Monday, 26 February 2018

Book signings revisited: Tips from author Julie McGowan for authors who want to be well prepared

Given that spring is on its way (we hope!), it's time for authors to get out and do some book signings. Last year, Julie McGowan gave us some marvellous tips to prepare for these events, so we thought we'd post these again. Like any performance, a book signing needs preparation, so read on to remind yourselves of what is important!

As Julie has said herself: "I've done loads of book signings, and now sell between 16 and 20 each time in a two hour slot." This is an impressive record, so her tips are invaluable for all authors, both newbies and old hands. 

Julie at one of her book signings

Planning your signings

Planning is an essential part of the book-signing process, as without it, many opportunities for extending your range and therefore the market for your book might be missed.        

  •  As soon as your release date is definite, phone as many book shops in your area as possible and ask if you can do a book signing. Waterstones can be difficult, as they have certain rules managers have to follow, local book stores’ reactions can vary, but I’ve found that WH Smith stores are invariably welcoming.
  • I suggest phoning rather than calling in because I personally find it easier to promote my book to a faceless voice on the phone than face to face, but it’s whatever works for you. Phoning is also quicker so in one morning you could arrange signings for weeks to come. Once you have one store booked, make sure you mention this to the next store as in, ‘I’m arranging signings in all the stores in the region and have already got them booked at ---- and ---- ’ to convince them of how extraordinarily popular you are!
  • Reassure the store manager that you will take up very little space, that you can bring the books with you so that they don’t have to order stock and all you will need from them is a small table and chair.
  • Try to book a Saturday as you will see a lot more people. The benefit of a store like WH Smith is that they have a greater footfall so more people will see your book. Of course it’s good to support the independent book store as well, so there’s no harm in doing a signing   in both, but I have found occasionally that independents can be a bit sniffy about ‘unknown’ writers.
  • Remember that the best sales are achieved within the first 6 months that your book is released, so the more active you can be in this time the better.


Preparations are another key aspect of book signings, so once your appointments are made, the following tips will ensure that you reach the widest audience. They will also help you to present yourself as a well-seasoned professional author rather than as an amateur writer. 

  1. Once your dates are confirmed, prepare a press release to send out, preferably by email to the local press, local radio and regional TV with details of when and where you will be doing signings. (the journalist’s golden maxim: who, when, where, why, how.) Make sure you send it to the appropriate reporter/editor (details can always be found online) rather than just to the newsdesk etc., because a week or so later you should follow up with a phone call to that person to ask if they received the details and asking whether they can use them.
2.    Prepare posters to take to each store at least 2 weeks before your signing date. Take 3 posters at least to each store, to encourage them to give you lots of publicity. Local libraries and info boards will often let you put up a poster too. When you take the poster to the store, try to give it to the person responsible for arranging your signing because you can then talk to them about where you will be placed. Use your charm to make sure they don’t put you in a corner at the back where only people wanting ordnance survey maps may venture. Next to the fiction stands, at the foot of a staircase or at the front of the shop are the best options – impress upon the manager that you need so little space you can fit into your chosen spot easily.

3.    Next, prepare some ‘hand-outs’ to entice shoppers. I make slips a bit wider than a bookmark (so that I can fit 3 onto a landscape sheet of A4 paper) giving a picture of the book, and brief details of the story, RRP etc. If you have access to a colour printer you can run them off on card or thick paper and then spend a happy hour cutting them up!

4.    Other ‘hooks’: You want people to stop and talk to you rather than avoid you, so you may like to offer them something – especially if you don’t have the means to produce ‘hand-outs’. For example, when promoting my Welsh novels I have a plate of Welsh cakes on my table, to offer to people browsing nearby. When I’m promoting my book set in Cornwall I have Cornish fudge.

5.    During the week before your signing, mention it as often as you can on facebook, twitter, any other form of social media, telling people you will be in the store between these times and you’d love them to stop by and have a chat.

Thank you so much for these tips, Julie! Next week, we'll post Julie's 'what to do on the day' suggestions, which are also very useful, especially for the shy and nervous authors!


Vallypee said...

I said so last year and I'll say it again, these tips are really great!

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