Most self-published authors would love to land a book signing at a well-known, national bookstore like Barnes & Noble or a well-established independent bookstore like Changing Hands in Phoenix, Arizona. These bookstores act as hubs for their local community—a place where people enjoy browsing and buying books, learning new things, and hanging out. Hosting book signings that support local authors gives bookstores the opportunity to serve their community while also cultivating new and returning customers.
For you as an author, a book signing validates the appeal of your book, expands your readership, and ramps up your own credibility as a writer and expert. But before bookstores will carry a self-published book or host your book signing, they need assurance about the quality of the book, people’s interest in buying it, and that they’ll make a profit selling it.
Take these 3 steps to land a book signing at a bookstore:
- Write a great book that people want to buy, read, and recommend.
This goes without saying, but to compete with millions of other books—especially those published by traditional publishers—you’ve got to write a great book that readers want to invest their time and money in. I could share a lot about how to write a great book (including hiring a writing coach, professional editor, and/or a ghostwriter). But the most important advice I can offer is this: don’t try to write a great book alone. If you’re a first-time author, you’ll need substantive feedback, professional editing, and multiple revisions. Bookstores want to see quality writing, healthy sales (or the potential for healthy sales soon after your book launch), and enthusiastic reviews recommending your book. They’ll also be happy if you’ve done your research about their store and any guidelines they might already share online about book signings at their store.
- Ensure your book cover and sales copy rocks.
People do judge a book by its cover. In fact, books live or die by the title, subtitle, book design, and sales copy on the cover. You need a book cover that “sells” your book. Readers take seconds to decide whether to pick up your book or click on a thumbnail image online. If the cover catches their eye, readers might quickly scan the book description, author bio, any reviews, your table of contents, and/or a quick page from the book. That process takes less than a minute. Similarly, a bookstore employee can quickly evaluate your book, its cover, sales copy, and potential for sales. One of the best ways to ensure you’ve got a winning book cover and sales copy that rocks is to hire assisted self-publishing services from a reputable independent book publisher. Without that, your self-published book might not pass muster, especially to those in the book business.
- Offer bookstores a wholesale discount and make your book returnable.
Bookstores, retailers, and libraries order their books through the Ingram Catalog. As a self-published author, to get your book in that catalog, you’ll need to set up an account with IngramSpark. While bookstores want to support local authors, they obviously need to make a profit from book sales. So when they order your book, they’ll expect it to be appropriately priced with a wholesale discount. The industry standard is a 55% discount with the option to return your book if it doesn’t sell well. Given this discount to bookstores, you can, in general, make more money by selling your book directly to consumers. But a book signing increases the credibility of your book—and that’s worth gold.
Now Just Ask!
By taking all 3 steps, including the ability to provide evidence that readers want to buy your book, you should feel confident about asking a bookstore if they’d host a book signing. I recommend you ask in person with your book in hand and an author sales sheet printed in color. Your sales sheet should provide details like the book’s ISBN numbers, author pic and bio, and a few juicy reviews.
Once you land that book signing, be sure to share all about it on your social media channels. Don’t be shy. Get out there and change the world with your words!
*Photo of Melissa Leon at Barnes & Noble Dana Park Village Square, Mesa, Arizona, March 25, 2023. Efficiency Bitch: How Ambitious Women Can Have It All Without Doing It All. Book cover design by Jana Linnell.