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.