Undercover at the Book Signing

To calm my fears about marketing my book, I thought I'd do a little research.  I started with something easy:  book signings.  Last weekend, there were plenty of book signings to attend in my city, so I picked out a book that looked interesting and headed out to the signing.  My plan was to schmooze with the author a little while I got the book signed, but things didn't go exactly as I planned.

My first observation about the signing I attended was that the book signing tables were really tiny.  I mean, their size took me back to my high school days of having to remember a #2 pencil for the scantron test.  I have seen authors sitting at much bigger tables, but those were at bigger stores.  So, note to self:  whatever displays or handouts you bring to a book signing have to be adaptable to different sizes of tables.

I noticed one author sitting at her table all by herself.  No one was talking to her, and she looked kind of pitiful just sitting there trying to smile at people as they passed.  

I wanted to get a book signed by the other author, though, so I proceeded to the second table.  This author was standing up behind her table, talking to someone.  She didn't notice when I picked up one of her books.  I stood there for about a minute without any eye contact from this author.  I thought, "Oh well.  She's busy.  I'll come back later."

When I came back later, she was still talking and still didn't notice me, even though I stood there for a while.  Maybe in her mind, she was thinking, "Nobody really came here to buy my book.  I might as well make myself comfortable chatting it up."  Or maybe she was thinking something entirely different.  I know I'm being critical of this author, but it's mostly because I can see myself doing the exact same thing.

So, here's the second thing I learned:  It's better to sit behind the table and look pitiful than it is to make other people feel pitiful by ignoring them.

That's about all I learned from the book signing I attended.  I did, however, find that there's a lot of good tips about book signings on author blogs. Here's one from the Writer's Vineyard. Here's another by Connie Sokol.


  1. Huh. Interesting experience. I suppose you're right. I'd rather be sitting alone than unknowingly snubbing someone. Imagine the times we've offended people we didn't intend to hurt. I can only guess that number will grow while marketing ourselves. The law of averages says it will.

  2. Thanks for your comment, E.R. You're right about the potential to offend growing as we interact with more and more people. Plus, people tend to be a little intimidated by authors, making it even more important for authors to be outgoing. I think handing out bookmarks or saying "hi" as people pass can help an author seem more friendly.

  3. I think candy on the table will tend to draw people near, and a drawing for something good, like a $25 gift card, helps as well. If the drawing is only for your book, they still may not come over. I definitely agree with you that eye contact and acknowledgement is everything.

    Thanks for the post! I have some signings coming up and I'm dreading being the first pitiful author. :o)


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