My First Public Book Signing and What I Learned

Recently I was invited to be a part of the Freeland
Arts Fest as their first participating author. Vacillating between agony and
ecstasy preparing for it, the day turned out to be fun, educational and
surprising. I propose the following as food for thought if you will be in a
similar situation:

1.      Stand,
do not sit.
I had heard this from other authors, and it is probably the most
important advice for a successful day. Since this was an Arts Fest, people were
there for the music, food and artists. Oh, and the wine—definitely the wine. They
milled about perusing artists displaying jewelry and crafts. For the price of admission,
they could sample all the food and wine (did I mention the wine?) they wished. Luckily, my table was right
at the end of the silent auction, which included a copy of Love’s Destiny. As people strolled by, I was standing by my table
greeting them. This is important because I have noticed at art fairs some artists
sit at the back of their booths staring out at the crowds doing nothing to promote
interest in their art. I was not going to do that; I was going to reel them in
as best I could.  I commented on women’s
outfits, on their shoes, or on a campaign button displayed on a purse (she
bought my book).  At first I just spoke
to women, and then I realized I was missing half of my potential audience. I
began to greet men with, “Do you have a woman in your life who likes to read
romance novels?” A few of them actually brought their wives/significant others
back to my table. Standing and interacting brought action to my site.
2.      Have
a Plan B
. The agony of preparation was that the books I had ordered did not arrive
in time for the Arts Fest, and therefore, what would I sign? I had five copies
of my book: one to donate and four to sell. Rich suggested I hold back a copy
so that when I sold out I could at least show the book to interested readers.
That left me three to sell. Using Microsoft Publisher, I created a postcard 4 ¼
by 5 ½ with my cover on one side and a blurb of Love’s Destiny, where to buy it, my photo and contact information
on the back. I had a stack of postcards made up and wondered what they would look
like signed, so I signed one.  I liked
the look of it, and at least one woman took a postcard only because it was
signed. They were a hit, especially for people who wanted to order a copy for their
Kindle, Nook, iPad, etc. At the end of the festival, I saw many flyers and
brochures on the ground or the floor of the ladies room, but not one of my
postcards, so people must have liked them!
3.      What
I brought
. Since the paperback edition of Love’s
sells for $14.95, I put together a cash box with five dollar bills
and two rolls of quarters for change. Now I did this in high hopes that I would
have an eleventh hour delivery of books, but I did need to give change for the
ones I sold there, and now I’m ready for my next book signing. I also bought
fine tip Sharpie markers in a variety of colors.  I signed the books with red, and the cards with
black, brown and red to coordinate with the colors on my cover.  Black showed up the best. Another part of the
agony was what to write when I signed a book. 
It has been easy to personalize messages for my friends and family, but
what to say to a complete stranger?  In
some I wrote “Wishing you peace, love and joy” and in others “May you find your
love’s destiny” and, of course, Elizabeth Meyette.  I also made an 8 ½ by 11” print of my cover
and inserted it into a clear plastic display stand to have on my table. And
Hershey’s Kisses—I brought two bags of Hershey’s Kisses. Get it…romance novel…kisses.
Of course you do. Because I had only three books, I used a card table that
looked cozily crowded rather than a long table that would have looked sadly
4.      Get
to know the other artists
. I made some wonderful connections with the artists
around me. In fact, the jeweler at the next booth bought my book, and the owner
of the winery two booths down is donating gift certificates as giveaways at my
next book signing at Creative 360. 
Actually, my invitation to participate came from an event I attended at
Creative 360 where the band Empty Canvas played as local artist and musician Mike McMath  painted while he sang. Also at that event I
met a woman who recommended me to a magazine who will feature me in their
November issue plus another book signing. Network, network, network!
5.      So
what was surprising
? First of all, unbeknownst to me, my daughter, Kate and her
husband, Todd, drove 2 ½ hours to be there. 
I looked up and suddenly there was my beautiful daughter smiling at me!
Secondly, the day flew by.  With so few
books and 6 hours to be there, I thought the event might be tiring, but with awesome
music, great food,…did I mention the wine…and all the wonderful people I
met and talked with, the day flew by. I was also surprised at how many people wanted
to talk to me about their own writing. They asked for advice, looked for
encouragement, and were interested in my process. Because of the venue, I did
not give a presentation, but I loved sharing ideas with other aspiring
writers.  It was also surprising that
they looked to me as an expert—wow, pretty humbling.
6.      Enjoy!
As Rich said, my other book signings may not be as exciting since we had so
many amenities at this one. Whatever venue I find myself in, my goal is to
enjoy the experience. After all, I waited a long time for this dream to come
true. I’m going to suck the marrow out of every moment.

10 thoughts on “My First Public Book Signing and What I Learned

  1. Yay, Betty! You went, you conquered – and you enjoyed! Cary and I have a book signing coming up in December, our first for Morgan O'Neill. I will take your advice and enjoy – and thank you so much for all of the other tips.

  2. What a great experience, Betty, successful in ways you may not have predicted. Thanks for sharing.

    I was at Toronto's Word on the Street on Saturday, but with the Toronto Romance Writer's booth. I agree with you. I stood out in front of the table and lassooed people in, asking if they like a little romance in their lives. I did hand out my postcards with candies attached, but didn't have any print books to sell.

    I would love get involved in more of these artistic endeavors.

  3. Barb Grady says:

    Wish I could have been there, Betty. However, I almost feel as if I was with your great description of the event and your preparation! Thanks for sharing the details.

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