"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
Information & inspiration to hone your craft and increase your cash...Since 2009

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Authors Ante Up...Bookstores Charging for Book Signings?

Recently, I received an Email from a fellow writer and friend that gave me great concern.
In essence, it stated, how after several months of working with his publicist to secure a book signing at a local venue, he got the green light to do what many of us love: share our unique stories with a receptive audience.

There was just one problem.
The bookstore wanted him to pay $150.00 for the privilege.
In his message, (shared with other scribes as part of our mutual Yahoo Group membership), he wanted to know if any of us had experienced anything similar, and to get our collective take on this topic.

Well, let me tell you, it made for some very interesting conversation, as the group was quite polarized in their responses.

Many felt that the charge was ridiculous and unjustified; while others felt that perhaps there was some merit to it, due to the economy and the competition with online retailers.
Not to mention, book fairs and conferences sometimes charge authors as well.

Curious, I did a little research through my good friend, "Google" to see if this was an isolated case, and whether we as writers should be concerned.

To my surprise here's what I discovered...

1. This bookstore in Illinois was not alone; several independent bookstores are now charging anywhere from small amounts to hefty sums to host signings for local artists, reportedly to cover the store's expenses.

2. Not only are some bookstores charging authors, I also read that some stores are actually selling tickets to customers for signings. One store, for instance, charges readers $5.00 to $10.00 to attend authors' events. Or a gift card was a required purchase.

3. Some authors may miss out on the opportunity to expose their work to new audiences if this trend continues.

Your turn.
What say you? As an author, would you pay to present your work to potential fans?
As a reader, would you pay to attend an author's signing in your area?

...Would love to hear from you on this.


  1. First of all I want to say awesome blog! I had a quick question which I'd like to ask if you don't mind.
    I was interested to know how you center yourself and clear your mind prior
    to writing. I've had a tough time clearing my thoughts in getting my ideas out there. I do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually wasted just trying to figure out how to begin. Any ideas or tips? Many thanks!
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    1. Jennifer Brown BanksJanuary 26, 2013 at 6:08 AM

      I usually don't. :-) Go with the flow. Sometimes it's all the "internal chatter" that makes for inspiration and story ideas. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. I have friend who writes sci fi novels. He held his first book signing last year, at a local "mom and pop" bookstore. He had a HUGE turnout, so much so, that there were lines formed outside the store. At the end of the book signing, while helping him load his truck with a few unsold books, he told me that he had to pay $250 to be able to have his book signing. While, I can understand the bookstore's reasoning, ie the economy, competition from online sales, the growing demise of bookstores period, I can't say I agree. I just find it all a bit too crass. But what do I know? I'm just a lowly freelance writer. :)

  3. Jennifer Brown BanksJanuary 20, 2013 at 11:27 AM


    You don't say?! This is all still new to me. Good thing for your friend that he had a huge turn out, so hopefully he was able to turn a profit. I always love to hear from you; thanks for starting us off here. :-)

    1. He did turn a profit, which was great. But I still don't like that idea. ;)

  4. Mmmm, possibly only when they need a small army of Crowd Control during a Signing, like with a Rock Star Writer as I am. (Euh..., Ahum..., a Rock Star Writer as I, - Write - about in my Short Stories :))

    Than I would also definitely like to negotiate about
    getting part of the Enterance Fee ;)

    1. Jennifer Brown BanksJanuary 21, 2013 at 7:44 AM


      Thanks for weighing in on this.

  5. On one hand, I can see why the bookstore wants to ensure that their expenses are covered, but if there's a big turnout, won't they make a lot on sales of the book (and anything else the attendees might purchase while they're there)? It seems like it would be more fair to work out an arrangement in which the author (or his/her publisher) pays a fee only if the bookstore doesn't make back their expenses for the event.

    1. Jennifer Brown BanksJanuary 21, 2013 at 9:47 AM

      Hi Julie,

      Nice to hear from you today. We haven't connected in awhile. :-) You bring up an excellent point, and one that would certainly merit consideration from book stores. And who's to say that a book signing couln't result in future book sales from those in attendance?
      I know I've gone back to the store to purchase books later from these types of events. Not to mention, many authors absorb related costs for these events as well. Many of us create and mail out flyers, do press releases, purchase and bring refreshments, buy signage,etc. Right? Thanks for adding to the mix here.

    2. Jennifer Brown BanksFebruary 19, 2014 at 8:13 AM

      ooPS. I see where I spelled "couldn't" wrong in my previous response. Sorry folks.

  6. One one hand, I am surprised to hear this, for I thought this was part of what bookstores used to offer more features and draw people in so they'd spend money. On the other hand, in this economy, I can see why they've started doing it, particularly smaller stores.

    As a "future book author" I can't say that I am happy about it, for it seems that authors have to put out more money than ever now just to sell books. As a consumer, I am tired of being nickled and dimed over everything, and this just follows that trend, it seems.

    With cost cutting and authors required to carry more of the marketing load, it makes you wonder what the future of books will look like. I'm thinking maybe we need to aim for that really "big" book deal. :)

  7. Jennifer Brown BanksJanuary 21, 2013 at 1:50 PM


    ...Appreciate your perspective. I think that we have to look at our role as "consumers" as well. If many of us are buying electronic readers and ordering online books exclusively, brick and mortar stores will continue to struggle and pass this on to readers and authors.

    I think it's important for us to embrace technology, but not so much that it penalizes us severely in other areas, (jobs, costs, etc.). If that makes sense. :-)

  8. I might have an interesting perspective on this from something I learned in the Music Business. For example I remember that with Elton Johns Lady Diana tribute CD the Music Store Owners didn't like it when the CD also got distributed through non-music stores such as Gas and Petrol Stations, Because of missing out on 'Shop Traffic'.

    Since for that tribute CD also many people that usually didn't (frequently) go to a Music Store now suddenly did want to go, something that was an opportunity for Music Store Owners to also possibly attract some new customers that didn't usually go to a Music Store.

    It makes me wonder if it also might be possible for a Writer to Present a Book Signing at a Bookstore more as an Opportunity for them to attract new customers to their Bookstores, and shouldn't be something to charge for,

    It makes me wonder if it might even be something you could consider as harming integity, that a Book Siginging sould be something that should be concidered as a privilege for - them - to be able to support creative talent.

    1. Jennifer Brown BanksJanuary 23, 2013 at 5:43 AM


      Interesting perspective--thanks for the feedback.

  9. Yikes! I sure don't want to hear this and if it's a trend, I hope it dies soon. My book launch cost me nothing but time and the store was packed so I know the store owners made money that day.Many people bought books other than mine and I know they'd only come in to buy mine - I sent them invitations. My next signing is at a big Barnes & Noble and no money has been exacted from me. I'm also negotiating with another "indie" bookstore a few towns over and no mention of a fee for signing was made. Bringing customers into the stores is what bookstores want and that's what authors do. I'm saying this is not the norm and if authors decline to fork over cash just to sign their own books maybe stores that want to charge will get the message. Sheesh!

  10. Jennifer Brown BanksJanuary 23, 2013 at 10:24 AM


    I certainly think that you're on to something here. Great to have you weigh in today. Much thanks.