tips for Book Signings
By Jamie O’Quinn


Well, you’ve made it through all the drafts, edits, re-writes, and listening to “Are you through with your book yet?” more times than you can remember.


You’ve spent hours researching printing options, publishing companies, and have taken a leap of faith and financial obligation.  The big day finally arrives when you reach into that box and gingerly lift out your  literary creation.  Your title.  Your byline.  Your book. 


Excited?  Absolutely.  Is the hardest part of the literary journey over yet?  Not by a long shot.  Hold on to your hat because you’re about to step into the realm of sales and marketing.


Book signings:


Find out beforehand who is responsible for taking up payments from your customers.  You also need to know how much commission off your sales for the event are expected.  Typical rule of thumb, the more work the business has to do (I.e. advertising, running the sales through their machines, credit cards, etc.) the more commission is usually paid.  Typical commission for you doing it all yourself is at least 10%.  For those doing the full service for you, typically up to 40%.  


If you are responsible for taking up the money at your book signing,  be as self-sufficient as possible.  Make sure you have plenty of change,  pen, paper, secure place for your money, and a way of keeping track of your sales.  Usually if you take up your own money, you also have the individual responsibility of filing and sending in your own sales tax.


Some places provide a table and chair only.  For the purpose of visual appeal, find out how large the table will be and bring a tablecloth to fit.  (If you don’t have a tablecloth the exact size, sometimes a nicely iron white sheet will do). 


Add visual appeal by having a couple of  colorful or meaningful items standing upright for display. This can be an actual copy of your book on a book stand, a matted or laminated copy of a newspaper clippings about your book, goodies or something related to the theme.


Have your books neatly arranged on top of the table.  Don’t put 50 out at one time.  Put enough to look visually appealing and then restock with additional books hidden under the table.


Keep your table area clean.  Put all boxes, papers, scissors, etc up under your table so the cloth will hide it.  If it’s too junky it can come across as being disorganized.


Show a positive attitude at all time.  Your expression and body language will be picked up from across the room.  Even if you’re bored or not pleased about something, keep in mind you’re still on display.  Your posture and face should come across as being easily approachable.


Greet everyone who comes up to your table.  They will generally look at what you have.  Ask them what they are interested in (I.e. children’s book, devotional, adult thrillers, etc.)


If they walk away without buying your book (it will happen a lot!), just smile and thank them for coming by. 


Never try to sway a customer away from someone else’s table while they are looking at someone else’s items.  This can cause discourse and quite frankly, you wouldn’t want anyone else doing it to you.  When they turn to leave from someone else’s table then sway them your way with eye contact and a smile.


Have fun.  Sometimes you’ll sell a lot of books and sometimes you won’t.  It will depend on  the mood of the crowd and if it falls into the category of their interest. 


Take this opportunity to make contacts.  You’ll get to know your literary soul mates and probably make some good friends.  Some people who come by your table and decide not to buy your book might decide to contact you at a later time about something else.  Keep your business cards handy for this purpose.


Wishing you the best of luck in your new venture. 


Jamie O’Quinn is Hattiesburg Chapter President of the MWG.  With a background in training and public relations, she served as editor for two State issued publications. Her freelance articles have appeared in Mississippi Magazine, Hattiesburg American and Today’s Mississippi Woman.