Get a Free Ebook

Five Inspirational Truths for Authors

Try our Video Classes

Downloadable in-depth learning, with pdf slides

Find out more about My Book Therapy

We want to help you up your writing game. If you are stuck, or just want a boost, please check us out!

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Book Store Signings, Why I Love and Hate Them

by Gina Holmes


With the recent launch of my newest novel, Wings of Glass, it was time to hit the book store circuit again. The way I feel about doing book signings is akin to having a root canal. Sounds pretty harsh but I'm being honest.

Why do I hate them? I don't have Karen Kingsbury's success, so people aren't exactly lining up around the corner to meet me or get my autograph. So, my two hours at the store is usually spent with people trying to avoid my author table and doing their best not to make eye contact with me.

I feel a lot like I'm standing on a street corner with a can, jingling change and hoping someone with drop a few coins in it. I feel like a beggar and that's not a pleasant feeling.

I rarely sell more than a few books, 3 on a bad day, maybe 10 on a good one. Sometimes I've traveled half a day to get to the store so I can sell a couple of books and be bored out of my skull.

If they're not productive, why do I do them?

Ah, because they ARE productive, even if they don't look that way. The instant gratification is rarely there, but there are some long term benefits to consider:

* Signage. If you were to pay to have a poster of you and your book on the front of a bookstore, what do you think that might cost? I'm guessing quite a bit. If you're doing a signing, it's free. It's said in publicity circles that a potential customer has to see a product 6 or 7 times before they'll actually make the purchase. That free signage is one of those times, crossed off the list.

*Hobnobbing with bookstore owners and workers. Especially if it's an indie store, I will leave a copy of my book with them with hopes they will read it, fall in love and hand sell it to their customers later.

*In order to pass my time, and have it be productive, I stand at the front of the store and hand everyone who looks like they might read my work, (mostly women), a promotional bookmark. I can't tell you how many reluctantly accept the bookmark, read it while they're shopping and then come back saying the book looked interesting and picked up a copy.

Many take the bookmark home and eventually look at it and order the book online.

Many who I meet and chat with whisper that they will go home and order the book on their kindle or e-reader. One the other day said she brought her bookmark home, realized I was a Christian author and ordered all 3 of my novels. She said she's a fan for life now.

*Meeting people in person adds a personal connection for them and some of these people will grow to be die hard fans because they feel they know me now.

*Media coverage. When I do a bookstore signing, I contact local media and can sometimes get on local TV or radio before or after the fact. At the very least, I get a mention in their community section of their paper. Most who read it won't come out to the signing, but will check out the book. Another one of those 6 exposures checked off the list.


If, like me, you've had some not-so-pleasant experiences at a book signing, know that it's normal and to be expected. You're not doing it for the sales that day. You're looking at the bigger picture. The future sales, the online sales, the exposure. 

At one signing at a chain that's now out of business, I showed up and found no signage anywhere letting people know I would be there. There was no table set up for me and when I asked for one, the staff acted annoyed, set out a child size desk with a couple of books and then walked away. 

I stood there for 2 hours, passing out my bookmarks and sold not a single book. At the end of my two hours, a woman came up to me and bought a book. When I thanked her, she said, "The only reason I'm buying this is because I feel sorry for you."

Nice. Crossing Oceans was sitting on the CBA and ECPA bestsellers list at that time, and might have even been in the top ten on Amazon paid Kindle, so I didn't feel as crummy as I could have I guess.

A good friend of mine took pity on another author he saw sitting alone at a table at a bookstore and he approached, feeling sorry for her and asked if her book was any good. She said, "I think so." He bought one out of pity and realized the author was NYT bestseller Diana Gabaldon. That story makes me feel a little better, a little less alone and a little less pathetic. 

Speaking of shaking my can, let me do that here. If you haven't picked up a copy of Wings of Glass, I hope you'll consider it. I think it's my finest work yet and maybe the most important book I'll ever write. It tells the story of a young woman trapped in an abusive marriage and the two friends who open her eyes to the truth and lend her their backbones until she can find her own. I take on the issue of divorce within a Christian marriage, and the way the church (meaning us Christians) can sometimes let these women down by not asking the right questions. I think the book has the power to change lives. 

Crosswalk.com says: "Holmes’s previous novels (Crossing Oceans and Dry as Rain) were award winners and surely Wings of Glass will follow in their footsteps. Her characters are all fascinating mixtures of flaws and finer points—even the abusive Trent has us rooting for him on occasion. The touchy topic of spousal abuse—and how a Christian victim should respond—is handled in a clear-eyed fashion. Wings of Glass a not only good read, it could be an important one. Book clubs, especially, should consider adding Wings of Glass to their schedule since the discussion could potentially be life-changing for an abused (or abusive) group member."


27 comments:

morganlbusse.com said...

Thanks :) It's good to know I'm not the only one who hates sitting there as people try to avoid your table or make eye contact. I hadn't thought about the long term benefits.

Joyce Magnin said...

Great post, Gina. Sometimes even signing one book at signing can change a life and that's a good thing. Thanks for sharing.

Gina Holmes said...

Thanks Morgan. I once asked Robert Whitlow in an interview (before I was published) if all of his success went to his head. He couldn't stop laughing. Now, I understand! :-)

Gina Holmes said...

True, Joyce. Though we might have to get to Heaven to find out the impact. Every once in a while at a signing, a customer will tell me their story and I'll know a certain book is what they need to read (often it's not even mine). Good point.

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Wow--love the Diana Gabaldon story! And your own, as well, Gina. Just saw your books sitting on the shelves of a Barnes/Noble in VA. I actually look forward to (possibly, someday before I'm 93) doing signings at bookstores in towns where the peeps know me, even if the bookstores are small. Glad to know there are some perks to going old-school with your publicity techniques!

Marcia said...

Good post Gina and oh so true. My first couple of book signings were discouraging as far as sales go, but then I started noticing something - each time I would out there God sent me a "divine appointment." Now I look forward to them for that reason. It's always intriguing to meet those the Lord sends my way. :)

Gina Holmes said...

Thanks guys :)

Linda J. White said...

Yes, Gina and Marcia, I found I had those "divine appointments" as well with my first book. Now I'm setting out again with "Seeds of Evidence" and would covet your prayers. There's no way to count spiritual impact, but that's why we write. Oh, and "Wings..." is in my Kindle and next up on my reading list!

rachelallord.com said...

Thanks, Gina. All good information to know and digest. I would love to read a post sometime about approaching book store owners, local papers, medial etc. How to market yourself in a gracious yet persistent way. I"m just starting to do this... and it's all a bit daunting. Which I trust is 'normal'.

Normandie Ward Fischer said...

Gina, as I move into this next phase and your partner tries to find outlets that will smile on me, I take heart in your story. Thank you. One of the things SuzyQ said in a recent video conference is that we should use book store encounters to bless the book store owners and workers. That hit home with me.

We were in Books-a-Million yesterday so that my 85-year-old mama could find something new to read. I buy on Kindle more often than not, but she wants to hold the real thing in her hand. I picked up yours and used your connection to River to entice her into plunking down the cash for it. Now we'll pray that it will touch her heart and propel her toward the Lord.

Ane Mulligan said...

Have I told you lately that I'm so proud of you?

Gina Holmes said...

Thanks Linda!

Gina Holmes said...

Perfectly normal. May I suggest picking up a copy of Publicize Your Book? It's the best one I've found. You'll learn so much.

Gina Holmes said...

Haha, River's the boss, not my partner. I'm just a lowly pee on he consults sometimes. He'll work hard for you. I like the bless the bookstore thought. Thanks for your support and recommending me to Grandmom!

Gina Holmes said...

I think you did, Ane. I'm proud of you too!

Marianne Barkman said...

Just meeting an author, and spending a few minutes or half an hour with her, makes me a fan for life! Your mama sounds a lot like mine, Normandie. She's 86 and reads as much as I do, and loves to meet authors as well. My former job was an awesome job...I sold books. I had so much fun promoting them, and now I do it on my bog!

Jim Rubart said...

Gina,

There are a couple of small book store chains where I'm consistently one of their top selling authors. It has little to do with my books and much more to do with the fact they like my writing and promote me heavily to their customers. So your point about building relationship with the store owners and managers is excellent.

Jim

Crystal J Ortmann said...

I love this article, Gina. It is also very timely for me as my first signing is coming up. I know it will help if no one buys a book, so I appreciate your honesty and transparency. Thanks for the encouragement.

Becky Jacoby said...

Gina, great article. Some of us are still waiting for the opportunity to have the experiences you have described, but knowing ahead of time to consider those facets will help us better prepare when our time (hopefully) comes.

Gina Holmes said...

That's nice to know, Marianne. I wish I had a bog to promote books on... wink!

Gina Holmes said...

Thanks Jim. I learned this one early. I got so much help (as did you I'm sure) promoting my debut because people liked me personally. Being nice pays! :)

Gina Holmes said...

Good luck Crystal and it does help to not overdo the expectations. Praying you exceed them!!

Gina Holmes said...

Thanks Becky. I know the waiting period all too well. Funny, the thing I daydreamed of (signings) is low on the list of my favorite things about being a writer. It's cool sometimes. I'd be lying if I denied that it has it's nice moments.

Jodi Janz said...

I would never have imagined book signings would be like that until I saw it for myself. Last fall an author did a cross canada book signing and I had been given one of his books to review. I drove two hours to the city to see him, got there 5 mins after it started. He had a bunch of his family with him so we started chatting. My girlfriend and I sat near his book table for 2.5 hours visiting about all kinds of writing related and non-writing related things. He had one other girl come in to sign her copies of his previous books. She didn't buy the new one though. After I told him I was sorry that it wasn't very busy and he said he hadn't had a busy one yet. He has written something like 35 books total in his career. I was shocked.
But I can't tell you how much it meant to me and my friend. We had a blast and we feel like we now know a "famous" person personally. :)
Jodi

rachelallord.com said...

thanks!

Gina Holmes said...

Thanks for sharing that, Jodi. Sounds pretty typical for most of us. Lots of authors won't do them, but as I said in the article, no matter how it looks at the time, I think they are.

S. Kim Henson said...

Wonderful post, Gina. Makes me feel better if I ever write and publish a book. In fact, this helps eliminate one of my 25 plus excuses for not writing one ... lonely book signings. You just eased the fear some.

Sharing. Thanks!