News room: 3 top tips for a successful book signing

3 top tips for a successful book signing  by Sarah Juckes

Book signings and events tend to be things that new authors look forward to – and dread at the same time. To find out what you can do to make your event a success, we spoke to indie superstar, Mark Leslie. Mark has travelled all over the world doing events and, as you’ll see below, knows a thing or two about capturing attention.

Here are Mark’s top tips for a successful author event.

For many authors, having a bookstore invite or allow you to sign in their store is a wonderful feeling and a thrilling experience. But it can sometimes be a long and challenging stretch of time where you feel like that awkward teen sitting alone at a dance just waiting for someone to make eye contact and perhaps ask you to dance.

After all, you’re likely an introvert and far more comfortable in front of a keyboard or notebook than sitting at a table in the front of a store at a busy shopping mall. But there are a few things that can help ensure a more successful book signing. And, to be clear, my definition of success is having the chance to meet new people, perhaps share some information about your book, and maybe even selling a few copies.

1. Provide an Easy Ice-Breaker

People tend to be curious, particularly if they see your table set up inside the book store. So provide something associated with your book as a visible prop that might spark conversation.

Because I write horror and true ghost stories, the props I use to attract attention tend to be spooky in nature. I often do signings with Yorick the skull and Barnaby, a life-size pose-able skeleton, and have also hung a ‘Ghost Stories Told Here’ sign above my table.

Usually the people who are drawn in are among my target audience, and there’s instantly something to ease into conversation, whether it’s a question about the items or a simple joke, such as: “Your friend looks like he’s been waiting a long time.”

For those who AREN’T part of my target audience, the props tell them all they need to know to take a wide berth around me.

1. Close, but not TOO Close

When people see an author at a table they want to check it out. As mentioned above, folks are quite curious. But people can be a little leery of getting the “sales pitch” – they want to know what your book is about, but don’t want to feel pressured, and thus might not approach – just in case it’s not interesting to them.

This is where having a display of your books nearby (perhaps 10 feet or so away) works beautifully. Beside a small but noticeable display of your books, post a stand-up sign that reads.

TODAY: Meet the author of [INSERT BOOK NAME HERE]!”

This allows interested customers to check out the book without feeling the author hovering over them. They can relax and enjoy the experience of browsing, without the sense that the author is about to mount a ‘hard sales’ pitch at them.

Usually, those who are interested in the book’s topic will, more comfortably, approach the signing table typically to ask if you are the author, or a question about the book.

3. Sell Only To Your Target Audience

Any author who believes their book is great for everyone is demonstrating that they haven’t really properly thought who their target audience is.

The last thing I’ll ever believe is that my books are great for everyone. Horror is not everyone’s cup of tea, so I’m used to the fact that my target demographic audience is smaller than many others.

Yes, I’m enthusiastic about and eager to discuss my book – but I also pay attention to the person in front of me. And if it’s clear to me that they wouldn’t be interested, I’m honest with them and, I ask them what kind of books they normally like. If I’m familiar with another book that they might like, I mention THAT book to them. This gives them an easy “out” if they’re not interested, and leaves them with a positive feeling about me as an author. A few times, after having been honest and helpful, I’ve had people think of someone they know who might be interested in my book and have asked me to sign a copy they can give as a gift.

One of the worst things to do is have someone who isn’t interested in the topic or genre you’re writing, buy the book for themselves. It’ll most likely NOT be a pleasant experience for them, and they’re more than likely going to tell everyone they know that you and your book suck. Not a good thing. Why stack the odds against you?

Your mileage, of course might vary – and, there will be good days (ie, selling a lot of books), and less good days (selling nothing). Just remember that, even if you haven’t sold any copies, if you’ve spoken with people, and been seen, that’s part of getting visibility. It all adds to your author brand.

Mark Leslie is the author of the ONE HAND SCREAMING, I, DEATH, EVASION and A CANADIAN WEREWOLF IN NEW YORK. He also writes non-fiction paranormal explorations which include HAUNTED HAMILTON, SPOOKY SUDBURY, TOMES OF TERROR and CREEPY CAPITAL. He can be found online at or via Twitter @MarkLeslie.

More advice on book events:

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Written by
Sarah Juckes
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Promotion and Events