How to set up a book signing as an independent (self-published) author



Organizing and setting up a book signing as an independent author will take effort, creativity and strategic thinking


Setting up a book signing as an independent author is harder than ever. When I published my first book, Breathing God, through a print-on-demand company called PublishAmerica, I was actually able to set up two book signings at Walden Book sand Borders with some ease.

All I did was walk in with a copy of my book, asked to speak with a manager, and we set up the signing on the spot.


Unfortunately, both of those book stores have gone out of business. The only major brand book stores left in Pittsburgh (where I live) are Barnes & Noble and Half Priced Books. Neither of those companies will allow independent authors to do book signings unless their wearhouse already has the books in stock.

That’s going to be my goal in the next few months, and you can learn about the tedious and intimidating process of getting your books into Barnes & Noble here.

It’s actually not as important to host book signings nowadays to market your book since social media can reach out to a much larger audience than ever before. However it’s still a fulfilling experience that can give authors exposure with interacting with buyers and potential readers and feeling comfortable “pitching” the book to complete strangers.


Location: Think of Someplace Different

If you’re an author, consider either an independent book store, a coffee house or a restaurant with an interior decor that would match the feel you want from a book signing.

I set up my book signing with The Oven Pizza Co. The environment in cozy and the customers are similar in demographics to the readers I’m trying to approach. I was able to set this up because I know the owner and managers of the restaurant (I also used to bake pizza crusts for them).

The event went really well overall. I spent the day hanging out with great people and ended up selling 20 copies of the book. That’s a small sales number in comparison to most traditional book signing events, but when you’re an independent author you must learn to appreciate every single sale. That is 20 sales that I would have likely never made without the signing, so it’s easy to enjoy the small victory with that perspective in mind.


This photo was taken by a reader who came to the book signing.

Set the Stage Ahead of Time

Just because you set up an event, it doesn’t mean people will come! You have to annouce it to as many people as possible.

In the weeks leading up to the book signing, I announced the event everywhere I could (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram…). In addition, The Oven also hit their newsletter list and mentioned the event to their social media fans.

On top of that, I sent out a press release to the various local media outlets. Here you can download my sample press release, which should help you put one of your own together.

Compile a list of local media ahead of time and send it out a few days before the signing. Don’t expect any media coverage, especially if you’re not well known and the book signing is held in an a-typical place. But fortunately three local papers, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Pittsburgh City Paper and the Pine Richland Patch included announcements on their sites and papers.

At the book signing, two people said they bought the book because they read the announcements in the paper.


Enjoy the Moment & Be Confident

Setting up your book signing at a coffee house or casual restaurant could attract readers who normally wouldn’t have discovered your book.
(This photo was taken by a reader who attended the book signing)

Not every person that comes up to you during the signing will buy the book. Don’t be desperate and try to force a sale to everyone you talk to, but definitely show your enthusiasm and confidence in your own work. Enjoy the experience of talking to people.

It’s also going to be awkward and uncomfortable at times when people look at you and you’re standing there by yourself waiting for someone to come up and talk. Smile and do your best to be at ease. Body language is everything from the walking bystander. If you can’t show confidence in yourself, then you definitely won’t have people interested in talking with you!

It’s also helpful if you invite friends or family to keep you company during the dull moments and give you a boost of encouragement.


What About You?

Have you held a book signing in the past? What was your experience like? What are some helpful tips you’d like to pass on to others?


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