Friday, March 27, 2009

Author Book Signings at Borders

Being a writer and being on the inside loop of a Borders bookstore, I was recently asked to post information for authors wishing to do book signings at bookstores.

I’ll begin by saying that sometime within the last two weeks, my Borders store has more or less decided to stop doing book signings. The manager in charge of event planning was laid-off due to nationwide cutbacks. And he had only taken over event planning a few months ago when the event planner for our district was laid-off due to previous cutbacks.

I had been willing to pick up the duties of events planner at my store, but I was required to pick up other duties and have found that I don’t have time to get everything done. The other managers and supervisors are in the same boat.

Originally, I thought it was just our store that was cutting back on events. But I read an article in the most recent issue of Publisher’s Weekly that describes a new author’s frustration about being unable to set up book signings at many bookstores around the country. Bookstores are aching nationwide and don’t have the manpower and funds to set up events.

This story has a somewhat happy ending, though. The author was finally able to schedule a book signing …at a Borders bookstore!

Now with that grim preface and a somewhat happy ending, I will say it is difficult but not impossible to schedule book signings at bookstores.

To schedule a signing:

- If your book is available from distributors such as Ingram or Baker & Taylor, or other sources that readily accept returns, you will have a much better chance of setting up a signing. The bookstore will then be able to order your books and have them ready for you.

- If your book is not available from a returnable source (for example, many self-published books are non-returnable) this may hurt your chances. But it’s not hopeless. Offer to bring copies of your own books. Customers purchasing your book will have to pay for them at the store’s cash register, not to you directly. So how do you get paid? You have to invoice the store for the number of books you sell, and the store sends that invoice to the corporate headquarters. Five to eight weeks later, you will receive your payment. So, this scenario is not impossible, but it is a tad inconvenient for you as the author and for the bookstore.

- When you call the store to set up a signing, and ask to speak to the manager in charge of events or any manager if that particular person is not working when you call (or if that position does not exist anymore, like in my store). Be polite – you would be surprised at the number of irate calls including calls from authors that stores receive per day.

- If you are able to set up a signing – congratulations! But the work doesn’t stop here. Book signings can be slooow. I’ve seen authors sit for hours in our store and sell only one book. Hopefully you’ve been scheduled for a Friday night or a Saturday when customer traffic is higher. Unless you are a very well-known writer and have a steady stream of customers waiting for your signature, I would recommend not sitting and waiting for people to approach you. Walk around, introduce yourself to customers, and show them your book. Be proactive.

This is all the information and advice I can think of for now. If you have any questions, please ask! Or if you have anything to add, feel free to post a comment and let me know!


Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

Thanks Anne! Very good info. I am in the process of choosing a time for a book signing and the tip about Friday night or Saturday morning is especially useful.

I know you are right about approaching customers, introducing myself, etc. I can be shy about that though. I hate being "pushy". But I think having a giveaway is probably my best bet so I can approach people with a gift!

Anne Greenawalt said...

Hi Joyce! I hoped some of this post would be useful for you.

I know what you mean about being "pushy." I'd have a hard time with that, too, but having a giveaway is a great idea! Like a bookmark or even just a business card. We had an author a little while ago who approached just about everyone who came into the store, gave them a business card and talked to them about her book. I think in just one evening at a low-traffic store she sold about 17 books, which is really good!

Good luck at your signing!

Nicole Johns said...

This is very helpful as I'm trying to set up some events, including some readings at local B&Ns and possibly Borders. I'm definitely hitting some obstacles and now I can understand why. I think I'm going to try for more of the independent bookstores and see how that fares. It's a tough world out there for the newly published, and for the bookstore.

Anne Greenawalt said...

Hi Nicole,
I'm glad this was helpful. After you've set up a signing or two, if you have any other tips, please let me know. I'm interested in hearing if the independent booksellers are more likely to set up events.

Unknown said...

This was very helpful, thanks for posting. I just sold my book and was unsure of when or how and I hate feeling unprepared.