How to Make Your Book Signing Event Completely Successful

carol tankSome of my ideas for marketing might be considered a little outrageous – but this one, however wacky it might seem, could attract the right attention for a book signing.

Recently, I had the good fortune to be invited to do a book signing at a hotel. The manager who hosts a weekly cocktail party wanted to surprise guests by having me there, signing copies of the book that features his hotel. Attendance to these events has been dropping off and he wanted to make it a little more interesting.

Hubby and I stayed a few nights in the hotel ahead of the big day, because it was our wedding anniversary. As is the case with hotels, there are often clients who insist on pestering you, whether that be when you are sitting at breakfast or slumped by the pool, or attempting to enjoy a drink at the bar. They always want to ask you where you have come from and tell you about their day or where to visit while you are on holiday. My husband is not tolerant of these people at the best of times and since this was ‘our time’, he didn’t want anyone annoying him.

After a heavy first night celebrating the aforementioned anniversary, and wearing sunglasses to hide our red eyes, we descended to breakfast in the lift. It stopped three floors above the dining room. The door opened to reveal two particularly nosey people we’d noticed the day before. They were the sort who latch onto new people and regale them with photographs of their grandchildren. My husband for no reason other than devilment, put up his hand to halt their entrance, wagged his finger and said “Nyet!” in his best Russian accent. The two people nodded at us and backed off.

We went into breakfast and hid in an alcove where no one could bother us.

Later that day, we overheard a conversation between three people below our balcony. In excited tones one of them announced there was a celebrity, flanked by a bodyguard, staying at the hotel. Well, we decided to play on that. We set off for a walk. Hubby now dressed in a black t-shirt, sunglasses and sporting an earpiece taken from my personal music player walked beside me looking fierce. We attracted a lot of attention from the sunbathers.

Someone asked the hotel manager about us. He thought he’d join in the fun. He fuelled the rumours, suggesting the guests might like to come to the cocktail party and meet the VIP. Who was it? Well, it was a surprise.

The book signing was a massive success. Most of the hotel guests came along to the cocktail party to see what the fuss was about. I sold out of copies within the first fifteen minutes and had to take orders to send books when I got back home.

The manager was delighted. His evening was a success. Guests queued to talk to me. When questioned, I explained that Hubby wasn’t really my Russian bodyguard which only served to fuel the interest further as everyone thought it a brilliant wheeze and publicity trick. That led me to think hard about possibilities for making a book signing a more successful event.

I’ve talked before about how to have a successful book signing event. (I’m Coming Out) To make it even more successful you need to create a buzz around the event. An element of mystery or suspense can help. So, mad as they may seem, here are a few suggestions to get you thinking:

• Walk about town on the day of the book signing, surrounded by either ‘body guards’ or ‘film crew’. Use friends, older children, relatives or anyone suitable and willing to play along. People are naturally curious if they think you might be famous. Make sure you have one or two people planted en route who will be able to tell curious members of the public, “Haven’t you heard of X (your name)? They’re the next hottest thing since Fifty Shades (or whatever genre you prefer). They’re doing a book signing. They’re expecting quite a few people to attend. Are you going?”

• Set up a team to give out flyers for the event. Ask them to dress up in appropriate attire, so if your book is about basketball, get your team kitted out in sportswear, or if it is a period drama, hire costumes (or raid your Nan’s attic. There’s sure to be something up there you can use). Often friends will do this for little more than a trip to the pub afterwards.

• Ask as many of your friends, neighbours, relatives as possible to support you by forming a lengthy queue outside the book signing venue a half an hour before the event and cheering loudly when you arrive in a chauffeur-driven car. (Driven by another friend.)

• Better than a chauffeur driven car is a tank, or similar. No, I haven’t lost the plot! I phoned an ex-military vehicle establishment near me who said they’d be willing to drive me to an event in a small tank or a personal carrier, merely for the publicity it would create for them. You’ll be surprised at how many places will be willing to help for publicity alone. I checked with some local stables who breed carthorses. Again, they said they’d happily provide a carthorse and carriage should I need them.

• Finally, how about dressing up in outrageous clothes à la Lady Gaga or similar for the event and parading down the street in them? Anyone who has the audacity to dress like a superstar must be one. You’ll certainly get some raised eyebrows. I discovered wearing a leather jacket, bright orange mini skirt and thigh length boots with dangling multi-coloured earrings attracted far more attention than my usual attire of jeans and hoodie.

I’m sure you can think of other ways to create a buzz. You only need a little imagination, a few fun-loving friends and a dash of insanity.

37 thoughts on “How to Make Your Book Signing Event Completely Successful

    • I;m flattered by your comment, Wendy. As long as you think outside the box, there are infinite ways to launch your book and make it a huge success. (Provided you are willing to be a tiny bit mad.)

  1. Hilarious. I actually did a similar thing, unintentionally, to your first suggestion at my first World Fantasy Convention book signing. A bunch of friends who also attended the convention crowded around my table near the outset. As we were chatting, I caught several passersby frowning and looking at my name tag to see who this popular author was. :D

    • Lynne, I am sure you are a popular author even without your friends but yes, I recommend gathering a ‘fake’ crowd. People are curious creatures. It works every time.

  2. Carol, you are a wag! And if anyone could get away with those kind of antics I’m sure it would be you!

    An excellent, funny post, and definitely food for thought

    • Aw, thank you, TD. I’ve got that age where I may as well behave badly. I haven’t got too long left so why not? My current efforts to become well-known have my husband rather worried. I’ll explain more next time.

  3. Pingback: How a Russian Bodyguard Made My Book Signing a Success | Facing 50 with humour.

  4. This is a great post. I have found book signings to be on the boring side, often with little results for the effort. After reading your post, it seems that I am the one who has failed — failed to turn a book signing into an EVENT

    • I have a feeling that you and I together would be a formidable combination, Sheryl. Dangly earrings and George Clooney-a-like are ready to rock ‘n’ roll!

  5. You’ve got me thinking now, Carol! I might just invite some very good looking American soldiers to my book-signing – you never know what might happen )
    Marilyn x

  6. Carole, you did great, creative job with that signing event. It’s all about networking and creating excitement.

    I have big plans for my next book signing. I write nonfiction about the things I do. My book Bountiful Bonsai is about growing large scale tropical bonsai that actually produce a “bountiful ” harvest. There are 80 photos in the book and some of the citrus bonsai had as many as 100 pieces of ripe fruit when we took the pictures. I’m also a serious winemaker with a large circle of wine groupies. I’ve promised to serve wines made from the actual fruit illustrated in the book. Many have already committed to coming to a signing that won’t occur until December. I have a very active social life as a musician and organizer in local meetup groups. I will put up posters and give handouts to publicize as the date grows nearer.

    I haven’t picked a venue yet, but may use the mansion of a multimillion dollar friend who regularly has parties with well over 100 people in attendance. I’ve performed musically and served my wines at his parties. I expect at least 200 people to show if we do this there. We will likely have my drum group and the belly dance troop we perform with at the event. Potential attendees will say, “You had me at belly dancers!”

    I’m currently working on a collection of nonfiction philosophical essays based on my author persona as the Hillbilly Savant that I plan to self publish and should be out before then. I’m also preparing a book proposal on Craft Winemaking for my agent.

    I’ve learned a lot since my first book signing at the B. Dalton store in a mall where I shopped for books as a child. The only attendee was the superintendent of my school district whose wife was a close friend of my Mother and had already purchased a copy directly from me. Many of you here have seen and liked my Facebook author page which is my main social media platform. I am The Hillbilly Savant.

    • Richard, I can see huge potential here for you…well, not too huge for the Bonsai ;) You have fantastic potential with these subjects. If ever you need a hand with anything to do with a wine event, let me know. I’ll happily come and pour a few glasses!

      • It’s a bit far for you to come to Colorado for a book signing, but you would certainly be welcome. Do you think you could pour glasses of Jasmine Flower wine?
        Actually, some of my bonsai are over 6 feet tall, big enough for a bountiful harvest!

        • For Jasmine Flower wine, I’d travel the globe. I’m going to have to check out your bonsai. They sound incredible. I have a friend who grows them but she only has the small versions.

  7. Wow. That was fabulous. It sounds like a fun weekend and quite the way to throw the book signing. Great ideas for the rest of us, if only we can pull them off with as much finesse as you.

    • RJ, one of the bonuses of getting older is you become braver. I’d never have done this years ago and now, I’ll pretty much have ago at anything. I’d draw the line at bungee jumping into a store through the roof though.
      It was a fun time. Luckily, Mr Grumpy was in a fun mood. It could have gone the other way!

    • Hi Nicole! It was definitely funny. He still looks smug about it whenever I mention it. I’m taking him along to my next event. He’s priceless.

  8. You’re my kind of spirit…. find humor in spite of life’s obstacles! I have willing belly dancers who’d love to show up and show off their 50 Shades of Glitter! Congrats on all your success. You seem to Just Add Spice wherever you go!

    • Oh Kathleen you are completely on my wavelength. I’m actually writing about a group of belly dancers in my WIP and you can guess what I’ll be doing for the launch of the book, can’t you? Life is too short to be a wallflower. Send me photos of your event. I’ll post them on my blog…50 Shades of Glitter -love it!

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