Tom Barry Writes

Author of "Saving Jay" & "When the Siren Calls"

Top 20 Tips for better book signings

The Typical Book Signing

The Typical Book Signing

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.


Don't Copy Jeffrey's Approach

Don’t Copy Jeffrey’s Approach

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.


How to sell a book a minute at book signings

cobhamMy home for the last 20 years has been in rural Surrey, 20 miles outside London. In that time my local high street has changed enormously – from a charming main street full of independent traders and quirky tea shops to one that is little different to any high street in a small UK town. The chain stores have moved in and the independent traders are increasingly forced out by spiralling rents that only the multiples can afford. The butcher, baker, and candle-stick maker have all been replaced by a one-stop Waitrose supermarket.  At least the High Street has no Mucky D yet (except in my new novel), so when the golden arches do arrive, maybe I’m the guy to blame.

But the one beacon that survives is the local bookshop. Despite the internet, Amazon and e-readers, it is still doing a thriving trade. You get friendly service and expert advice from genuine book-lovers who are knowledgeable on the books they stock, many of which the staff have read. Advice you know you can trust, unlike a 5 Star review on Amazon !

At the moment I am a long way from Surrey, in sunny California in fact. And it was here that, last week, Coronado library hosted a local author book-signing.  I was flattered to be asked my advice on how to make it a success. My mind went to the time my local store kindly hosted my first ever book signing. I remember being unsure what to expect, but optimistically took 50 copies of my debut novel, When the Siren Calls along. Here’s what I learnt about book signing:

1. If you do it wrong, you will sell no books.

2. If you do it well, you will sell lots of books

In the first hour I sold no books. I was suited and booted sitting behind my specially set out table with my books on display, smiling and saying hello to everyone who passed by. In that first hour only one customer stopped for a chat, a pretty long one as it turned out, but did not buy a book.

Three hours later I had sold all 50 books. If I’d had a helper with me I reckon I could have sold 100 books in those 3 hours. That’s 33.3  books an hour, or a book sold ever 2 minutes.

What changed?

Simple. I got off my butt and took responsibility for engaging every customer that entered the store – apart from the ones I simply couldn’t engage because I was too busy selling books.

Now, while this was my first ever book signing, I confess I am not a novice in the psychology of selling. I know not to begin by offering help, and not by asking a question that can be answered with a yes or no. “I don’t suppose you want to buy my book” being the classic example. But the most important thing I did was taking responsibility for making the customer connection. I would say about 9 out of 10  of the customers I engaged bought my book.

But if you ARE interested in knowing more about the do’s and don’ts, then leave a comment, and I will happily send you my 20 sure fired tips for selling more books at book signings.  And if you’d like to watch a tongue in cheek video  that gives unique insight into the psychology of selling, then check out this link.

Thanks for popping in.

Coronado goes Fifty Shades crazy?

Coronado Village Theatre on evocative Orange Avenue

Coronado Village Theatre on evocative Orange Avenue

Quintessentially conservative Coronado, the sleepy hollow Island across the bay from San Diego and the setting for the sensual romantic thriller When the Siren Cries, has this week seen unprecedented scenes outside its only movie theatre, currently showing the film adaptation of the blockbuster erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey. Idyllic Coronado, home to the illustrious Navy Seals but otherwise average age 93, this week witnessed long lines outside the theatre, with excited and excitable silver haired and cane carrying movie fans in line. So unprecedented was the scene that local TV, radio and press rushed along to Orange Avenue  to capture the moment. Speculation was rife from visiting tourists and passing motorists, seeing the lines and the banner billboard for Fifty Shades, that the genteel City of Coronado is indeed the Peyton Place many long suspected. Has Coronado really gone Fifty Shades crazy?

The reality is a little less headline grabbing, but equally intriguing. Coronado residents were indeed in line to celebrate a moment of movie history, a film of romance and heartbreak. But that moment was not for a steamy movie with the most unlikely plot in the history of romantic fiction. The Coronadoans had gathered to celebrate and honour one of their own, Lisa Bruce, producer of the Oscar nominated movie The Theory of Everything. This film is one of the most enthralling and moving movies you’re likely to see this year. Based on the life of ALS (“The Lou Gehrig disease”) sufferer and Einstein of our time, Stephen Hawking, and an adaptation of the memoir of Hawking’s first wife, the movie is more about love and heartbreak than science and history. It tracks the ups and downs of Hawking and his wife, from when she met him in 1963 – shortly before he was diagnosed with ALS – through their marriage with three children, until their eventual breakup . Despite the ultimate failure of their union, this is an inspiring story, largely of a love that conquers all and of triumph over adversity. (Hawking, now aged 72, and given two years to live when diagnosed, is one of the longest recorded survivors of ALS.)

The Theory of Everything is unlikely to match Fifty Shades in box office receipts, but it will live in the memory long after a silly tale of a ridiculous billionaire and his besotted doormat has been forgotten. And I for one, will be rooting for the enormously talented Lisa Bruce and her team at the Oscars this week.

(The ALS Association and its Greater San Diego Chapter – 858 271 5547 -has a mission to improve the lives of ALS suffers and work towards a cure. The ALS is a non-profit organisation that carries tax benefits for donors.)