Though the days of extended book tours at brick-and-mortar stores might be fading fast, good self-promotional skills never die. So if you’re lucky enough to find yourself in front of an audience of potential buyers at an event, here are some ideas from a former bookseller:
- Practice reading when you’re by yourself first, then in front of a friend. Get comfortable with your own voice and your own words being read aloud.
- At the signing, try not to complain. About anything. Don’t whine about how many planes you’ve been on, or how early you had to get up that morning to do a radio spot, or about the crappy sound system. This is the most important advice I can give you. The audience members are your potential customers and when you complain about a book tour, you’re complaining about them. Instead, thank your audience graciously for going to the trouble to come and see you. Afterwards, bitch to your husband/bff/publisher rep.
- If your audience is small, avoid commenting on how few people are present. Instead, focus on the ones who did show up.
- Be careful not to antagonize the booksellers or the events staff who host your signing, even if they forget the tech you asked for or mess up the number of books to order. Bookstore staff can be valuable allies in helping to sell your book.
- Use humor, if you’re comfortable with it.
- Bring along a friend or two. They can pad the audience and can give you valuable feedback afterwards about how your presentation played from the rows.
- Ask if the audience can hear you. Many a book signing has been made more difficult because the audience can’t hear the speaker. You’re probably not as loud as it seems from where you’re standing. And on that note:
- Always repeat the question. There’s nothing more tedious as an audience member than listening to the answer to a question they don’t know.
- “Read” your audience. Check in with them to see how they’re responding. Watch for signs they might want to ask a question, or signs that your reading has gone on long enough.
- Make sure you have water. Drink it.
Next up: I’ll go into more detail about successful book signings as well as ones that didn’t go so well. Stay tuned.