Forward: A book signing is one of the most powerful marketing methods for the fiction writer. Whether you are a new or experienced fiction writer, this is the one sure way to make money from your writing right out of the gate. This is where you will make most of your initial sales and can even generate enough to actually live off of if you really push at it. This article will show you how.
by Jason Moser
Once your book is written and published, you can sit back, relax, and celebrate. All of the work is done and you can sit and wait for the royalty checks to pour in.
If you believe this to be an accurate statement, you are seriously mistaken. Your job has now shifted from writer to salesman; it's now time to focus all of your energy on putting you and your book to work to make some money.
Promoting your new fiction novel is one of the most exhausting and time consuming tasks as a fiction writer, though a must if you want to make all of your previous efforts pay off. The book signing is a powerful primary promotional tool available to start the ball rolling in your initial promotional push toward success in the fiction writing industry.
Whether you are self-published or published through a traditional publisher, holding a book signing is a must to get your name on the map. Many writers have heard about book signings, but never think about doing them. However, this is the fastest way to get people to notice you and to make money to start feeding your writing budget (which will eventually feed your other marketing approaches to make even more money). Waste no time after final publication to start promoting your books locally.
Determine your "SAMPLE". SAMPLE is an acronym I use to remember the following key factors of a typical signing:
S - Sale price of you book at the signing.
A - Allowance or amount of books you want to bring to the signing.
M - Materials you need to set up your booth or table.
P - Promotional aids to let people know you are having a signing and to hand out when you sell books or run out of books for your signing. An idea is to allow people to advance order a signed book from you by completing an order form and paying for the book. Order the books, have them sent to you for signing, then media mail them to the buyer.
L - Location and time of the event.
E - Expense planning for your signing.
SAMPLE is not in the correct order, but does help you remember all of the key elements needed to consider for your book signing. Setting up a successful book signing takes considerable prior planning before they can be executed, but once they are executed correctly, you can make a bundle of money for each signing. Best of all, you determine exactly how much you can make from your books on hand.
1. First, consider a workable budget, part "E" of SAMPLE. A safe budget to start with depends on a few other factors such as cost of your book, your promotional materials, and materials you need for a successful book signing.
Usually, when you purchase your own books, you pay cost of the book plus any publisher costs depending on how you published it or who you went through to publish it. If you have self-published your book, in most cases you only pay cost and shipping for the books and the more you buy, the cheaper they are per book (one of the perks for self-publishing).
You should purchase at least twenty-five books for your first signing. This is considered your "Allowance" and will help you test the waters and give you an idea of how well a signing can be in your specific location. More books is a lot better than not enough books at an event; just don't go beyond your budgeted means and don't go overboard even if you have the money.
2. The "M" or Materials needed are either sold as a book signing kit from a publisher or other sources. You can easily make your own kit. They should include at a minimum:
- One five foot long by two feet tall banner to place above the door to your promotion room.
- Three to five full-color posters (11" x 17") featuring the cover of your book to post around the area of your event.
- Twenty-five to fifty full-color fliers (8.5" x 11") featuring your cover and ordering information for your book.
- One hundred invitations to a book signing with matching envelopes and stamps (optional if you can hand them out in person).
- Three ball point pens or thin tip Sharpie permanent markers to sign the books.
3. Next, determine the "L" or location and time for your book signing. The best place to have an event can be an establishment that sells books, though other places such as mall hallways, libraries, and large retailers aren't out of the question. You should start with local book stores to get your feet wet.
To arrange a successful signing event, simply ask the store owner or manager if you can have a signing at their store (not just an employee). Let them know that you are a new local author and give them a copy of your book. They will either tell you yes or no depending on their policies.
If they say you can have one, they usually will charge you a small percentage of your proceeds for use of their store, or they will let you do it just to drive business into their store. Fifteen percent or less is acceptable; any more than that, try to talk them down. Your goal is to make money, not lose money. Always look at your bottom line and what you can afford to do.
4. Now that you have a location, you must let people know that you are having a book signing. This is the letter "P". Make sure you have fliers and posters hanging at or near the location of the event at least a week in advance. Also use other forms of advertising such as word of mouth, personal invitations, classified ads, shopping center billboard ads, social media resources (Facebook, Twitter, Linked In), or other similar advertisements to let local people of the community know when and where your book signing will be held.
5. Finally, before the book signing, determine the "S" or a fair sale price for your book so you can overcome your expenses and make a profit. Here's an example of how to determine profit for your event (got to love math):
When actually computing the math, first determine the cost per book based on the cost of the book, the cost of promotional items per book, and how much you want to profit per book. Then take that total (Total A) and multiply that by 25 to get your total proceeds before the cost of the store is added in. Divide that number by the percentage the store is charging (in this case, ten percent) and you will get a large number. Divide that by 100 and that is the amount the store will get total. Add that to your total proceeds before the cost of the store is added in and this is the total income you will make per book. Divide that by the number of books you have to sell and the final number is the price you should charge per book. Your numbers will vary based on actual figures and costs, but this will give you a baseline to work with.
You are now ready to start promoting your book with a signing. Ensure you are at the location of the event at least thirty minutes early to set up. And above all, have fun while you are selling books.
You can walk around the area near the location of the signing just before it starts and hand out fliers, business cards, or other promotional materials to get people to your signing.
Be enthusiastic, talk to your customers, and tell your customers to let others know about your work. This will start the residual ball rolling and foster future sales of your book once word spreads in the buyer's networks.
Learn more about the book signing so you can have a successful show of people and make lots of sales.
On a final note, have at least ten to twenty extra copies of your book available for the store to sell after the book signing and establish a regular supply of books to that store for future sales. As sales slow down, schedule another signing with even more books and keep the cycle going.
Jason W. Moser is a self-published fiction author and master niche website manager. He has published several self-help articles about fiction writers including Setting Up a Successful Book Signing. Jason has retired from the Navy and now lives in Chesapeake, Virginia with his wife and two sons.