How to Make Book Signing Events More Engaging

By Bridgitte Jackson-Buckley, author of The Gift of Crisis​ (October 2018)

A few weeks ago there was a book signing event I was incredibly excited to attend. The author recently published a beautifully illustrated informational book, and it was on social media the author would be on book tour at local bookstore. Happily, I put the date of the signing on my calendar, told the kids about it, and decided on my outfit beforehand. Again, I was totally excited to go!

The day of the event, I made preparations to arrive early. My normal modus operandi is to arrive 20 minutes before event start time, hoping I will get lucky with last minute parking and seating. Not this time. I made sure we left home with ample time to deal with L.A. traffic and L.A. parking.

When we arrived at the bookstore, it was packed! There were so many people standing around, looking for seats and buying the author’s book. There were women, men, and children of various ages and ethnicity, the bookstore owners, and friends and family of the author. It was so exciting! There was high energy, anticipation, and good chatter amongst those of us simply waiting to see her, the author.

The author sat in a corner of the bookstore behind the signing table, and watched patrons buy her book and fill seats. Once all the seats were taken, adults stood in corners and children squeezed in between chairs on the floor. When the bookstore owner walked out in front of the audience to introduce the author, you could have heard a pin drop. Silent anticipation filled the space. We were waiting for her. I was waiting for her. The bookstore owner eloquently introduced the author.

With my shoes off, one copy of her book on my lap, my son seated cross-legged on the floor and my daughter leaning against the wall, I watched her move to the front of the audience.

‘Speak! Tell us! Tell us! Give us the backstory! Tell us how you decided upon this creative project! What was your inspiration? Process? Moments of doubt? Unexpected creative surprises?! Speak!’ I thought.

And so it began!

The author stepped in front of the audience and we applauded. She was delighted to see so many diverse faces in support of the book. So were we! She read a few passages from the book (very nice!), took three questions (all that were asked), including one from me, did a sample drawing illustration of how she created the figures in the book, and…30 minutes later, that was it.

Wait.

What about everything else?

I wanted to know so much more about…I don’t know…whatever else I didn’t know!

It’s an incredible undertaking to write a book, to illustrate a book, to market a book and to sell a book. There was a lot of effort made and work put in, on her part, to bring this project to completion. As book readers, one can only imagine; as book authors, we know how much work is involved. I thought she would talk about something behind the scenes, or tell us something we would like to know but didn’t know we wanted to know. I thought it would be engaging, informative, and at minimum exciting.

However, it was… anti-climactic.

Let’s be clear. I’m not saying I went to the signing merely to be entertained. Seeing that most in attendance already purchased the book, the notion of selling the book at the event was redundant. Most people held 2–3 copies of the book! And the line for the cash register was still long.

I couldn’t help but wonder what else could have been done at the book signing in lieu of what is usually done.

With so many in attendance this was another opportunity to be creative and fun, and maybe do something unique. This was the type of signing I would imagine all authors want, an event filled with people who (mostly) all have bought your book! So why not celebrate with the audience? Why not just have fun with the audience since you’ve met the goal?

While I am not a marketing expert, or event planner, I thought perhaps some of the following could have made the event more engaging:

  1. An audience tally of their favorite chapter, scene, character, etc.
  2. Tips for brilliant social media marketing (This is how the author got the book deal!).
  3. A contest, or giveaway for the person who traveled the farthest distance to attend.
  4. Have audience members read a favorite passage in the book and tell why it’s their favorite.
  5. Select three members of the audience to tell their favorite “word of mouth” recommendation for your book. How do they describe your book to someone who has not read it?
  6. Spread the love. Talk about two of your favorite books (perhaps similar to your book) that audience members may not know about.

Despite my feeling that the event fell short, I have to say the author did not. She was gracious, kind and took the time to speak briefly with every single person who waited in line for her to sign the book. There was so much light in her eyes while she interacted with children and adults and thanked them for attending. There is nothing worse that meeting someone you admire and feel blown off by them. I can tell that each person who attended felt they were seen by author and given the gift of her time and attention.

It was apparent the audience, regardless of the perspective in which they attended the signing (as a book reader or fellow author) was excited for her, and for the book.

Bridgitte Jackson Buckley is a freelance writer, author and ghostwriter whose focus includes spirituality, transformational documentaries, and in-depth interviews. She is a former contributor to General Religion on the National circuit of Examiner.com as the National Spirituality Examiner. She’s interviewed many New Thought luminaries including Eckhart Tolle, Iyanla Vanzant, Deepak Chopra, and Elizabeth Gilbert. As a freelance writer, she has written online articles for Examiner, Tiny Buddha, Recreate Your Life Story, Thrive Global, Medium, Gaia and Patheos’ Spirituality Itself. She is a fluent Spanish speaker and has traveled extensively throughout Central America including Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Additional travels also include Hong Kong, Malaysia and (her favorite adventure) Thailand. She currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband, three children and Miniature Schnauzer.

Comments

  1. The problem is although someone is a good writer, they may be very poor speakers or communicators and miss the point of knowing how to connect with an audience and even more, the value of doing so.

  2. Excellent thoughtful remarks. Assessing ones audience such as you suggest is so important, and having the wonderful luxury of speaking with people, who are already sold, so to speak, does open up the opportunities for interaction. For my part, I become overwhelmed with tasks, if I am flying solo in these events. So, I have taken to inviting friends to join me in taking care of some of the administrative tasks like interfacing with the host of the event for fine tuning: water and pens at the table, checking the mic, if there is one to be used, etc. I’ve learned from miscues and mistakes that the more I can focus on the audience the better presenter I am.

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