Hey cHEwY gum gums
If you have been following my twitter or instagram, you would think that signing books in bookstores comes as effortlessly as eating burgers. It can be awkward, but there are many perks to dropping in for a visit. And no, it’s not because bookstores can’t return signed books haha. So if you’re whether you’re a new author or someone who has a new book out, here are some handy tips.
Call up in advance
If you’re lucky, your publisher’s publicist would have whisked you away to visit bookstores to sign books. If that’s not the case, then ask your publicist to call some up, so the booksellers know you’re coming and they can get your books in stock. At least it won’t be a shock when you do pop in.
Stalk out the bookstore first
If you can’t arrange a meeting, all good. Just turn up anyway. I’m no celebrity (humblebrag achievement unlocked) so I can freely step into the bookstore and check it out first. I roam the place to see if they have my books in the kids’ section. Or if they have a kids’ section at all. Once I see they do have my books, I go up to the bookseller and introduce myself…even if I have to stand there patiently as they type my name in the computer. If they don’t your books, go up anyway…at the very least they’ll know who you are and what you write.
Talk yourself up to booksellers
Booksellers are not used to having authors come up to them, so they may be as shy or awkward as you. Now that you have something in common with them, talk yourself up. You’re an author, baby! Chat about your books and why they’re good. Now that booksellers know your face, they’ll pass that info about your book onto customers as they hand-sell them. When new books come out every month, the battle for shelf-space is real and when you’re in someone’s thoughts, it does make a difference.
Find out more about the bookstore
As I’m signing the books, I like to ask the booksellers a few questions, to fight the awkwardness AND get a feel for the store and its customers. Here are some general questions
1. How are things going?
2. Do you work with schools? (Kids-lit question here haha)
3. Do you do events?
4. What kind of customers do you get? What are they asking for?
5. What are you reading at the moment?
It’ll help you work out which bookstores are proactive and thriving, and it’ll give you more excuses to come back again for a proper signing event or future kids book club etc.
Get that picture for social media!
A lot of bookstores are on some form of social media, so don’t be scared to ask for a photo that you can tag them. They’ll love the publicity. Sometimes the bookseller will be savvy and ask for one before you do, like I said before, it’s not often authors visit bookstores! And if you can, try to think of something weird and random than just the usual signing pose too hehe.
Leave something behind
I usually have bookmarks and posters from my publisher as little calling cards. I think at the very least, you should at least give them a business card, especially when your next book is on the horizon. If they know you’ll be coming back, it won’t be that awkward second time around.
I know everyone dreams of having proper bookstore signing sessions with long queues that go out onto the street OR going to a bookstore’s warehouse to sign a ton of books (that’s my personal dream DO YOU HEAR ME BOOKTOPIA haha), but until then, chipping away and signing books here and there goes a big way in building a presence, as well as promoting your own work. Seriously, you’re an author, own it and if they don’t know who you are, they will once you say hi!