You want to have a successful book signing? I can guarantee you will have one. Every time you meet with customers and potential customers you are gaining multiple important benefits, no matter how many or how few books you sell. Believe me, customer-facing time is golden time, savour it, learn from it, and don’t judge the success by the number of books you sell.
But as we’d all like to sell as many books as we can at every signing, let’s look at how to do that. I’ve spent over 20 years in sales and marketing, selling to some of the biggest brand companies on the planet. I drew on that experience to create the master persuader Jay Brooke in my new novel, When the Siren Calls. Jay knows how to appeal to the head and the heart; he knows what makes you tick, and what buttons to press so that you are seduced into giving him what he wants. And what works for Jay in the boardroom and the bedroom, also works in the bookstore. And remember, it’s ok to be proficient in Jay’s persuasive skills, what is important is the intent, and your intent is simply to have others share the pleasure of your work.
These top 20 tips are geared toward a bookstore signing, but most will apply anywhere you want to sell books. The circumstances of each bookstore and your relationship to it will impact the levers you can pull. So test every potential lever against two key questions:
Is this helping capture attention?
Is this encouraging the target to take action?
If the lever fails both tests, it’s probably not a lever that’s right for you. Equally, my Top 20 is not an exhaustive list, and they are Tom Barry’s Top 20. So work from first principles, think creatively and practically about other things you might do, and test each idea out against my two questions. Pretty soon you’ll have your own top 20 list that is tailored perfectly to your strengths.
Before we get into the tips, I’m going to give you one absolute must do if you want to maximize your effectiveness – have someone with you to help. There are many reasons for this, and one is that it’s important we capitalise on our strengths, and don’t fret over our weaknesses. There’s a good reason for all those pretty PR girls with short skirts at corporate events! Apart from increasing the selling horsepower, an energetic and enthusiastic youngster can do your ice breaking and PR for you. “We’ve got a celebrity author in store today who I would love to introduce you to …”. Who can possibly resist that invitation from a pretty girl or handsome lad? (And if your helper is unlucky enough to encounter old grumps who doesn’t want to meet a celebrity author, why would you waste your time with them when you could be spending it with someone who does?) With the best will in the world, not every author can or wants to push themselves into the limelight. If you are one of those authors, then pick an extrovert helper and let them take the strain, have them pull the target into your limelight.
Ok, I’m beginning to think I’m over-delivering on the promise of this post. So here is Tom’s Top 20 Tips for a successful book signing – in no particular order.
1. Pick a busy day (usually a weekend perhaps before a holiday.)
2. Let everyone you know, know about the book signing.
3. Get the bookstore to promote it in advance (email, twitter, poster, discounts)
4. Look the part – dress to impress, be a class act
5. Be visible; operate inside and outside the bookstore in busy malls
6. Position your book at multiple strategic locations in store
7. Trumpet or invent your local credentials for local connectivity
8. Hand out freebies, e.g. a bookmark, mints and sweets,
9. Look for icebreaker clues in customer behaviour (what shelf are they at?)
10.Engage targets with an easy, open-ended question or friendly observation
11. Be warm, welcoming and smile; let the customer buy, don’t overtly sell
12. Be conversational, not interrogative
13. Use humour, it’s the closest thing between people
14. Use flattery, and endorse the customer’s reading preferences
15.Use “if” to plant subliminal suggestions
16. Be agreeable; don’t create a right/wrong, win/lose contest with a target
17. Be a showman/woman, offer OTT dedications “to the beautiful and elegant.”)
18. Be a dealmaker, round down the price, discount for multiple purchases
19. Have a “10 second” flyer with blurb that targets can read as they queue
20. Create a sense of scarcity for you and your product (hide those stacks of books!)
And one for luck, bring a pen, and make it a flashy one.
The secret to a successful book signing is really your own behaviour in front of the target. Forget those images of celebrities sitting behind a table in front of a line of people. That’s OK if you are Jeffrey Archer (who has sold nearly 300 million books). For mere mortals that is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. We must take responsibility for engaging the customer. When you’ve captured the target’s attention, just be nice and friendly, and you will sell your books without using any of those manipulative closing techniques that belong on the used car lot.
Remember to thank everyone you speak with for their attention – whether they bought or not. And make a further call to action by ostentatiously inserting something in the book as you pass it over. It could be a postcard or bookmark highlighting your website, it could be a discount coupon for another of your books, and my favourite, a simple thank you card saying how much you appreciate Amazon reviews!
Still hungry for more tips? Check back here for my 20 Top Power Phrases to use at bookstores to help people come to a decision in 10 seconds to buy your book; remember, people love to buy, but hate to be sold to. Or, if you’d like to be entertained while you’re being informed, check out how Jay Brooke operates in When the Siren Calls. Whether it’s in the boardroom or the bedroom, observe Jay’s words and behaviours as he seduces his hard nosed business partner, and the woman of his dreams. Here’s a video taster of Jay in action.
Thanks for popping in and please do leave a comment below to build on this post.