Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Book Signings, Yay or Nay?

Okay, I may take some flack for this but I think they are a waste of time. The one I had at Borders recently was a family reunion with my sisters, and I did get to meet two of the new WiDo authors, which was pretty awesome. But I would have enjoyed just inviting them to my home for dinner. That would have been less stressful, more fun, and we would have had more time to get acquainted.

Unless you are a celebrity with a following, they seem pointless. You better invite everyone you know to come, because your friends and family are your following. If you're a celebrity, you don't have to invite friends and family, because the public is your following. Then signings work great.

I went on a tour last summer to Nebraska to promote Farm Girl. The independent booksellers were amazing, wonderful and delightful. They went out of their way to promote my visit, to prominently display the posters WiDo had sent them, some even had cookies out for patrons.

Unfortunately, it wasn't worth it to them. People just didn't care. Who the heck is Karen Jones Gowen? A nobody, why bother? I have no following in the public forum, and it was too far for my friends and family to go.

Although I enjoyed the chance to meet the wonderful folks in these bookstores who bend over backwards to sell books and make it in this business, I didn't get to meet many book readers! Several of the booksellers said a signing used to attract people, didn't matter if they knew the author or not. But not any more. So it isn't just my opinion; these are folks who know.

My mom and I had a memorable trip to Nebraska with several other family members, and that was a great experience. But no way did we sell enough books to even pay for one day of the trip.

Another plus was some media attention in local papers, with some very good reviews of Farm Girl. Which feeds my ego and sells a few books. Again, nice but hardly worth the expense of such a trip.

Costco swears by book signings. If you have a book there, they encourage you to come out and sit at the table with your books stacked in front of you. And they will let you go to as many warehouses as your schedule permits. Maybe Costco knows something I don't, because I just don't see it happening at the bookstores. Again, unless you're a celebrity.... But then Costco does everything big. A bookstore makes an initial order of 6, Costco will order 600--and that's a small, initial order. Give me the chance to try out a signing at Costco....Please! I will sit there looking lonely sipping on my free drink from the food court, for a chance to sell thousands of my books to one store!

Launch parties at a bookstore are a different thing, because that gives you the opportunity to invite all the hundreds of people you know. Invite your following, and the more the merrier. They'll all buy a book, some will buy two. But after the launch party, mmmm, I wouldn't waste money traveling very far for signings. Unless it's to Costco.

If anyone has differing opinions feel free to comment. I'd like to know other people's ideas on this topic.


  1. All I can say is I will give it a shot even if it's to learn the hard way. My release is gonna be the Christmas shopping season and I have a had a few(bookstore)people tell me that signings during this period could be rather productive-so I am aim to see if that is so.

    And of course IF I can get into Costco, I'm going across the entire country hawking my books like the snake oil cure-all for what ail's you that they are.

  2. ditto that! i have to try. I'll stick close to home or go places that have friends and family I haven't seen in awhile. We'll see how it goes!

  3. You're 100% right, you've got to make every effort. I don't regret any of my signings, but for me, I'm going to hold off now until I make more of a name for myself. And that will come through more people reading my books and liking them.

    WiDo is putting Uncut Diamonds out there at a pretty rapid pace, and now pushing it at the indies (non LDS) as an ideal offering for book clubs. We'll see how that goes.

  4. I think I would like sitting at my own private table in a bookstore, looking at the cover of my very own book. Then when nobody comes, I can walk around for hours, looking at everyone else's books. Forget the signing, I am in love with the bookstore!

  5. L.A.--You said it, girl! It could be a blast!

  6. I keep wishing I were writing a children's novel because I've got tons of ideas for that kind of a book signing. I think book signings nowadays have to have another draw if it's a new/unknown author. I'm still trying to come up with what that is for adults.

  7. Each author is different and has varying comfort levels of what they want or don't want to try. Someone who is incredibly uncomfortable at the signing table isn't going to attract people. That's why WiDo likes to work closely with the author according to each one's interest and comfort level.

    Karen did a lot of speaking on her book tour last year, and was very comfortable with that, and those gigs ended up selling more books than the actual signings.

    A really really shy author might do better setting up virtual blog tours. An outgoing, self-promoting type will do well at signings. Others might like mixing it up and trying a little bit of everything. Someone else might come up with all new ideas for promotion.

    Whatever the author wants and likes, WiDo will support and encourage. If you want to do signings galore, then WiDo will call the bookstores in areas where you choose to travel and get them set up for you. If you have some great promotional ideas for speaking tours, WiDo will help you with that, too.

    It's all about teamwork with the author and publisher, neither one is doing this alone.

  8. Amen, Kristine, and am I ever thankful for that! It will be fun to see how WiDo's up and coming authors promote their books, and to see what kind of success comes from where.

  9. I'm glad to know that WiDo works with us on this! I have no idea what to expect. I just keep preparing myself to do it all alone.

  10. The local Deseret Book manager was kind enough to let me do a signing during the Priesthood Session of General Conference. The place was packed with women for two hours and I ran into a lot of old friends who didn't recognize my married name on my book.

    Bribery's also another good tool. Have goodies at your table to give out. (And always make sure to use it on the bookstore employees!)

    Something else that's worked for me that I haven't really seen talked about much: bookplates. I got some designed by a graphic designer and posted on my site that if people already had the book and didn't have it with them, I could sign a bookplate for them. These adhere to the inside cover of the book. People actually came to my little signing mini-tour stops ready to get a bookplate because they'd loaned my book to a friend, or people who just walked by and had my book at home would walk up, sad that they couldn't get my autograph until they saw my bookplates.

  11. I agree!! I have noticed book signings are usually not worth it. But I don't regret the ones I've done either.
    I too would love to do a Costco book signing however, my husband is actually a manager in one, he tried pulling a few strings for me but no luck.

  12. The Costco decision is made by the book buyer in their corporate offices in Washington. A manager can put in a good word, but if the buyer says no, then that's pretty much it. And Haley, if I had seen your book on the Costco table, I definitely would have bought it!

  13. Why does Costco love book signings? Think about how many demo tables they have set up on busy days. All of them with the merchandise stacked up in front of a (usually elderly) person who has been using the product all day, and as such, have started to get a feel and knowledge for it.
    As the author at a book signing, you can "demo" your book and have the advantage of possessing the knowledge to be able to answer every possible question that might be asked about it.
    Costco has been doing demo table since they opened because they work.
    Also, think about it this way:
    When people -non writers like me- think of signings in book stores, they think of standing in line for a quick hello and a scribbled signature with a very well-known author. No time for questions about the book etc. That being the case, they might feel uncomfortable talking to an author of a book that they know nothing about.
    However, in Costco, they just spent the last little while blissfully eating things that they had no idea tasted so good. All they knew about that product before was what was written on the packaging. They had never tasted it before or had someone with experience cooking it to ask questions about it.....
    See where I'm going with this?