On September 14th 2016, I had my first book signing, ever. As much as one may think this is simply a matter of showing up with a pen, there is far more to it than that. First and foremost is preparation, and by that I mean advertising. Advertising everywhere, to everyone you know, and every place that you know. You may get dozens of confirmations for attendance, but people drop out, become busy, and generally may not be able to come. Those dozens become six, if you are lucky. Don’t think, “Okay, that’s enough – I’ve got this” because that’s never the case.
Next, did you know there is a right pen and a wrong pen to use? Me neither, but we’re both wrong. You want a non-acidic, permanent pen with archival ink. It ensures there will be no bleeding, no smudging, and that the signature will not fade. It’s obvious now that you hear that, isn’t it? So, pen in hand, you dole out some witty quip beneath the buyers name and sign yours, right?
Did you ask how they spell that first name? You should have. It doesn’t matter how common their name is, the spelling may not be. Did you speak to them for a few moments when they handed you the book? You should have. You will most likely get some tidbit of information you can use to personalize their copy instead of some generic phrase like, “Hope you Enjoy it!”
Are you writing under your actual name? When you sign that book, are you using your signature? As in, the same signature you use to sign legal documents perhaps? I can hear the gasps of the guilty from here. If you are writing, and hence signing, your actual name – make it an artistic representation. Use flourishes you don’t normally have time for, and make it legible instead of the crooked scrawl that normally passes for your name. Practice, and it will become simple and fluid.
How much time are you expected to read to the people? “Read?” you say. “That’s like public speaking, I don’t want to read!” Yes, you do, and if you have been given the option – then take it. You are not Stephen King, and you need to get people interested. This is a chance to pick a great piece from your book, and sell the hell out of it. No spoilers, no favorite characters, use something that speaks directly about your book. Make it fit the time you need to read, but plan to go over that. People may actually find you entertaining, believe it or not.
And yes, you WILL have to introduce it!
The hardest part for most authors is to condense their novel down to the basics, something that can be conveyed in as little as a sentence. Yes, it’s hard. No, you DO need to do this. In some situations, you may only get a single sentence to get someones attention. That sentence has to count, has to make them say, “Tell me more.” Your introduction can’t obviously be one sentence, but being able to condense to that makes a single paragraph of introduction easier to write. Don’t just use the blurb on the back of your book, anyone can read that. Make it personal, show how it relates to you and your life. People love the juicy bits.
Expect questions, anticipate problem questions and be ready. You may get none, or you may be there for 20 minutes explaining why you chose to make some character a red head. It will depend on the people who attend, and each question is another opportunity to connect with your readers. They’re not trying to make your life hard, they just want to know more about your story – That’s a good thing!
Lastly, thank everyone! And I do mean everyone, as individually as possible. It’s easy to get lost in your own anxiety and forget the basics. You won’t mean to, but it will happen, and there will be no taking it back.