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Sunday, November 21, 2010

How to jazz up your next book signing

My 1st signing. Boring!
In a previous post I blasted the idea of the traditional book signing. Now don't get me wrong, book signings are useful. I just don't like boring. How many times have you attended a book signing that followed this formula: read-sign-go home. That's no fun.

In his article, "40+ Ways to Make Your Next Book Signing an EVENT!!", Larry James provides an outstanding, thorough checklist for making your signing go off smoothly. 

Once the details are executed and managed, it's time to let our literary hair down and spice things up.

1. Play to the theme of your book. Whether your book is about taxes or gardening or has a spiritual theme, you can give your fans an informative good time. 

For example, I'm trying to get my mother the English teacher to write a book about gardening during an economic recession. At her book signing, she could give away packets of seeds, baggies of dirt, or autographed rocks. Dressed in her digging boots and hat, she would share information about growing food and stories about eating off the land as a child in her native Jamaica. She's a good storyteller, so I'm sure folks would have a good time.

An author who writes about technology could invite local winners of school science fairs to display their amazing projects at the signing. How cute would that be! Those kids would bring their parents and friends, who might feel like spending some cash on your book. You might even get invited to speak at a PTO/PTA meeting.

The point being, have fun with the theme of your book. As you incorporate elements of your book into your signing, you're giving your fans not just words but a multi-sensory experience of what your book is all about.

2. Provide information. In his article "No More Autograph Parties," self-publishing guru Dan Poynter says we shouldn't even be thinking "book signings" any more.  
An "autograph party" says, "Come and appreciate me (and buy a book)"; a "seminar" says, "Come on down and I will give you something free (information) that will improve your life." Always think of the benefit to the potential customer.
A client of mine never does just author signings. He always gives motivational speeches, whether there are 5 or 500 people in attendance, and he treats each person who asks for his autograph like a close friend. He's a master at connecting with folks. As a result, he's in constant demand on the lecture circuit.

3. If you must read from your book, make it entertaining. How about reading a passage to music? The music could be meditative or high energy (but not too distracting). Whatever you need the mood to be. 

Let's say that due to the venue, time constraints, budget, or any number of issues you can only do the traditional read-sign-go home type of book signing. At the very least can you have music played while your fans wait in line for your autograph? Ask the event coordinator to invite a good student musician to perform. This is a great way to involve the community in the life of your book.

Do you have a musician friend who would be willing to donate a performance? Live music would be wonderful, but even if this isn't possible, pop a CD into your boom box to set the mood, to make your signing entertaining.

4. Don't disrespect your fans by being supercilious (I think that word says it all). A famous author once gave a book signing at a book store. The line of people wanting her autograph was so long, it wrapped around the building – and she said not one word to any of them. She didn't give a speech. She didn't take questions. She didn't even do a boring reading from her book.

Only my mother the English teacher would have tolerated such bad behavior because she taught this author's books in her high school literature classes, and she really loves her writing.

Sure, you might be able to get away with disrespecting folks because of your celebrity, but after awhile the diva act gets old. And with everyone commenting on Twitter, Facebook, gossip sites, and writing their own blogs, nothing stays a secret for very long. The damage to book sales could be long-term. 

Your fans have gone out of their way to meet you and buy your book. Show your love and appreciation by giving them a show they'll remember and talk about for a long time to come.

Donna Marie

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