How To Setup an Author Signing or Event: From Bookstores to Trade Shows.
The Combined Book Team December 12, 2014

Author Signing or Event Services – CBE Authors Central

Author events such as signings and book readings can be a great way to connect with readers and reach another audience. But how do you get your own author event? There are several options, whether you can spend money on a dedicated are at a major trade show or fair, or you want to set up a smaller local signing or event, there are many avenues to choose from if you know where to look. I’ve done signings at trade shows like American Library Association Annual, conventions like NY Comic Con, local Barnes and Noble book signings and library visits as well! Below I will show you how I did each, and what the outcomes were for my book.

Trade Show/Book Fair Signings:

Autographing through The Combined Book Exhibit

My first author signing with the help of The Combined Book Exhibit.

As with anything about being an author, but especially when it comes to marketing your book, nothing comes easy. Everything you try as an author is not only a learning process but a test; a test to see if something works for you, a test of your own ability to handle different marketing tools, how those tools help your specific book. I speak to authors pretty often on a personal level, and I’m struck by how fast they are to dismiss certain marketing practices after only using them once or worse, never trying them at all.

My first ever book signing was in Philadelphia, during the American Library Association Mid Winter Conference. I didn’t actually sign books, I signed posters and gave away bookmarks with a code for a free eBook download since my book was not yet in print. Needless to say, the event was a bit slow, but that’s normal for any author’s very first signing, & especially when there are no actual books to be signed. It was however a great learning experience, in talking to readers, pitching your book quickly, and explaining the plot of, in my case, a fantasy series in the few short breaths it would take for someone to walk away.

After the signing, I worked on my table presentation, having bookmarks with special artwork, my books piled up and displayed so that anyone walking by would see them, and I became more comfortable talking to readers, librarians and teachers face to face. A few months later, with another two signings under my belt, I was at ALA Annual in Las Vegas. This time, I not only gave away all my books and had a line of people waiting, but there were people there who had already read it, already heard about it, and wanted to come meet me. Had I given up after that first, slower than I would have liked signing in PA, I would never have reaped the benefits of the signing in Vegas. At that signing, I was interviewed by an entertainment web series and happily watched as attendees tweeted pictures of me and my book, posted pictures of them holding my book on Instagram, or even better, asked to take a picture with me.

If your publisher is attending one of these shows you might need to talk to them to set up a signing at their booth, but if you are a self-published author or your publisher is not attending you can still have a signing.

CBE provides an awesome service which sets up the signing, makes posters announcing the event as well as announcing it on our social media/websites.

Here are the prices for autographing via The Combined Book Exhibit:

State/Regional Fairs: $495

National Fairs: $695

International Fairs: $895

BookExpo America: $895 (includes a free book display)

This service includes a one hour time slot for signing (you pick the time when you register!), an entry badge for the fair, the shipping and storage of 100 books at the show site (you just ship to our office in NY), graphics and announcements advertising the signing and more.

A CBE author signing at The American Library Association Annual Conference in Las Vegas (2014). A line around the corner!

Click here to set up your own signing for 2015.

Big Conferences

(New York Comic Con)

Me at NYCC 2014

New York Comic Con was one of the best experiences of my journey as an author so far. With the help of Pubslush I was able to raise the money to get my own table at the conference and met hundreds of people throughout the four day event. I sold books, posters, gave away over 500 bookmarks and got to reach a whole new audience in a way I had never gotten to experience. Setting up the event requires paying a deposit (which differs depending on the size/location of your booth) and then paying the remaining balance by a certain date. Comic Con allows you to add information and graphics on their website so that attendees can add you to their schedule. For an additional fee, you also get access to any leads your posting procures.

You can start by filling out an interest form on their website here. After you fill out the form, someone from their team will contact you with available booth spaces, price and a contract.

Although the price for this event was a bit high for me ( I paid close to 1k for the table alone) I was fortunate enough to raise all the money using Pubslush, a crowd funding resource for people in the literary community. To read more about how I did that, read my blog on my experience with Pubslush here.

In preparation for Comic Con I made sure to announce my event well in advance using graphics on social media, sending out a newsletter to my mailing list and spreading the word via friends and family.

An example of one of the graphics I used on my social media to announce my booth number at NYCC.

I had bookmarks, postcards and two big posters for the actual event (as well as information/swag from fellow authors) and a sign up sheet for my mailing list with a raffle prize for one lucky winner. I sold my books at a discounted price and had special edition posters there for sale as well. I used a Square Reader and my Ipad so readers could pay using their cards, but most of my transactions were cash.

Comic Con was the highest level of exposure I’ve gotten as an author thus far, and took the most work to get to. I would say it was absolutely worth it for me but I also have a fantasy series with a book cover that catered to the Comic Con crowd. You might want to consider if your book is right for this specific event, meaning Comic Con attendees are usually looking for something in the comic book/fantasy/or science fiction realm. If your book is say, an educational book, perhaps a trade show like mentioned above would be more worthwhile for you. There are options for writers of all genres, just make sure you do the research into the specific event and types of media available there before you spend money or set up your signing there.

Barnes and Noble And Local Book Stores

My local author signing at Barnes & Noble.

Barnes and Noble was a staple of my high school and college years. It’s the place where I prepared articles for my school newspaper, read and bought many of the books which would later influence my own writing and a place I could only dream of holding an event one day. If you’re anything like me, the thought of having a Barnes and Noble event is not only appealing, but it’s one of the top things on my author bucket list. Setting up an event at your local B&N might be slightly different from my experience but here is what I did to make my own event happen.

First I contacted the community relations manager (CRM) at my local store. (If you’re not sure if your store has a CRM just call and ask!) He let me know that we could set up a solo event if my book was in their database and returnable to warehouse. Ah. For any self published author who doesn’t use Ingram Spark, warehouse returns are not possible. Thankfully, the B&N near me holds local author events, where a group of authors have signings simultaneously, and as long as your book shows up in their database (which it should if you are signed up for Amazon’s extended distribution option) you are eligible to participate.

The CRM told me I would have to bring my own books, and whoever wanted a signed copy would be rung up at the B&N register and I would then get a percentage of each sale. I live in a pretty small town, so my signing wasn’t as busy as say my Comic Con event but it was nonetheless a great experience and I did sell a decent amount of books. As shown in the pictures above, I made sure to bring an easel and set up some artwork and also had free bookmarks available for anyone who wanted more information on my book.

Although B&N was the only book store where I’ve had a signing, I would suggest calling up whichever store you are interested in hosting your signing and asking them directly how to set up the event. It’s probably a lot easier than you think.

Library Signings and Visits

One of the greatest parts about holding events is the people you meet and the opportunities you get for even more exposure. For example, at my very first signing at The American Library Association Mid Winter Conference, I met a librarian from a branch in New Jersey. She gave me her card when I mentioned the possibility of having an event there. I contacted this librarian when I got back home, and not only did we set up an event for that summer, her colleague at a nearby branch also asked if I could appear at her library!

So from one interaction at a signing, I got two more events scheduled. Library visits are a great way to interact with your readers and the community, and another tool for authors to spread the word about their books. This particular visit helped get me more followers on my social media accounts as the children attending all wanted that information to keep track of me online. Although I was paid for my visits, not every library has a budget for such things. I would suggest reaching out to any libraries you think might be a good place to hold an event and also having a dedicated page on your website for anyone interested in booking you for a school or library visit.

Poster announcing my library visit last summer.

A lot of what happens at these signings is up to you, how well you engage your audience, how prepared you are in terms of books and marketing materials, and how appealing those social media sites are to the readers who decide to visit them after meeting you. If your website is listed on your bookmark (and it really should be) then readers shouldn’t meet a blank, lackluster or worse nonexistent page when they get there. If you bother to list other social media sites like twitter, make sure you’re actually active on them otherwise it’s better to just leave them off your promo material.

Most importantly, like any event or special promotion when it comes to your book, it is up to you to make sure people know about it, to actively promote it on all your social media platforms beforehand, WEEKS beforehand, so that it is on everyone’s radar. Many time’s at library conferences, attendees have already mapped out what events and workshops they want to go to before they even arrive. You want to make sure your signing is on their to do list, that you aren’t an afterthought or just someone they saw in passing, but didn’t have time to stop and meet because of their full schedule. Although CBE does announce the signing on our social media platforms and sometimes in the show schedule if it is offered, not every show or company does, and it might be solely up to you to promote your event. For example, for my Barnes and Noble book signing, although the event was listed on their site, had I not made posters announcing it and shared the event on my social media sites, no one would have known I would be there. It is very important for your own reader base to hear it from you, and to see it in as many places as possible. That is just a part of your job as a self published author, and if you want good results and growth it can’t be avoided.

If you’re paying for a service like autographing through CBE Authors, or a table at NYCC it’s important to know how it works beforehand, to really understand the service and put your part to make it the best it can be for your book. Even authors who have publishing deals are required to put their time in with marketing, albeit not always in the same ways, but they do give interviews, have signings and either post about these on their social media or have people at their publishing houses do it.

My point is, you wouldn’t have a party and not send out an invitation right? Think of your author events as parties, invite everyone you know even if they won’t be in the area, because they might know someone who is going and mention it to them and word of mouth is your most powerful marketing tool!

If you have any questions about any of these events or the process please comment below and I will be happy to answer them! You can also email me at [email protected]


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