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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Thanks to my cousin, I'll be setting up a table to sell paperback copies of my books at a local fantasy expo coming up early September.  The thing is, I haven't done this before and I'm not sure how many copies to order, what to expect, etc.  If anyone has had any experience with this kind of thing, I'd love to hear about it.  Thanks!

Note: This expo will be taking place in a mid-sized town with fantasy in general as its focus, and I'll be selling Tempest and Inferno.  I won't bother with the Rita Morse book as it generates very little interest.  From what I was told, this expo sees a fair number of people at least. 
 

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Some authors swear by book signings. I swear at them.

Selling paperbacks is tough. By comparison, selling ebooks is a dream. My advice: Generate some buzz first. Don't just show up with a bunch of books. Before the signing, make sure readers know you'll be there, and get them excited to meet you and buy the books.
 

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Yes, generate buzz. If you plan to read, practice reading--standing is generally better than sitting. Plan how you will introduce your readings. Make sure you have pens and water. Have a bowl of chocolate on your table. Have fun!
 

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Book signings can go from one extreme to the other -- you can be swamped with interest or you may nobody paying any attention to you. If you've ever been to a con, then you'll know what it's like for the browsing reader to be looking for a book. Keep that in mind. Too often I find authors who are trying so hard to sell their books that they push me away from purchasing. If you simply act professionally, friendly, don't hover over those looking at your books, and smile, you'll do the best from your end. The rest is luck of the draw. Good luck and may you sell lots!
 

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I've never done a book signing.  But as a customer, here are some things that attract me to booths in those types of situations:

-Have something to offer me.  Pens are nice but also boring and easily lost.  Food is better.  I will go out of my way for food.  Bottle opener keychains are also cool. 

-An eye catching banner.  I would definitely invest.  A good banner could last for multiple book signings.

-If you're selling something (like a book), I would be sure to have more than enough.  If no one buys them there, you can still sell them online, right?

-Be interested in your product.  When I'm walking though fairs, I usually walk past the booths where the rep is sitting there texting.  Make eye contact with me, offer me food and I'll definitely stay to chat with you.

-Interactive electronics are always appealing (especially at a fantasy convention).  Maybe bring an ipad or computer so that way you can show me your books online.  Even better, show me what they look like in kindle or nook format.  That way I could buy your paperback and then later buy an ebook.

-Having a tv in back continuously playing a "book trailer" could definitely catch a few glances.  I would most probably stop to watch the trailer.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks, everyone.  I'll definitely try the things you mentioned, like try to get some buzz going beforehand, though this will be limited due to this being a local area.  And I'll make sure not to breathe down anyone's back and just be nice.  Not sure if readings will be possible as this will take place in an old VFW hall with lots of tables close together and lots of people walking around.

I'll definitely find a way to play a book trailer while there, maybe with my laptop, and I can always figure out some kind of food to offer--cookies maybe?  I can bribe my mom into making a bunch as she's extremely good at it.  Not sure where to get a banner made, though--I guess I can look online for that.  
 

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Make eye contact. Don't be afraid to speak up. Some sort of related prop to catch bypasser's eyes isn't a bad idea - so long as it didn't get too goofy.

Have your patter down. Know what your book is about and know how to sum it up in about one or two short sentences.

Have a sign or two prepared, so that people don't have to guess why you're sitting there in front of a stack of books. Something like "ASK ME ABOUT MY BOOK" or "MEET THE AUTHOR" or even just "BOOK SIGNING TODAY!"

Above all else have fun.

And like somebody else mentioned - they can smell the fear...
 

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How fun! I've never done one of these, so take this with a grain of salt. If it were me, I'd bring 30 of each book. That's just a stab in the dark. I've sold at rubber stamp conventions, so I kind of have an idea of how many of one item sells.

Good luck!

Vicki
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I like the prop idea.  One of my books is volcano-related and I have a little battery-powered volcano lamp (with an erupting volcano inside it) I can take.  Not sure what I could do for hurricanes, though.  

I'm looking up having some kind of poster made for my table that I could hang off the edge.  It doesn't look like a huge banner would work too well in such a cramped space.  

Thanks, Vicki--that's the kind of info I was looking for regarding how many of each book to order.
 

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Holly A Hook said:
I like the prop idea. One of my books is volcano-related and I have a little battery-powered volcano lamp (with an erupting volcano inside it) I can take. Not sure what I could do for hurricanes, though.

I'm looking up having some kind of poster made for my table that I could hang off the edge. It doesn't look like a huge banner would work too well in such a cramped space.

Thanks, Vicki--that's the kind of info I was looking for regarding how many of each book to order.
For the hurricane, how about a hand held fan. People will love it--especially if it's anywhere near as hot as it's been around here!
 

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As an author, I've had book signings at which I've sold 50 books (more at signings for anthologies with other authors present) and signings at which I've been lucky to sell 5. As a bookseller, I've presided over signings with hundreds of people in line, and signings at which I spent a lot of time talking to the author because we were the only two people there.

Point is, try not to have expectations, and that way they won't be crushed.

Except for a small handful of hugely popular authors, no book signing--even with a current NYT bestselling author--is guaranteed to draw anybody. Sometimes it depends on what else is going on in town, how the weather is that day, how much traffic is on the streets... sometimes you just can't tell. But you shouldn't feel bad if the only people who come are your mom and your cat, because that happens to the big name writers too. And hey, your cat had to take a cab.

Cookies are a great idea. Joanne Fluke (mystery writer) always brings cookies with her, and people love to see her coming.

As others have said, be nice, not too pushy, but make eye contact. You're at an advantage because you'll be at an event with people who have already made an effort to be there because they're interested in the genre. One signing won't make you rich, but writers often have to win fans one at a time, and you just might meet someone there who'll scream your glories to all her friends. Go for it, have fun, and whatever it will be, it'll be.
 

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I've done quite a few book signings, in stores as well as conferences, and no two experiences were ever alike.  Basics, however, stand your books up, cover forward and make an attractive arrangement.  Have something free to give away, either cookies or wrapped chocolates. Something totally out of place will catch someone's eye as they stroll past and a lot will stop and smile and ask you about it. I once sat a stained glass panel that I had made of my dog, on the table.  When people asked about it, I said I couldn't bring my dog, but I brought the next best thing, and that started up a conversation, which then turned to the book, and yada yada.  Another author friend of mine always took her alligator purse to signings.  It was green velour and shaped like an alligator and drew people like a magnet.  Hit the dollar store and find something cheap that's cute to give away even if they don't buy your books.  And smile. Always smile. Don't try to look cool and aloof and important.  Act natural, smile, and let them see that you're nervous, it makes them want to set you at ease by buying a book *s*
 

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I held my first book signing in a bar. I reasoned that people would be there anyway, there was music to listen to in the background, and if no one turned up I could always sit with a drink.

The bar owner put up posters a couple of weeks in adavance and generated buzz for me - because it would potentially bring extra cumstomers for him...

As it turned out, people WERE there for my book and I sold about thirty.
 

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Since you also sell your books as ebooks, perhaps you could consider bringing business cards ( the same kind as http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,74425.0.html) for the books too, with links to the Amazon (maybe as QRCodes ?) PBook and ebook.

That way, people interested in one of your books and wanting to know more about it may be able to sample it at home ...
 

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ajbarnett said:
I held my first book signing in a bar. I reasoned that people would be there anyway, there was music to listen to in the background, and if no one turned up I could always sit with a drink.

The bar owner put up posters a couple of weeks in adavance and generated buzz for me - because it would potentially bring extra cumstomers for him...

As it turned out, people WERE there for my book and I sold about thirty.
I never thought of doing that. That's a great idea! People are feeling good, their inhibitions are down...

Jeff Mariotte has seen booksignings from both sides of the fence - as an author and a bookseller. Good advice, Jeff, not to get one's hopes up.

My own experience has been all over the map. With a targeted audience (horse racing fans on All American Futurity day, selling a suspense novel set in the quarter horse racing world) I sold 280 books in two hours. But the other end of the spectrum was sitting in Barnes & Noble, or Borders, or Waldenbooks (remember them?) selling nothing! But I did direct plenty of people to the restrooms and CD section of the store.

Cookies are a good idea. And flyers, book marks, or business cards for them to pick up. They might buy later. I did some signings in grocery stores---my book was priced at $4.99---and we had a plateful of cookies and flyers. The kids would run up and ask if they could have a cookie, and I'd say, "Yes. And take this to your mom," handing the children flyers. We sold very well at the grocery stores.
 

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Question: Is this a big group signing, with all the authors lined up at tables?

Assuming that is the case...

1. Regarding numbers. I've done several conference/convention signings. As a general rule, my publisher gives me about 30 books to sign. I've never sold out.

2. Bring business cards and excerpt fliers. Many people won't buy, but they will ask for something to take home and read later. Excerpt booklets are by far the best.

3. If you're able, hold a drawing for a big prize. Have the folks at the front door hand out your entry slips if you can. Make sure to include a space for email and ask if they'd like to subscribe to your email newsletter on the entry slip. Then, make sure the person MUST come to you to enter the contest--either to get a signature or to put the slip into a box for the drawing. This has been BY FAR the best way to gain attention at huge convention book signings for me. I did offer a big prize--a basket with an ebook reader. Well worth the investment.

4. As the others have said, bring a conversation starter, talk, be friendly and have fun. You're not selling your book, per se, you're selling yourself.

Have fun! Looking forward to hearing how it went.
 

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You must take your cousin (or someone) with you. That person will tell the people who walk up to the table what a wonderful book you wrote, while you blush and demure. You will find the experience either fun or ghastly. Either way, it isn't something you should do alone, unless you're perfectly comfortable bragging about your book without showing any nerves - and that isn't realistic for a first signing. If you can't find a friend to come, bring another author whose books are not really similar to yours so there's no competition. You each talk up the other's books.

A survey once revealed that authors sell an average of two books at book signings. I used to do signings with a lot of authors, and 10 sales is a good day. The bar idea is a good one - I once set up a table at a Renaissance festival in front of the all-you-can-eat-and-drink King's Feast, where people stumbled out drunk and into my table. Sales were easy there, as a result.

Sales were also easy at small festivals that don't have a lot of entertainment to draw away the attention of the customers. And sales were REALLY good at the North Texas Irish Festival, where my table of 10 authors with their historicals, fantasies and children's books did well because we were in the midst of readers, which people who attend that sort of thing usually are.
 

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Just some thoughts that come to mind (some will only restate and thus emphasize what others have suggested):

Have a line or two to get a passerby's attention. More than just "Hello."

"What do you like to read?"
"Know anybody who likes to read Fantasy (or SF or horror, etc)?" --depending on what you write.
are some generic starters.

Know a bit about what some of the other authors are selling. If you write horror but they like to read fantasy, point and suggest they visit such and such author's table. Some authors at events are real cuthroat while others will reciprocate. But if you're not going to attract that reader/make a sale, what have you got to lose?

Watch a potential reader's eyes. You can tell if they're interested or just being polite. Don't talk the whole time. Offer/hand them the novel and let them look it over. Have a twenty or so word pitch or description of your novel. Several depending on the angle you're guessing the reader might enjoy-connect with. Then a more detailed explaination of the potential customer asks for more details.

Depending on the crowd--likely visitors, you can have a sign-up for a drawing for a gift card (like an itunes card, or a gas card or something with $10.00 or whatever on it). Put names and email addresses on a slip of paper in a box. (plus, you get an emailing list that way). You can offer two chances for someone who purchases your novel, one chance for someone who just signs up...

I worked with my publisher (on this before hand--established a contract/naming agreement) and for my second novel had a "Name a character in the next First Civilization's Legacy novel". It was similar to the card drawing above, but over a series of book signings, people who signed up had a chance, even if they did not buy a copy of my works. It drew interest, and I could ask people going by, if they'd ever named a character in a novel.

Have a bookmark or business card that you can give to people who might pick up your work later (sales seem to spike a bit after an event). People often have only so much money.

Who is taking care of the sales? You or the event? Be sure to have enough money and the right type for change. If your novels sell for $10, it's easier than $9 or $12.95. Sometimes if a novel normally sells for $11.99, discount it to $10.00 makes a little difference. I am guessing the local municipality won't require a vendor's licence from everyone there if each author is responsible for individual sales?

Have post it notes, and ask the person to write their name (or the name of the person) you're signing the book to. It helps if you have trouble understanding the individual, and saves having to ask how to spell a name multiple times. Kris vs. Chris, or Johnathan Smith vs. Jonathan Smyth.

Have a few pens available.

Have a small stand to set at least one of our novels so that it isn't laying flat on the table.

Bring a table cloth is one isn't provided for the table. Solid color might be better.

Something for you to drink while at your table.

Don't hesitate to just chat a bit with someone who stops by--mabye about a favorite author of theirs or movie or the like. Be a person. Sometimes those individuals will circle back around. Many times people have only so much cash and are previewing before making a decision.

Smile. Be polite and professional.

Banners or posters etc. can be good depending on the space you're allotted. Some places have authors share a 6' table. Others don't.

Also, note that a place with authors gathering is a opportunity to network--future reviews, blurbs, advice, information on other signing events, etc. Here a business card too can be handy.

Good luck, have fun, and learn from the experience!
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
You guys have some great ideas.  I feel a lot better about this now, and will definitely be getting a poster and business cards printed out.  I'll definitely try the cookies approach as well. 

I'll likely order 30 of each book, and will find a use for those I don't sell later. 
 
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