The craft and business of writing and self publishing

So you want to sign at an event? Here are some things I’ve learned

By Chelle Bliss

There’s been a lot of buzz about author events recently and I wanted to throw a couple things out there. There are so many misconceptions, unrealistic hopes, and harsh realities that many do not understand.

Here are a few questions I’ve been asked and what I’ve learned thus far.

  1. Am I going to make money at an event?

No! Most events are expensive, unless they’re near your hometown and there’s no need to pay for travel expenses. If traveling far from home, the cost of an event can climb quickly.

If you’re an author and expect to make money at an event… think again.

Let me break down the expenses of my last event in Nashville.

My Out of Pocket Costs for myself and my assistant:
Hotel: $500
Airfare: $800
Food & Misc: $500
Table Fee (yes, authors pay to attend): $250
Cost of Books & Swag: $2,300
Event Cost: $3,850

Authors should go to an event to meet the readers, make new connections, and spread the word about their work. Not to make money.

If your sole purpose is to make bank, you’re going to be very sad.

  1. How can I get people to come to my table?

It’s easy book-signing-300x199to get lost in the sea of people and long rows of table after table filled with swag. There are a few things you can do to draw readers to your table.

-Stand up. Don’t sit down and look bored. People will assume you’re boring
-Get the hell off your phone. Eye contact is critical
-Smile – you’ll look friendly even if you aren’t
-Talk to people – I know many authors are shy, but if you don’t say hello first neither will the attendees
-Give something away. Stand in front of your table and try to hand out literature, a free book, or a bookmark. Anything to engage the person
-If there’s a line in front of your table caused by another author – USE IT TO YOUR ADVANTAGE. Talk to the people! Introduce them to your books. Don’t sit there angry that you don’t have the line, too. Make the line work for you

  1. Why don’t you bring models?

Have you read #1? I mean, come on, the math doesn’t lie. Bringing a model is expensive.

Events are already a drain on the wallet and adding the cost of another person just compounds the hurt. Depending on travel costs, bringing a model can cost $500 or more. Some models want lost wages for missing work, which just adds to the expense.

I know a lot of authors bring models, but I don’t see the viability in it. If you’re trying to bring readers to your table – take the $500 and buy paperbacks and give them away. A book gains a reader more than a photo with a cover model.

I know you’re saying, “OMG, how dare she say that!”

Take a moment to think about it.

If your goal at an event is to reach out to new readers, why not give them a free book? Attendees are there for books, not to take a photo with a model (for the most part).

Get your book in their hands, tell them how amazing it is, and hope you’ve captured a reader for life.

I’m not knocking anyone. If you bring a model with you to events – my hats off to you for incurring the cost time-after-time and being okay with it.

My goal is to see my readers and hopefully find a few new ones.

Decide what your goal is before you start adding more costs than necessary.

Plus, I want to know the people in line are there for my words and not for the person standing next to me. Although Mr. Bliss has a pretty big following. 😉

  1. It’s hard to get invited to events. Should I pick any event?

The answer is simple – NO.

New events pop up every day. There are some amazing events out there that have a proven track record. Be very careful whom you give your money to in the future. There have been more than a few events that have been cancelled and authors had to fight with their credit card company to get their money back.

If you commit to attending an event, help promote the event as much as possible. Yes, an event organizer should advertise too, but if every author helps spread the word it will benefit everyone in the end.

I’ve become more selective with the events I will attend in the future. I’ve had some lousy experiences and try not to repeat the same mistake twice. Also, most authors aren’t invited – we seek out events and sign up like everyone else.

  1. How can I say yes to an event that’s over a year away?pins-in-calendar-busy

That’s a tough one. I see event forms floating around for 2017. I haven’t filled any of them out. Committing to an event too far in advance can be a hassle. No one knows his or her schedule that far in advance. Often times, authors have family obligations or personal issues that pop up and cause them to drop out. Organizers and readers need to understand that we have a personal life. Although we love every reader, our family must come first.

Organizers need to be patient and understanding with authors when this happens. Sometimes we screw up. We didn’t know cousin Jimmy was graduating and that there would be a party we’d have to attend. Trust me, family will not understand if you pick work over them. Please give authors a reprieve when necessary.

We’re humans too.

  1. What should or shouldn’t I do at a signing?

I could write an entire book about what not to do, but here are the biggest ones.

You should NOT:

-Get drunk – Remember this is a work event!
-Hang around in a clique and ignore everyone else
-Pack up before the event is over – you may miss someone that wanted to meet you
-Trash talk other authors

You should:

-Smile
-Talk to as many people as possible
-Be visible
-Ignore your phone, especially during the signing
-Be helpful, you never know who can become your next best friend

Go to events because you want to talk about your books. If you don’t like your books, no one else will.

Become a salesman. Think of how to sell your books to the people walking around that have never heard of you.

Don’t go to make money.

Go to engage with readers, have a few laughs with friends, and enjoy some time away from the computer.

I love events, but I know they are exhausting. I often come home wiped out and take days to recover.

If you’re shy – get over it.

Have a little fun and learn to be friendly!

..

Chelle Bliss

Chelle Bliss, USA Today Bestselling author, currently lives in a small town near the Gulf of Mexico in Florida. She’s a full-time writer, time-waster extraordinaire, social media addict, and coffee fiend. She’s written over thirteen books and has three series available. She loves spending her free time with her boyfriend, 2 cats, and her hamster. Before becoming a writer, Chelle taught high school history for over ten years. She holds a master’s degree in Instructional Technology and a bachelor’s in history. Although history is her first love, writing has become her dream job and she can’t imagine doing anything else. You can find out more about her on her website, Facebook and Twitter. Get all of her books on Kobo!

22 Responses to “So you want to sign at an event? Here are some things I’ve learned”

  1. James Young

    I think it depends on the event. I’ve had some success making a slight profit.

    I’d also add, as far as drawing attention, is to have something either as a backdrop and/or something that draws the eye at your table.

    Reply
  2. Jon Stephens

    Thanks for this advice. I’m nowhere near this stage yet (no pun intended), but this is great insight for when I get there!

    Reply
  3. deepalmer21

    Reblogged this on deepalmerwriter and commented:
    Super helpful blog post as I start to get ready for the few signings I have this year…might struggle with the “don’t get drunk bit ” 😉 Thank you Chelle xdee

    Reply
  4. Sharon Hamilton

    Thanks for the post, Chell, and I found this through Armand, so thanks to you too! I agree with most of this. Since I’m trying to promote my audio books, I bring my narrator to 2-3 events a year. He is not a model, but an actor, and I want my readers to meet him. It does sell audio books, and he’s as gracious as the day is long. We also have a great time hanging out together and double-teaming readers. I even have pirate posters he can sign if they want it. Yes, it adds to the expense, but OMG I do not spent that much on SWAG or food. So, in the end, probably the same. I’ve had a couple that broke even, but not many. Thanks for the advice.

    Reply
  5. Pat

    I have really enjoyed meeting you at a couple of events. As someone who goes to events to meet new authors, I love your advice.

    Reply
  6. Julie

    Hey Chelle! I blogged about this very topic not too long ago. Good to see we’re on the same page. 😉 Keep on keeping on!

    Reply
  7. Elaine Cougler

    Reblogged this on On Becoming a Wordsmith and commented:
    In January’s Kobo newsletter for authors I found this article by Chelle Bliss, USAToday Bestselling author. And she’s bang-on the money. I’ve reblogged this from her site but do go and have a look if you want to learn more about this multi-published award-winning author.

    Reply
  8. ❤️Marie Long❤️ (@marielongauthor)

    Great and helpful information that I will definitely keep in mind for my next signing! I have a question. How many books (on average) do you typically bring to a signing? If you have a series of books how many of each books do you usually bring?
    Also, what kind of swag do you bring to your signings?

    Reply

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