It's getting warmer out (well, sometimes. But global warming is fake news. Ignore that.) and soon it will be summer, the season of the most book signings! My last one was earlier this month and I always forget something so I had to make a list. I figured other authors are just as scattered as me and would like some ideas. In addition, I have a list for readers--things I've seen people bring or things I would bring myself. Hope these lists help!
1. Your books!
This seems pretty obvious, but make sure you have enough books! I usually bring around 10-15 if they're the first book in a series or standalone and 5-8 of everything else. It's also a good idea, if you know a lot of your readers will be there, to make a simple preorder form in Google Docs so you know just how many you should bring for at least some people. And you're gonna need a way to safely carry all these books. I've seen shopping carts, wagons, and I myself use suitcases.
2. Free Stuff
People. Love. Free. Stuff.
I'm not saying spend all your money on free swag, but bookmarks or book cards are a good idea. I usually have some postcard-sized versions of my covers with the synopsis on the back so if people don't want to commit to buying a book then and there, they can check me out online later. On my bookmarks, I always make sure all my links are on the back so they can find me easily that way! Other things I've seen are: candy, pens, keychains, chapstick, pins, stickers, totes, and all kind of things! Get creative and have fun with it!
3. Sign Up Forms
I get most of the people for my newsletter list at book signings. I have a clipboard and a simple sign up form where they can write their name and email. You can even give them more incentive to sign up by either entering them into a giveaway or giving them free ebooks in return!
You want people to know who you are. Staples has cheap and professional-looking banners, table runners, and all kind of signs. It helps if it looks pretty and it's simple. Too much is too confusing and people don't want to stop to read everything. It should catch the eye and make them want to find out more.
5. Table Cloth
Most events provide table cloths, but I've been to a few where there are none and trust me, it makes a HUGE difference. Use a neutral color (can't ever go wrong with black) so it doesn't clash with your books. I got mine at a Dollar General and it's paid for itself a trillion times over.
6. Book Display/stands
This is something most people don't think about until they see them on other authors' tables. I know that was the case for me. I use plate stands from (you guessed it) Dollar General and they work great! You can also buy actual book racks and stands made out of wood and metal on Amazon, and it cuts your setup time in half!
7. A giveaway item!
Again, people. Love. Free. Stuff.
I usually have whatever I'm giving away on my table with some sort of sign and what people have to do to enter (for instance, sign up for my mailing list or coming to my table and being the 50th person).
8. Duct Tape
It seems silly, but you will thank me. Any adhesive tape will do, but this one has saved me on many occasions. Once my sign kept falling down and I had to tape it to my table and another time the table cloth barely covered the ugly table and kept shifting so I had to tape them together. It comes in handy and it doesn't hurt to bring it! I would also recommend things like safety pins, paperclips, and rubber bands. No reason. They just always come in handy.
9. Change and some kind of credit card reader
Bring smaller bills so when people hand you cash you can make change for them. Also, it isn't a bad idea to get a square or paypal here device for your phone or tablet so if people don't have cash they can pay electronically. The paypal one is free!
If someone is buying your book, chances are they want you to sign it. I always have a ton of pens and markers handy!
*If it's possible at all, bring an assistant or friend. They come in handy when you're setting up and breaking down, watching things when you have to use the bathroom or get food, and keeping you calm when you're freaking out. I know, leaving the house is scary.
Even if you can't bring an assistant, ask someone nearby and most of the time they're glad to help!
*Make sure you say hi to everyone passing by your table, even if they don't look like they're going to buy anything. I genuinely like meeting people who like books, so I've never really had a problem. Maybe it's just from working so many years in retail, but a friendly hello sure does go a long way and even if they don't get a book right then, they might be just that much more willing to check you out later when they go home!
1. Marker and/or pens
Sometimes an author won't have one/forgot theirs, so make sure you have something handy! Also, if you want them to sign something that won't work with a pen, bring a permanent marker! Not all authors have them.
2. Things to sign!
You don't have to buy a book to get something signed! I've seen people bring T-shirts, bags, canvases, autograph books, kindle cases...you could really bring anything!
3. Your card (if you have one)
A business card, especially if you have a blog where you review books or if you have a service to offer, is always a good idea. I keep every one I get at each signing and then write them on my list for when I need those types of things!
Authors are rarely seen out in the wild, and they already have something in common with you: they love books! If you have questions about publishing, writing, paranormal creatures, or hell, where they got their pens, they'd love to make a connection with you!
5. Something to carry all your loot
You are most definitely going to get more books and swag than you expect, so plan accordingly. You don't want to be carrying it all in your arms the whole event, so bring a tote, a back pack, or something with wheels.
6. A friend!
Everything is more fun with a friend, and if you're shy like me or if it's your first signing, having someone to walk around with makes it so much more enjoyable!
7. A list of who you want to see/books you want to check out
A lot of these events have reader groups on Facebook where you can get to know who will be attending the signing! It's a chance to check out their books and see what you want to buy in person versus what you're not interested in or what you would rather buy in ebook form. If there's enough time before the event, you can even read some and talk to the authors about them! Nothing makes us happier!
8. Something to write notes with
I've seen a lot of people either write notes on their phones or carry around a piece of paper and a pen. They make a lap around the tables and study all the books, writing down what they like, and then they circle back to what grabbed their attention most!
9. Comfy shoes
You are going to be walking around a LOT. Make sure you're comfy and it wouldn't be a bad idea to dress in layers in case you get too warm or too cold.
I know it's a hassle and mostly everyone has some kind of credit card reader, but it's always a good idea to have cash on you just in case you really want something and one isn't available.
*Most places will have a raffle, so you should definitely take your time and stay for the whole event. I've been to so many where the winner never claims their prize because they left!
*A lot of the signings I've been to give you a sheet of paper with the authors' names for them to initial/sign so you visit each table. PLEASE try to at least make some conversation with each author, even if you aren't interested in their genre(s). So many people just shove a paper in my face and then leave without saying a word and it really doesn't feel nice.
*Have fun! We're just excited to be there as you, so take advantage of it!