How to set up a book signing as an independent (self-published) author

Organizing and setting up a book signing as an independent author will take effort, creativity and strategic thinking

 

Setting up a book signing as an independent author is harder than ever. When I published my first book, Breathing God, through a print-on-demand company called PublishAmerica, I was actually able to set up two book signings at Walden Book sand Borders with some ease.

All I did was walk in with a copy of my book, asked to speak with a manager, and we set up the signing on the spot.

Unfortunately, both of those book stores have gone out of business. The only major brand book stores left in Pittsburgh (where I live) are Barnes & Noble and Half Priced Books. Neither of those companies will allow independent authors to do book signings unless their wearhouse already has the books in stock.

That’s going to be my goal in the next few months, and you can learn about the tedious and intimidating process of getting your books into Barnes & Noble here.

It’s actually not as important to host book signings nowadays to market your book since social media can reach out to a much larger audience than ever before. However it’s still a fulfilling experience that can give authors exposure with interacting with buyers and potential readers and feeling comfortable “pitching” the book to complete strangers.

 

Location: Think of Someplace Different

If you’re an author, consider either an independent book store, a coffee house or a restaurant with an interior decor that would match the feel you want from a book signing.

I set up my book signing with The Oven Pizza Co. The environment in cozy and the customers are similar in demographics to the readers I’m trying to approach. I was able to set this up because I know the owner and managers of the restaurant (I also used to bake pizza crusts for them).

The event went really well overall. I spent the day hanging out with great people and ended up selling 20 copies of the book. That’s a small sales number in comparison to most traditional book signing events, but when you’re an independent author you must learn to appreciate every single sale. That is 20 sales that I would have likely never made without the signing, so it’s easy to enjoy the small victory with that perspective in mind.

 

This photo was taken by a reader who came to the book signing.

Set the Stage Ahead of Time

Just because you set up an event, it doesn’t mean people will come! You have to annouce it to as many people as possible.

In the weeks leading up to the book signing, I announced the event everywhere I could (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram…). In addition, The Oven also hit their newsletter list and mentioned the event to their social media fans.

On top of that, I sent out a press release to the various local media outlets. Here you can download my sample press release, which should help you put one of your own together.

Compile a list of local media ahead of time and send it out a few days before the signing. Don’t expect any media coverage, especially if you’re not well known and the book signing is held in an a-typical place. But fortunately three local papers, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Pittsburgh City Paper and the Pine Richland Patch included announcements on their sites and papers.

At the book signing, two people said they bought the book because they read the announcements in the paper.

 

Enjoy the Moment & Be Confident

Setting up your book signing at a coffee house or casual restaurant could attract readers who normally wouldn’t have discovered your book.
(This photo was taken by a reader who attended the book signing)

Not every person that comes up to you during the signing will buy the book. Don’t be desperate and try to force a sale to everyone you talk to, but definitely show your enthusiasm and confidence in your own work. Enjoy the experience of talking to people.

It’s also going to be awkward and uncomfortable at times when people look at you and you’re standing there by yourself waiting for someone to come up and talk. Smile and do your best to be at ease. Body language is everything from the walking bystander. If you can’t show confidence in yourself, then you definitely won’t have people interested in talking with you!

It’s also helpful if you invite friends or family to keep you company during the dull moments and give you a boost of encouragement.

 

What About You?

Have you held a book signing in the past? What was your experience like? What are some helpful tips you’d like to pass on to others?

 

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About Michel Sauret

I'm a independent and literary fiction author and Pittsburgh-based photographer

14 comments

  1. Great post! I’ll use these tips to promote my clients book next month. Thanks for the helpful suggestions and congratulations on your book!

  2. Fantastic Post! Thanks for taking the time to put it all together. It definitely helped me out and I’m sure it will help others. Congratulations and best of luck with your book!

  3. Thank you for this! I’ve been thinking about a book signing for a couple of days and wasn’t sure how to go about it.

  4. I find your pages very informative and just the kind of things I am looking for. I just published “A Suitcase Full of Secrets” and now have to learn how to promote my book. I did have a Kirkus review done and it was very favorable and so I am looking for the next step on how to get it out there. I look forward to reading your books and will happily add your name to my website. (Once I learn how!)

  5. I just kinda stumbled onto your site. Like what I see.

  6. Thank you for that article. I’m setting up my first private book reading and that helps tremendously. My first book is self-published using http://www.createspace.com and I love their service. From beginning to end I created, edited and received the first ten copies of my book for less than $100. I’m in literary heaven for the moment. I’m looking forward to the next step, this will help.

  7. Thanks for the info. Came across your site while doing research on how to get a book signing.

  8. thanks for this. I am coming to Pittsburgh and will try to do B and N and the pizza place to promote my book too. really helpful info here. thanks. BT Author, What Do You Want To Create Todat.

  9. I recently published my book, What is Hanukkah?, a children’s bilingual book(Spanish and English). I am thinking about book signings and trying to figure out how to go about setting them up. Thanks for the info. If it is none at a store other than a book store do you have to pay the establishment? Any help would be appreciated.
    Thanks,
    Jean

    • It really depends on the establishment. My advice is to make relations with some restaurants or stores that would attract the same customers who might be your readers and promote the event ahead of time in hope to generate some buzz for the signing.

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