First, it doesn't matter if you're published by Simon & Schuster, Happy Local Small Press, or CreateSpace: signings are marketing, marketing means signings, and 99% of authors have to do their own marketing. The notion of a publisher footing the bill for a book tour is like a unicorn: you might have heard of such a thing but never, ever are you going to see one. You should, therefore, take advantage of events in your local area to publicize that YOUR BOOK --doesn't "your book" sound great?--is now available.
If you are published by a big house and are signing at a bookstore, you won't have to worry about bringing books with you--usually. (I've witnessed the debacle when an author shows up and someone at the store "forgot" to order her books.) But the majority of authors now are either independently published or signed with a small publishing house, in which case it's up to the author to bring a supply of their books.
Then comes the question, how many should you take? Well, that depends on the event. According to the New York Times, the average number of books sold at a signing is seven. If the audience is particularly interested your book's theme or topic, take at least twenty. If it's a multiple author fair, maybe take fifteen. And if it's a little offbeat, say an arts and crafts fair in July, take ten. But don't ever take fewer than seven; envision selling at least the average.
Whenever possible, make your signing area a display that connects with potential readers. This is where many authors drop the ball. I've seen authors simply sit behind a stack of books set on a table with a plain white cloth, a dour look on their face and their arms crossed, expecting readers to 1) know what their book is, 2) what it's about, 3) who they are, and 4) how much it costs. Sigh. If it was that easy we'd all be Stephanie Meyer. (And I'm only talking sales here, not writing skills. I agree with Stephen King.) Don't assume everyone has ESP and can immediately grasp what your book is about. Most folks only get ESPN.
|My book display at St. Francis Cabrini Arts & Crafts Fair last weekend.|
Displays should have something to catch the eye. Seasonal decor always works well, and be proud to display those gorgeous book covers. I'm not saying I know everything but color grabs my attention far more often than not.
And speaking of sitting... whenever possible, don't. Of course, physical limitations may make standing impossible, but make an effort to be visible and accessible. If you sit there like a lump with a bored expression on your face no one will find your display interesting either. Stand up, stretch your legs, stretch your face by smiling. At the very least it will make people wonder what you're plotting. Compliment fair-goers on something you honestly admire, whether the saying on a tee shirt or unique jewelry. Engage them in conversation. Don't be afraid to be friendly. I've met some incredible folks at events who may not have purchased my books but I learned something from them.
Also remember that not everyone wants what you write--and that's quite all right. That's why there are so many different genres and books. It never hurts to ask what kind of stories someone prefers; if it's you're genre, great--tell them about your book and maybe why you felt it was important to write. If they prefer something else, point them toward someone else who writes those kind of tales. Karma can be good.
Plus, on any given day a certain number of people will not be in a buying mood. And that's okay, too. Not necessarily fun, mind you, but as Scarlett O'Hara once said, "Tomorrow is another day."