The Book Signing: What to Expect

Get Savvy, Stepmom! by Kristin E. Smith and Mark Communications

It’s a moment that fills many a daydream – perhaps yours, too. Picture it: you walk into a bookstore, meeting room, or other venue. There’s someone there to greet you and set you up with a podium, mic, water, and anything else you need. Chatting with your host, you watch people filter in and take seats, waiting to hear you talk about your book.

Perhaps this vision fills you with excitement. Perhaps with raw fear. Perhaps a bit of both. Either way, below are pointers for a successful book signing event:

  • Clarify expectations. Prior to the event, make sure you and the event coordinator have thoroughly discussed specifics. How will they introduce you? How long do they want you to talk? Can you use audiovisual props? Will there be time for audience questions? (Note that event length varies, but you can expect about an hour for many events, generally with 20-30 minutes for Q&A.)
  • Dress comfortably but professionally. You want the audience to see you as approachable but also as an expert in your field.
  • Make sure you’ve eaten and are hydrated – but not too much. Ensure that you’re physically comfortable during the talk.
  • Know what you plan to say. Most authors don’t read the entire time. Instead, they talk about their book and how it came to be. If the book was ghostwritten, that’s okay. The audience is interested in you, your topic, and your commitment to getting the book out in the world. Talk about how you worked with the ghostwriter to complete the book.
  • Decide what, and how long, you plan to read. A reading of 5 – 10 minutes is generally sufficient to give the audience a sense of the book’s style and content. Select a passage that’s compelling and leaves readers wanting more. Before you begin to read, explain any context necessary to understand the passage.
  • Answer questions honestly. If you don’t know the answer, it’s fine to say you’ll look into it, then follow up.

Once the talk is over, some participants will want books signed. This part of the event, too, has considerations:

  • Have backup. If you’re handling your own sales (rather than doing sales through a bookstore), bring someone else along to manage the transactions. This allows you to focus on signing books and chatting with readers.
  • Bring a favorite pen for signing. You might want to have two, just in case.
  • Ask readers if they want the book personalized. If they do, ask for correct spelling. Everyone appreciates having their name spelled right!
  • Prepare a standard phrase to write. It can be as simple as “Best wishes!” or more directly related to your book.

If all this sounds daunting, don’t worry. The book signing is a wonderful way to connect with readers interested in your subject matter. The more events you do, the easier they become, so make sure to continue looking for opportunities and staying open to requests.

Above all, relax, breathe, and enjoy yourself! This is your moment! Congratulations!