Book Signings–Help or Hindrance?

Hi, all! Yes, I managed to convince R.G. to do another blog. MUAH HA HA! Thanks, R.G.! You can catch her at her website.

WOOO! Thanks, R.G.! Take it away!


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Hi, kids. I’m back. I thought last week would be my last blog, but Andi has asked me back for another round (thanks, Andi!). (Hey, if Cher can have five farewell tours, then I can have more than one farewell blog.)

Recently, I did a book signing/appearance (for my other identity) at a local LGBT bookshop and, while I did sell a few books, it wasn’t (nor was I expecting it to be) the giant book-mover that authors dream of. Then I was asked by another author if I would want to do a book signing at a particular bookstore that’s in a different state, about 60 miles away. Now, 60 miles is not very far; however, in weighing all the factors—time, expense, driving aggravation (I hate driving)—I decided that the return on my investment wouldn’t be worth it for me.

The decision really weighed on me because any appearance, even if no books are sold, is good PR. But just how good is it? As I said, I sold a few books at that event, but did I generate enough interest that resulted in additional sales? I don’t know—I haven’t gotten a royalty report yet. And, even when I do get it, I will have no way of knowing how many of those sales are directly related to that appearance.

So, it has me wondering how beneficial book events are to other authors. I know it’s a hit-or-miss kind of thing, where one event might be very successful and another may not. But, overall, how do you view book signings? If it has to take you way out of your way, or ends up costing you more than you would recoup in sales, would you do it anyway?

The title of this blog poses a question: Are book signings a help or a hindrance? You may ask how they may be a hindrance. Well, if you have to drive or fly to a particular destination, pay for a hotel and meals, pay for supplies and possibly shipping (depending on how many books you need to have there), does what you get in return make up for what you spent? They can also be exhausting. Aside from the travel, there’s the set-up, the business stuff that needs to be taken care of, and the constant need to be “on.”

Of course, it’s not all about the money. It’s also about getting your name out there—letting people know you exist—through community word-of-mouth, ads in local papers, and publicity from the venue itself. Plus, when one bookstore does something, usually other bookstores hear about it, and they may want you to do signing at their locations, too. And the cycle of marketing goes around again.

I know people who have done this (Andi, now’s a good time to chime in here) and, apparently, they thought it was worth it. Personally, I think it’s worth it, too—sometimes. I think all factors must be taken into consideration, including the area where the bookstore (or whatever venue) is located and the kind of audience it will bring. I think this last is important because if you don’t think that a particular location or venue will draw the kinds of people who would read your book, then it’s pointless. If, on the other hand, the venue directly deals with your subject matter, then you’ve struck gold. For example, sci-fi books will sell a million (okay, not that many) at a sci-fi convention, mystery books will sell at a mystery bookshop, and regional books will sell at bookstores that specialize in those types of books.

So, I’m curious as to how everyone feels about book signings. Have you done them? If so, how do you rate the experience(s) in terms of success? And how do you define success? Thanks in advance for sharing.

Andi: Chiming in! I like doing books signings because you can meet some cool people. On the other hand, no, they don’t seem to generate much by way of sales. Why? Because most of the people who are going to them already know your work and have bought your book. They tend not to attract–in my experience–people who are unfamiliar with your work. So basically, you’re preaching to the choir. But you can also network with the bookstore/venue owner or manager, and they’ll remember you (hopefully well), and pimp your stuff after you’re gone. But ultimately, book signings are a big time and money investment for not as big a return–unless you’re a bestselling mainstream author, and even then, I suspect they’re not necessarily generating new readers, as they’re preaching to the converted, as well. Those are my thoughts. Y’all?

4 comments

  1. Great blog, R.G.

    I view book signings as a way to connect with readers, gain exposure, and, hopefully, develop long term sales. Good sales at the actual event are a bonus.

    Since writing can be such a solitary pursuit, books signings are a great way for me to satisfy the part of me that craves social contact while still being engaged in the business of books. Neither the quantity of long term sales nor the personal satisfaction of meeting with readers is easily measured in dollars and cents, but I have fun doing book signings and that equates to success to me.

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  2. R.G.,

    I’ve been writing and doing bookstore signings for nearly a decade, small independents and the big brick and mortar stores, and for me, no, they are not worth it. I no longer do bookstore signings unless they are connected to a conference or convention. The word of wisdom was that if you did bookstore signings, the rapport and exposure you established with the bookstore staff and managers would help them sell your books or at least help them draw attention to it. However, in today’s environment, the staff changes almost monthly as do managers, so that doesn’t wash anymore. If you’re a writer who is social and likes to meet readers or potential readers, then a bookstore signing is the perfect evening out. You meet people, talk books and maybe sell a few.

    Personally, I felt like a used car dealer when doing bookstore signings. It’s one of the unwritten rules of signings that you should never sit behind the stack of books expecting people to come and see you. You should be standing or roaming the area passing out promo material, hawking your book or putting the actual book in the hands of the patron hoping they have no choice but to buy. This made me ill. I literally felt dirty doing this….And all for very little and certainly disappointing sales and/or exposure.

    So, no, I no longer do bookstore signings. All my energies and marketing go online with an occasional convention or conference appearance and a local book festival and here and there.

    That being said, I see less and less authors doing book signings at bookstores. I don’t know what that trend means, if anything. LOL.

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  3. Very good points, ladies. For both sides of the issue. And I agree with all points. That’s why I say a book signing needs to be, in my opinion, worth it to the individual author. That is, when everything is weighed, is the outcome going to be worth what you put into it, even if it’s just networking or meeting new people and, hopefully, a few fans?

    Thanks for the great comments!

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