“Reflecting back on some of my first book signing events, I can recall how clueless and unprepared I felt.”
About a week ago, I was fortunate to be an attending author at Books by the Arch, an event for avid readers in the heart of the Midwest. As I set up my table, I met a fellow author with the most excitement and enthusiasm I’ve ever seen.
As it turns out, this was her first ever book signing. And that meant… she had questions!
Reflecting back on some of my first book signing events, I can recall how clueless and unprepared I felt. Everywhere I looked I saw authors who had gorgeous table displays, goodies and giveaways, newsletter sign-ups and more.
In talking to this debut author—and now new friend—I quickly found myself generating a list of “must haves” for her moving forward. This list quickly became a blog post in my head. And now, here it is:
If you’re an author preparing for your next book event or signing, you need these 15 things.
1 – Business cards. It took me several events to realize not everyone wants to purchase a paperback book. Create and invest in an author business card and be sure to include not only your contact information and social media handles, but also a QR code directing readers to your eBook links.
2 – Newsletter sign-up. Bring a clipboard and collect names and email addresses. Be sure to offer newsletter subscribers a freebee for subscribing, too! I offer the first chapter of an upcoming release and it’s worked well. Other authors I know write short stories, create character profiles, or offer discounts on future book purchases.
3 – Freebees or give-a-ways. Readers will be more likely to visit your table if they can walk away with something tangible. Purchase stickers that compliment your story, offer candy, or even design a bookmark. Readers just want something—and it’s a good branding opportunity for you, too!
4 – Banner or table runner. When a reader walks into a room full of authors, sometimes the only thing that’ll stand out is a large, stand-up banner. Brand yourself and your table. Invest in a step-and-repeat banner and make sure your name and genre are easy to read. Likewise, a branded table runner accomplishes a similar purpose.
5 – Point of sale device. The Square reader is essential. Most readers will not have cash, and if they do, it’s never the correct amount! While I do carry a stash of small bills (just in case), 90% of the sales I make at book events are with a credit card.
6 – Ability to make small talk. As an introvert, small talk is one of my least favorite things. But I quickly learned that a smile and simple question will go a long way. When readers approach my table I ask, “Are you a romance reader?” Small talk and charm are essential for every event. Even if they’re not into reading romance, there’s a strong chance they know someone who is.
7 – A strong pitch. I’ve written over 225,000 words between my three novels in the Trading Heartbeats trilogy. But it’s incredible how difficult it suddenly becomes to talk about them when a reader approaches the table! You have to find what works. My pitch has evolved to talk less about the characters and story and focuses more on the types of love you’ll find within each novel. It’s a more compelling sell.
8 – Trope cards. This suggestion may not work for every author, but if you’re an author of romance, this is great tip. Create trope cards for each book on your table. For example, for my debut novel I Loved You Yesterday, I list three tropes that describe the story: second chance romance, steamy love triangle, and secret pregnancy. I also include spice level (on a scale of 5 chili peppers) to avoid readers having to awkwardly ask!
9 – Bags. It took me far too long to realize that sometimes a reader doesn’t want to carry a single book around. Purchase a few small bags and have them on hand to offer those who buy your books!
10 – Fancy pen or author stamp. Readers often want signed copies. Be sure you have a pen on hand (I suppose it doesn’t have to be fancy, but where’s the fun otherwise?) or purchase a custom stamp or embosser.
11 – Price list. Some readers will be uncomfortable asking the price of your books. Have a clearly marked display or poster that communicates the cost up front.
12 – Promotion. If a reader makes the effort to attend an author event or signing, reward them for coming out! My trilogy retails for $36 ($12/book) roughly. At all my events, I sell the full trilogy for $30. It’s just a nice “thank you” to those who attended and supported me in person.
13. Tablecloth. I keep a spare 10×10 tablecloth in my book box. Not every venue will provide a tablecloth, so it’s good to have a spare on hand. Nothing looks worse than a chipped wooden table and a folding chair combo!
14. Collapsible wagon. I used to use my kid’s old Radio Flier wagon. But then I wised up and realized how silly I must have looked! Today, I sport a wagon similar to this. It folds up and easily transports my loads of books and supplies in and out of every venue!
15. Décor. It’s oftentimes the small touches that really bring a table display together. I bring fabric flowers that compliment the covers of my books. I also display all of my books in matching baskets and place my hardcover copies on small stands. Find the right combo, but it’s a good idea to have a few signature pieces that help tell your story.
This is a lengthy list! But speaking from experience, no one tells you in advance everything you need to be successful. Please add your suggestions to grow this list in the comments!