Book Events That Really Sell

by Katherine Swarts


You’ve arranged a book signing, or reserved an expo table. You’re counting the days to the big event, dreaming every night of mile-long customer lines and overflowing cash boxes.

Unfortunately, that scenario really is “in your dreams” for most writers. If you aren’t sufficiently popular to draw interest on pure name recognition, you may be lucky to get ten visitors and one sale.

There are ways to improve your chances, though. Here are my candidates for the top five things that attract browsers to a book signing or expo table.

  1. Relevance. When considering where to exhibit, don’t stop with bookstores and book expos; hold your health-book signing at a fitness center, or display local-history books at your town’s centennial fair. You may actually sell more at a “non-book” event where attendees are more focused and direct competition less.
  2. Advance publicity. Give “save the date” cards to your friends. Post announcements—preferably weekly for a month in advance—on all your blogs and social networking accounts. (Even out-of-state fans have acquaintances and relatives in your area.) For individual signings, send press releases to local media—and be sure the host business announces the event in its newsletters/blogs and on its Web site. Provide posters for hosts to display the month of the event. (Incidentally, minimize time competition—don’t schedule signings when half the town is traveling or at a major local festival!)
  3. Visual appeal. For an expo, place an eye-catching ad—with book cover image—in the official program. For any event, use a large, colorful banner sign—preferably set high enough to read from across the room. Arrange about a dozen of your books—not so many that they look cluttered—on the display table. Also to avoid a “cluttered” appearance, use a low-hanging tablecloth (solid-colored, preferably white or pastel) to hide your boxes.
  4. Giveaways. A bowl or platter of “sweet nibbles” always draws visitors. Offer something more permanent, too; bookmarks with cover images and lists of additional titles are always good. Or provide a premium related to your topic (fudge for a dessert cookbook, tiny stuffed kittens for a story featuring a cat) and marked with your Web address.
  5. Good attitude. The number-one quality of every successful business owner. Make eye contact, with a wave and a smile, whenever someone glances your way; few can resist the implied invitation. Smile even when you think no one is looking; it adds to your table’s visual appeal. Remember that rearranging your display, eating lunch at your booth, and leaving the table unattended are sure ways to miss all but the most determined customers. And even if only two people stop all day (one to raid your candy dish and one to tell you your book should be banned) and the air conditioning fails on the hottest day of August, think happy thoughts and save the pity party until you’re out of the public eye!

For tips from the veterans, click to the following articles: “How to Have a Successful Book Signing” by MaryJanice Davidson; “Selling Your Books at a Booth” by Belea T. Keeney; and “40+ Ways to Make Your Next Book Signing an Event!” by Larry James.

Katherine Swarts is a professional writer specializing in corporate blogs/newsletters and other articles. Her Web address is

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