|Michael Priebe, Author|
A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of conducting my first signing event for The Lovely Grind, my new book of “spiritual inspiration for workdays” (it’s like a devotional book aimed at stress relief and spiritual growth). Leading up to my book’s online release (June 6th), I worked with some local retailers (local for me being WI) to get advance copies into their coffee, gift, and art shops. Some people said “No” or brushed me off by saying “E-mail me later,” but other shop owners were extremely receptive and said “Yes, sounds good. And by the way, how about doing a book signing at the store?”
When the prospect of conducting a book signing was first mentioned, I was flattered and excited, of course, but I was also a little nervous, especially since I really hadn’t anticipated that sort of thing until a little later in the book’s (or my career’s) trajectory.
But if you think about it, it makes sense. A book signing isn’t just good for new (or any) authors, it’s also good for the stores. It gives the store owners an event to advertise that might bring in new customers, and it also helps them to sell some of those books of yours that they just bought.
So yes, I was a bit nervous at the prospect of doing that first book signing, but the event went really well, and here’s what I can report back to those of you who are about to conduct a book signing of your own or are even just imagining one (because it’s never too early to get yourself ready).
1. Bring plenty of copies of your book.
The store owner for my first signing event had ordered twelve copies of The Lovely Grind for the “Paper Art & Soul” book section of her mercantile shop, but if I’d only brought those twelve copies, I would have quickly run out. Since this event was near my hometown, I’d invited friends and family, and the turnout was good. Also, the store’s owner wanted to set aside several extra for copies for a friend, and before the day was over, she added additional copies of my book to her initial order. Bottom line: err on the side of optimism when deciding how many copies of your book to bring. Having extra in the car or in a tote bag beside you will never hurt.
2. Bring plenty of bottled water (and some pain relievers).
As I said before, I was a bit nervous going into my first book signing, and sure enough, as soon as the first customer asked me “What’s your book about?” I felt a headache and dry throat coming on. Thankfully, I’d brought Advil Liquid Gels and a bunch of bottled water (and the store’s owner had water for me as well), so the next couple of hours weren’t spent in discomfort. You’ll have to do some talking and mingling during the event, so don’t let a headache or parched throat slow you down or damper your mood.
3. Practice your signature beforehand.
During the week leading up to my event, I formulated a more or less standard “autograph” signature so that every book I signed wouldn’t look as if a different person had scribbled something on it. I also practiced my cursive and I practiced writing deliberately, because I’m aware that my handwriting can be more erratic and illegible than that of a hungover doctor who’s writing while riding a unicycle over potholes in a hurricane. Bottom line: have some fun crafting your “Hollywood” signature.
4. Have a few catchphrases ready to put before your name.
Signatures for my book ended up looking something like this: “To Carla, Make Your Grind ‘Lovely,’ Michael Priebe” or “To Scott, Thanks for the Support, Michael Priebe.” First, decide which page of the book you will sign (I signed the half-title page at the front), and then have a few phrases ready to place before your signature. Have phrases ready for people you know and for those you don’t, and orient some of the phrases around your book’s title and/or content. Given my book’s title, some of my phrases revolved around the term “lovely.”
5. Be ready to summarize/talk about your book.
As people walk by your table, they will inevitably ask “What is your book about?” Have a couple of stock answers ready; they don’t have to be lengthy. Jot those answers down on notecards and look back to them every once in a while, or read the back cover of your book to get your mind in the mood to answer that “What is it about?” question. You’ve certainly summarized your project dozens of times already, just boil those summaries down to a couple of sentences or paragraphs for the event.
6. Have copies of your book sitting out on the table.
Sitting behind a stack (or stacks) of your own books lets the world know that you are The Author. Having an artistically arranged landscape of books on your signing table will not only help to “set the mood” for the event, but people will want to flip through your book while talking to you, so nearby copies are a necessity. By the way, you might want to designate one or two specific copies as “flip-through” copies (they could be proof copies), so that a bunch of books don’t get damaged from repeated handling.
7. Bring a couple of promotional items to set up on or around your table.
A few days before the book signing event, my wife and I went to Office Depot and had a few poster boards made up that advertised the cover of my book and also one of my websites. It really was amazing what the store could do for a reasonable price and an almost twenty-four-hour turnaround. All you need is a digital file of your book cover or whatever image you want to have made into a poster or poster board (the store even scanned a flyer-like card I gave them and it turned out very readable). They will take the image you give them and turn it into a custom-sized advertisement for you. Not only do these items look impressive on your table, but they also give customers who are waiting in line something to look at that introduces your book to them before you even say a word.
8. Bring a sheet of paper for mailing list sign-up.
Using Word or Excel or similar format, you can quickly draft a sign-up sheet to get more people onto your mailing list. Signing events are a perfect opportunity for this sort of e-mail gathering, and even if people don’t buy a copy of your book right away (and not everyone you talk to will), this is a way to keep them connected until they hopefully change their minds and buy a copy later on Amazon or through your website.
9. Take photos for your website and social media pages (and just for your own reminiscing).
During my event, I asked my wife to take pictures. I asked friends and relatives to take pictures. I even asked the store owner to take pictures. Trust me, you’ll want these remembrances when the dust clears on the day. You can look back on them when you are having a celebratory drink later that evening, and you’ll also want to put a few images onto your website and/or social media pages.
And last, but not least...don't forget to enjoy it all!
This is key. As stated before, I experienced a few jitters going into my first book signing, but I also knew that it was something to be “in-the-moment” about. I knew that it was something that would stand in my mind forever, because it was something that took a lot of hard work and determination on my part to achieve. As a writer, even if your future never ends up holding New York Times’ bestseller lists or stints on Oprah’s couch, you will always have some writing-related moments and accomplishments that you will be able to cherish in your heart forever.
For me, that first book signing was one of those “forever” moments, and I’m glad that I remembered to enjoy it all as best as I could. I’m also glad that I got pictures; maybe I’ll look at them the next time I’m feeling stuck or unmotivated, or maybe I’ll just look at a few of them today, just for the fun of it, as I visualize future stardom.
Michael Priebe is an avid writer, reader, movie-watcher, and runner. His new book, The Lovely Grind: Spiritual Inspiration for Workdays, is on sale now at Amazon.com and other locations. In addition to working on book projects, he blogs at his websites, www.lovelygrind.com and www.michaelpriebewriter.com. He invites you to check out his book and sign-up for the mailing list at Lovelygrind.com to stay connected.