Tips for a Successful Book Signing

Hey, SEers! Mae here today. Got your pen handy? It’s time to sign some books!  🙂

When it comes to book signings, whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned pro, it never hurts to reevaluate your strategy. I realize not everyone has print copies of their books, but that day might linger just around the corner. Then or now, I hope you find these tips helpful.

Let me start by saying I’m far from an expert. I only have two signings under my belt, with a few on the horizon. That said, I’ve learned from the meager few I’ve done. How, you ask?

Know your venue
If you’re going somewhere you’ve never been before, scope it out beforehand so you know the layout. At the very least, research it online and Google Earth the location. If I’m going somewhere new, I always do a practice run first so I know exactly how long the drive takes.

Sign with spooky house at night advertising mystery author Mae ClairBring your own accessories
Most places give you a table. Sometimes you have to share a table with another author or authors. Know what size space you have and plan accordingly. Because I don’t want the standard fold-out table look, I have a tablecloth that accompanies me. I’ve seen many authors use white for this purpose, but because I’m writing mysteries/suspense, I wanted something with a little more oomph. For that reason I use a red tablecloth. I also have a pre-made author sign that goes in a a clear acrylic stand on my table.

What to put on your table
I theme for the event. For a Halloween signing I did, I had a few small pumpkins on my table, silk autumn leaves, and a glittery black spider. Some authors will put out candy bowls, but I haven’t seen much results. Either kids gather round them, preventing the adults from getting close, or they get passed over entirely.

One author I know uses a portable DVD player and runs a constant loop of her numerous book trailers. I like that idea. Another has a large standing poster, and almost all have bookmarks, postcards or rack cards related to their books. Have swag available to give as freebies and to those who buy. Get your name out there!

Dress the part
Many authors I know go in sweats or jeans. I like to step it up a bit and go for business casual, but that’s my personal preference. Dress is something you might want to theme to the venue.

As book signings can range anywhere from a few hours to a long event (the first one I did lasted 7 hours), go prepared. That includes wearing comfortable shoes. It might be tempting to sit behind your table, but you’ll make more sales by standing and mingling, and engaging with the visitors.

This goes without saying, but when people approach your table, be sure to engage them. By the same token know when to back off, especially if you’re at a venue with a lot of authors. If a guest is engaged with the author beside you, don’t butt in and try to steer the conversation your way. Sadly, I’ve seen this happen. No author should be so hungry for sales that they try to steal another author’s thunder.

Consider a giveaway
Want to collect names for your newsletter? Offer a prize like a gift card to Amazon, drawn randomly from everyone who signs up for your newsletter. This works great if you’re doing a book signing at a library or similar venue, but if your signing is at an actual bookstore, remember that Amazon is their competition. Offer a gift card to the bookstore instead. Not only will you make guests happy, but the bookstore too.

Last October, I did a book signing at a local store the week before Halloween. As the store was also home to several rescue cats up for adoption, I figured my rescue kitty, Raven, would be great for drawing people to my table. What better enticement than a black cat near Halloween in a store where cats roamed the aisles? This is how I tied my giveaway, Halloween, and the venue together:

Black cat in a pet bed advertising a newsletter sign-up

Take advantage of promotion
Send press releases to your local newspapers and online sources. Find out what the venue plans for promotion and capitalize on that. Advertise on social media. Consider doing a Facebook ad targeted to readers in the demographic area. Create flyers and distribute to local businesses where readers might visit (i.e, coffee shops). Enlist your friends to promote on social media.

The day of the event
The support of family and friends is wonderful, but make sure you don’t get lost in the shuffle. Many times well-meaning family and friends will congregate at an author’s table, preventing the book buying public from getting close. It’s wonderful to have the support of loved ones, but temper it accordingly, so you can reach a new audience as well.

Be realistic
Many of the people who wander to your book signing are an offshoot of a planned visit to the venue. Like most, they’re browsing. Book signings, especially those at local venues, don’t result in major sales. What they do result in is networking, name recognition and public awareness. If you sell a handful of books on the side, consider it a good day! When the event is over, ask if you can leave a few books in the store or venue. This will keep your name and work visible even after you’ve left.

Send a thank you to your host for their work and help in promoting your signing. It goes without saying you should be grateful for the exposure. Even if there was something you didn’t particularly care for (I’ve heard authors grumble about set-up), the venue did you a favor by providing promotional space. Make sure you thank them. These are people and places to keep in your orbit for the future.

Now it’s your turn—have you done a book signing? Was there anything you found particularly helpful, or would do differently in the future? What did you like or didn’t like?

If you’re strictly an ebook author, have you considered stepping into print, and if so would you do a signing? How would you go about finding a venue? Let’s chat books, signing and authors! Share your comments below.

Bio banner for author Mae Clair


80 thoughts on “Tips for a Successful Book Signing

  1. Pingback: Friday Roundup – 21st April | Stevie Turner, Indie Author.

  2. Excellent tips, Mae. I always enjoy book signings, especially if they are indoors or outdoors in temperate weather. Our library has one for us each year, and that’s a treat. Going out of town is usually interesting, too, especially if a few authors go together. It’s wonderful of you to share this helpful list.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Flossie. I love it when a library does a book signing, especially with a group of authors. My local library only holds one every two years, but it’s always fun. I’m glad you found my list helpful. I learned a lot from other authors at my first signing and have been trying to implement more tips with each signing as I move ahead.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Kassandra. Definitely! Something I did forget to mention….have 1 or 2 names already on your list when you place the sign-up sheet on the table. It makes people more likely to add their name and email if they see someone has already done that ahead of them! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Loved the list and found it helpful. I especially like your idea about having some names already on a sign-up sheet. Never thought of that, but it does make the person feel that he/she is not the only one. Thanks, and thanks to Marcie for reblogging.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Hey Mae,

    Insightful, practical, purposeful, and promoting. Thank you, some great advice to take note of.

    A first time visitor, I was delighted also by the name of your cat. A beautiful feline indeed, those emerald eyes so full of unfathomable mystery and timeless promise.,

    Namaste 🙂


    Liked by 1 person

    • We love first time visitors, DN and hope you’ll come back again! I’m glad you found my tips useful. As as for Raven–she is indeed special, and I just love that photo of her. As with most cats, she knows she’s highly photogenic 🙂

      Thanks so much for visiting!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hey Mae,

        Thank you, it’s a pleasure to be inspired by talk of artful ways and secrets of the lettered craft.

        An open invitation is very kind and always so inviting. Thank you. I shall be back mining for nuggets and enjoying the material on your site. Again, thank you for provision of both.

        I think Raven adorable. Would you mind if I borrowed her ‘muse’ to help fashion a few lines in a current project? There will be a name change to suit what is already written but Raven will know the secret contained there-in, as will you and I of course. I’ll take great care of her as if she were my own. What say you?

        I love being a first time visitor when I am loved as a first time visitor. Thank you.

        I trust you’ll enjoy a peaceful and prosperous week.

        Take care in all ways for always.

        Namaste 🙂


        Liked by 1 person

    • Raven says she honored to act as muse. It’s hard not to look into those eyes and be taken by flights of fancy so I know she will inspire.
      Be wary, however, of the keyboard stroll. She is notorious for that 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hey Mae,

        I have the film Shrek on my mind as I sit to reply….

        Mae Clair: Do you know the keyboard stroll?
        Dewin: The keyboard stroll?
        Mae Clair: The keyboard stroll.
        Dewin: Yes I know the keyboard stroll. W-who resides on Writer’s Page?
        Mai Clair: Well, Raven’s married to the keyboard stroll…
        Dewin: The keyboard stroll?
        Mae Clair: THE KEYBOARD STROLL!
        Dewin: Raven’s married to the keyboard stroll…

        With gratitude Mae, I shall cherish the time Raven and I share, thank you. Here, a little tease of a draft….I hope you’ll not mind a share?

        Upon a sumptuous throne of curvaceous stone,
        flowed her slinky lithesome form.
        She was sleek with chic and feline mystique her
        fur fashioned from midnight and storm.
        Lacquered swathes switched swatches with cobalt coals.
        Lustre licked the gloss of her pelt.
        Black fur with shine so exquisitely fine.
        My frozen heart began to melt.
        I loved her way her faint sway each way rippling
        as molasses from head to toe.
        I loved her poise her pose her predilection
        in the cut of her tail-ending mow.
        I loved the elegance in the tilt of her head,
        the subtle waves of quivering fur.
        I loved the contours of her sensuous shape,
        The allure of her alluring purr.
        I loved the curve of her spine and sensual face.
        Her grace her polish her pride.
        I loved her compose her blossomed black rose.
        Her strut and keyboard glide.
        Her stare was a dare I could no longer bare
        for want of touching one so fine.
        From the first moment I caught sight of her,
        I knew she was undoubtedly mine.

        Thank you Mae and Raven.

        Take care.

        Namaste 🙂


        Liked by 1 person

  4. Excellent tips, Mae! I’ve done several readings/signings. The most bizarre was the one I did in March where the bookstore invited five other authors to turn it into an event, then demanded 40% of all profits. Imagine? I bartered down to 25%, but still. Oh, and they stuffed us all in the attached cafe rather than the bookstore itself! So, here’s another tip: ask where they plan to seat you so there’s no surprises.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow! When you’re doing a signing in a bookstore they do have to make a profit but 40% is crazy. Good job on bartering it down. And excellent advice about knowing where they plan to seat you. I’m surprised that a bookstore wouldn’t want you out where the books are and not in a cafe. Signings are definitely a learning experience!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Crazy, right? I still made a hundred bucks in an hour, but imagine how many I would’ve sold in the bookstore itself? In my experience, some bookstores see authors as a way to drive business to their store, and they don’t take any of the profits. Others see us as renting space, but yeah, 40% is insane! It also took them a solid month to pay the invoice. Scratching them off my list.


    • Natalie, I was nervous, especially doing the first one, as I really had no idea what to expect. People are so nice though, and I find the signings themselves are fun. It was a step out of my comfort zone too, LOL!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is a very helpful post, Mae. I’m such an introvert it takes every scrap of courage I can gather to go to functions like book signings! I’ve done a couple now, one at a library, and the other a Christmas market. They were fun, but not great for sales. More interaction would help 🙂 and I like the DVD idea, too. Im saving this post for the next time I decide to be brave!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m much like you, Jacquie, in that book signings put me out of my element, but I’ve found they’re necessary for local recognition. I’ve only done two as well, but I have more planned on the horizon. It’s odd but of the two, I sold less books at the Library, but actually enjoyed it the most. It was a great chance to network with other authors. It was especially fun meeting other authors from my publishing house who live in neighboring cities!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Mae! I am thinking about having some print copies of my book made for give-aways, and hadn’t even considered book signings. This is such a helpful post and I have taken much away from it. Hope you don’t mind if I reblog.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda, it’s my absolute pleasure to have you reblog! I’m thrilled you found it so informative. If you have print copies made, definitely consider doing a signing. I’ve rarely sold more than a handful of books at a time, but the experience has been rewarding and it’s gotten my name “out there” with local brick and mortar stores.
      Thanks again for the reblog! 🙂


  7. I’ve read the whole post attentively although, for me,sadly, there’s no chance to live such an awesome experience.
    All your points are interesting and they show you have not only a good practice but are also imaginative – I mean the tablecloth color, the Raven card, the way you dress.
    Wishing you, Mae, from the bottom of my heart, tons of successful book signings, with even more tons of fans and sold copies of your captivating books!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Awww, thanks, Carmen. I tend to sell only a few copies at the signings I’ve done, but I have hope to scope out bigger venues in the future with (hopefully) bigger sales. And even without them, it’s always a fun experience. Thanks so much for your support! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Karen, thanks so much for visiting. I’m glad you found the suggestions helpful. I’m hoping to learn more with each signing I do. I’m still a bit of a newbie at it, but it feels good to have a plan of action! 🙂


    • Jan, I think we all flounder at promo, especially when we’re making a personal appearance. Too often we count on the venue to promote for us (at least I have). Now I know, the more I can do on my own, the more likely I’ll have a successful signing. Glad you found my tips helpful!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Our main library offers an Author Fair for local authors every Fall. The library gets a percentage of any books we sell (which usually isn’t a lot, so I always donate $10 just to support it). I never sell many books, but I’ve found that if I volunteer to be on one of the workshop panels, I sell more. And I meet a lot more people. I’ve been on workshop panels with a few other authors for local book stores, too. We always have decent audiences. When we’re willing to do Q&A programs and people can see a few authors at the same time, we’ve had better luck with signings.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I do love those panels, Judi. At the first event I did, I gave a 15 minute presentation on the importance of social media to an author. I only had a small group of people, but they actively engaged with questions afterward. I’d love to do a panel with other authors but haven’t experienced that yet. Hopefully, at some point in the future, I’ll get to do that too. Your local library sounds awesome!


  9. Some great stuff here, Mae.

    I’ve done signings. I’m not crazy about them, because I think it’s a lot of resources for little outcome. That said, it doesn’t stop me from doing them. (I have one I’m going to in May.) You never know what might happen. Even if only one person becomes a fan, that’s one person you didn’t have before who might have a massive reach. That one fan could convert into dozens.

    I agree with you about the tablecloth. It’s a cleaner look than a plain table. And avoiding white has plenty of benefits. Not only does it differentiate you from others, white is hard to keep clean. People will put all kinds of crazy things down on your table, some of which might be dirty. (I had someone put luggage down on mine—wheels down—and it left dirty tread marks behind. I was grateful to have been using a black cloth. It was harder to see the stain, and it washed out easily. I know white would have been a different story.)

    I could comment on a lot more from above (you were very thorough and raised a lot of good points), but I’ll only say these two things: definitely have SWAG and if you do use candy, go with a good brand. I find both SWAG and candy will get people to stop at your table, but I buy truffles. Who doesn’t like truffles?

    Liked by 2 people

    • I haven’t tried candy yet, but I then I never thought of truffles. I’ve seen people do the bite size candy bars, and sometimes hard candies like peppermints. SWAG is definitely a good one, and I need to order more before I do another.

      I can’t believe someone set luggage down on your table. What was wrong with the floor, LOL?

      I hope you have a good signing in May. I agree it’s a lot of work for a minimal outcome, but I love the networking aspect, and like you said—getting your name out there can make a difference, even with just one person. I had a business associate call me last week and say “I hear your writing books. Where can I get some?” They had learned about my writing from someone locally who had bought one of my books 🙂


  10. Pingback: A Monday in Spring | From the Pen of Mae Clair

    • I’ve found a positive approach helps. There’s always something to be gained from a book signing even if only a few copies are sold.
      In the case of the sweatpants, granted they were clean and nice, but still…taking comfort a little too far in my opinion!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Julie. I did the same thing before I had books in print, knowing I’d be there eventually. Glad my suggestions are helpful and I know it’s just a matter of time until you’re ready.

      Raven sends her thanks too 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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