Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Book signing 101 with author Nicki Elson + giveaway

Authors Just Wanna Have Fun 
(i.e. the first step in planning a successful signing event)

***Enter to win a signed copy of Three Daves and a "One Hit Wonders of the 80s" CD by leaving a comment below along with your e-mail***

With so many fabulous publishing options available today, there are a lot more published authors out there—which is awesome, but it also means meeting an author at a signing doesn’t have the same allure it once did.  New and little known authors can’t simply stand there with a shiny new pen and a stack of books and expect readers to flock around them.  Trust me, I’ve tried it.  To attract attention, we have to give readers something beyond just the book and a smile.  

Here’s what I’ve learned about what works at a signing event…and what doesn’t:

#1 Make it fun!  

When I was a newly published author, I had the good fortune of reading a post over at Karen G’s blog about author events.  She suggested taking the focus off the number of books sold and making it more about having fun.  This is especially good advice for authors (like myself) who aren’t comfortable in the salesman role. Focusing on fun rather than sales puts everyone more at ease.    

When planning a signing event, I ask myself:  If I hadn’t written this book, would I go?  That’s why I didn’t want my recent event at a local wine shop to be just about the book, but more of an experience.  So we came up with the idea of a wine tasting in which we paired a wine with each of the three Daves from my novel.  We called it Grapes & Guys.  I had a good turnout and it was totally fun!  

#2 Make sense
Book stores, libraries, and even coffee shops have an automatic tie-in, but don’t limit yourself to these spots.  I’ve also done signings at the wine store, a fashion boutique, and a golf course.  There’s no limit on where you can host a book signing, but the site should somehow tie into your story or you’ll be overlooked.  

I did two signings at the very same fashion boutique with completely different results.  At one event, I merely stood by a table with a stack of books during the town’s annual Christmas Walk.  It didn’t make any sense—who walks into a fashion boutique to buy a book?  The utter lack of shopper interest reflected the dichotomy.  I got a much better response from shoppers when I took a little extra time to plan an 80s Night.  Eighties-influenced styles have made a comeback, and so I read a few fashion descriptions from my 80s-era novel and then showed the current versions from the store’s collection.

How does a golf course tie in? you ask…well, in one case it did, in the other, not so much.  Both events were Athletic Foundation fundraisers for my alma mater, on which the campus in Three Daves is heavily based.  One event was in the Chicago suburbs with primarily alumni attending, and everyone was super excited to learn about the book.  The other was down at the actual campus, but rather than alumni, the demographic was mostly locals who support the sports teams.  Yeah, my story includes one intramural rugby game, and that’s it for the athletics.  They couldn’t have cared less about me or my book (did manage to drum up some interest with the students out at the bars later though ;)).    

#3 Make the most of it  

The event is about more than the event itself.  It’s about the opportunity to get your name out there again—anywhere you can think of.  It takes most people more than one, two, fifteen times to hear about something before they take action.  Submit your event to local newpapers and e-publications.  Ask your alumni association to include it in its newsletter.  Update your events in Goodreads, Tweet it, Facebook it, Blog about it.  Get creative—where else is there synergy?  

At the same time I was planning my  Grapes & Guys event, I was introduced to the very cool Chick Lit & Wine book review site.  I dashed off an e-mail to Syrah and Chardonnay about my event, and not only did they promote it and ask me to do a guest post—they reviewed my book!  The event paid off in more than one way.      

So what’s next?  I’m thinking…Boys & Beer?  Chicks & Chocolate?  Please tell me, what kinds of things do you think are fun paired with a book signing? 

Thanks for having me, Lisa!

Nicki Elson grew up in the 80s and live to write about it.  Her debut novel, Three Daves, is a fun and witty 1980s romance.  Like a John Hughes movie in novel form.  You can enter to win a signed copy ofThree Daves PLUS mood music—a One Hit Wonders of the 80s CD—when you leave a comment below along with your e-mail.

Giveaway rules:

  • You must be a follower of this blog
  • If you're not following Nicki, you should! Girlfriend is fun!
  • You must leave an email with your comment
  • Open to US residents only
This giveaway will be open until the end of July, so comment and spread the word!


Judy said...

I really enjoyed your post. It was alot of fun, sounds like I would enjoy one of your signings:)


Michael Di Gesu said...

Very creative Nicki.

You really do know how to have fun...

Nice to meet you, Lisa.... I'm glad I dropped by for a reprise from editing my latest novel.

BTW I really like the design of your blog ... very cool.

Nicki Elson said...

Thanks, Judy! Glad you enjoyed the post.

Nice to see you over here, Michael. I think you'll have a lot of fun at Lisa's "place."

Jennifer Lane said...

Your guys and grapes signing inspired me to host a book signing at a wine shop, and it was a great success so thanks for the idea, Nicki. You've done quite a few signings and learned a lot each time. I didn't know that fact about 15 times, wow. Thanks for the info!

Nicki Elson said...

Hey, Jen, we're starting a "Wine & Sign" revolution! Haha. Um, 15 times might not be a fact, exactly, but it definitely takes multiple times. Three might be more like it.

Liz Fichera said...

Such great ideas! I LOVE the wine idea. Very creative, Nicki!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Good advice, Nicki. I've done over 350 signings and talks now, and the number one thing I tell people is DON'T SIT! Get up and engage other people in conversation.

M Pax said...

Great tips to keep in mind ... hoping I get to use them soon. :)

So think of it more like an event with books on the side.

Theresa Milstein said...

I remember KarenG's post. I love the idea of an 80s night. Great tips for my one-day book promotion.

i'm a follower of both blogs. My email:

tmilstein at gmail dot com

Nicki Elson said...

Diane! I'm so excited you came over and approve of my tips. I was toying with the idea of asking you to give this a look over because I know you've got so much experience with public speaking and signings.

Hi M Pax. :) "an event with books on the side" - perfectly put. I'm sure you'll be giving ME tips one day.

Hey Theresa! That's cool you remember Karen's post. The 80s thing was very fun.

Thanks to all of you for stopping over. I appreciate it so very much.

Susan Oloier said...

I love the marketing creativity: pairing a wine tasting with a book event. I am all in!
Very nice post with wonderful ideas.


Nicki Elson said...

Hey, Susan! Nice to see you over here. The wine & book event was very fun. I have this sneaking feeling I'll be doing it again sometime...

Arlee Bird said...

You've got the right idea. Creativity marketing is what it takes to build sales. And you're right in that it's not just about selling products, but it's also about selling yourself and establishing a brand--you! It's a nice dream to think that if you write a book the publisher is going to put it out there for you and sell it. The truth is that you're going to have to do a lot of the work yourself. Great advice.

On my blog today I have a guest post from author Marcus Clearspring who tells about a different approach to book signings.


Tossing It Out

Nicki Elson said...

Thanks, Lee. You are so right about the authors having to put a lot of work into it - if we're not passionate about our book, how can we expect others to be?

Thanks so much for that link - as you see, I checked it out and will link it at my blog on Monday as useful info for other authors.

inga said...

I am not entering for the giveaway, I just wanted to comment.

Please don't laugh, but I have only been to 3 author signings, because there are not many author signing events taking place in the country where I am from. (Country and the market are simply too small and not many international authors are visiting us here).

I always envy my US friends that there are sooooo many possibilities to actually meet the author and get the books signed! I think it is wonderful opportunity for readers to meet with the author.

inga from

Robin said...

Chicks and Chocolate - of course! I like the wine tasting idea!

Robin D
robindpdx (at) yahoo (dot) com

Donna Hole said...

Awesome tips. Grapes and Guys, what a cool idea. I'll hire you ladies as my publicist if . .

Nice to make your acquaintance Lisa.

donnahole at gmail dot com


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