Debut Author lessons: Signing stock for bookstores

This entry is part 1 of 18 in the series Debut Author Lessons

I spent much of today tromping around Manhattan and heading into bookstores to sign copies of Shades of Milk and Honey. Interesting thing about selling a book: your job doesn’t stop there.

The reason I trekked over the city is that signing books at a store does a number of things:

  1. It makes it easy to meet the staff
  2. Autographed books are placed face out
  3. They tend to sell better
  4. There are typically fewer bookstore returns of signed books
  5. Let me repeat the bit about meeting the staff. They are the ones who can handsell your book to a customer.

Blake Charlton and Paolo Bacigalupi took me on a ride-along when they dropped in to sign stock in Boston.  Watching them was interesting especially since I’d no clue how to go about it.

Here are the steps as I understand them for a drop-in signing, as opposed to a pre-arranged visit.

  1. Find your book on the shelf
  2. Carry the books to the nearest information desk
  3. Introduce yourself, ask if they want you to sign them.
  4. They will say yes.
  5. Have your own pen. Be charming while signing (Blake is very good at this) and thank them.

Today I employed those steps and hit the Barnes and Nobles in town. All of the ones in Manhattan have signed copies now, except for the 86th street store which was already sold out of Shades of Milk and Honey.  (Yay!) Tomorrow, in between meetings, I’ll hit the independent stores. Or rather, I and my phone will find out which stores carry it.

Any other useful tricks?

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  1. As someone who worked in an independent bookstore for five years, I can totally vouch for the handselling-more-for-people-I’ve-met aspect. There’s also the bonus of being able to introduce yourself as a local author, but in the absence of that, if I’ve chatted with someone kind who’s treated me like a person instead of a peon, I’ll be more likely to read their book, and then recommend it.

  2. There are also two Borders in Manhattan (or at least two): one near Penn Station, and the other at Columbus Circle. When you hit up the indies, be sure to stop by McNally Jackson in the Village.

  3. Writing often being quite solitary, I imagine it’s also nice to get out and meet people who will be handling your book(s) – not just for promoting your work, but establishing relationships you may have – and want – to call on in future.

    This is a very cool post, thanks for the advice. :)

  4. Good post!

    I hope you post about any readings you do out in the public (e.g., not at a con).
    I remember working at Crown books in Annapolis when a military author came to read and sign. Then, watching in pain as nobody came for two hours…

  5. Post a map of the bookstore’s location (Google Maps will let you do this easily) on your blog/web page so your virtual followers can find them (and if you know ahead of time, they can great you).

    (I was going to write more, but all of my hints are about planned author signings, not impromptu ones.)

    • Oh! Right! I almost forgot: Make sure your pen is an archival ink pen otherwise your signature will bleed and do other unpleasant things to the book over time.

  6. Things you’ve mentioned I’ve heard booksellers suggest at Willamette Writers (to published authors, but listened anyway-maybe someday…). You have to work just as hard, or maybe even harder, if you are an introvert, than when you wrote the book.

    It is very good that you are making connections with the booksellers, the associates, the little guys, many of whom are likely to be aspiring writers and certainly readers.

    You are probably an editor’s and agent’s dream writer for doing so much foot work, with so much energy, goodwill and lack of prima donna attitude.

  7. great advice and something I’ve done as well. I truly believe that a booksigning isn’t so much about signing books as it is meeting the staff and being good to them. Those people do more for your sales than anyone. And serious YAY for being sold out in a store!

  8. Sherrilyn Kenyon brings her own “Autographed Copy” stickers with her — she started out making them at one of those return address label places online (she has them printed special now, of course). Large chain stores will typically have their own and a specific place on the book to place them…but even chain bookstores run out and appreciate whatever you’ve got handy.