From Rick:

Once again, we’re cross-posting some great advice from the 13Thirty Books blog. This time, Rich Devin shares some tips on how to improve your sales at book signings. Now, we realize that these are somewhat rare events at bookstores for indie authors, but they don’t have to be at bookstores. And some of Rich’s tips can be extended and applied to marketing in general with the idea of improving your chances at getting noticed. It’s all about presentation. So, we hope that our readers will find useful information here.

–Rick

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From Rich Devin:

Barnes and Noble recently hosted 13Thirty Books with an author meet and greet, and book signing. It was a warm sunny Saturday afternoon with customers streaming in. Barnes and Noble had the publisher’s tables set up perfectly, right inside the front door adjacent to the check out and close to the cafe. People could not miss us.

On Two Fronts authors, Sgt. Adam Fenner and Lance Taubold were in attendance. Their book had just received some very good press. That, combined with the work both authors had done with social media and Barnes and Noble’s own advertisements would certainly (we hoped) have at least a few people lining up to buy a book and meet the authors.

I was also there, signing my book Ripper – A Love Story with co-author Lance Taubold. I too had made sure to hit the social sites with news of our signing and I Tweeted about it at regular intervals. I arrived just a few minutes before the event was scheduled to start. I was very happy with the placement of the table. It was tastefully covered with a nice tablecloth that hung about halfway down the table. Stacks of books that Barnes and Noble had ordered were placed on the table. It was a great start, but from my perspective, the table setting wasn’t quite ready to receive customers.

To the casual observer, everything was in place and ready to go. For me… there was a bunch of work to do. I work for the world’s largest gaming company, in marketing, so I cannot help but to look at every opportunity to sell from a marketing professional’s viewpoint. Now, I like writing books, and I do like to do book signings, but I love marketing. So, before we even greeted one customer, I set out to make a few simple changes that would guarantee that we presented ourselves at our best, so that we would sell as many books as possible. And you too, can take on these simple marketing maneuvers to maximize sales at your next signing.

NUMBER ONE: Ensure that your table is in a great location. Not hidden behind rows and rows of boxes or shelves, or in some far off corner of the store. We had a table in a great location, but the table itself wasn’t inviting. It needed to be merchandised. The first thing we did was clear off the table and start with a clean slate. The table cloth that Barnes and Noble had provided was fine, but it was hung in such a way that anyone walking in the door to the store could see under the table. When an author was sitting down, a customer would be looking at their feet and the boxes stored underneath. It looked sloppy. We re-hung the tablecloth so that it completely fell to the floor at the front of the table. Then, we leaned large foam backed posters of book covers from books published by 13Thirty Books. Now, we were not only “selling” the books that Barnes and Noble had ordered for the signing, but many of the other books from the publisher and the front of the table looked clean and neat.

NUMBER TWO: Next, we “merchandised” the table with books, signage and marketing material. Our books had been stacked and fronted when we arrived–that was ok, but it made the layout look a little too messy, so we moved the books back from the table front, stacking them strategically around the sides of the table, allowing plenty of room for the author to sign. Then we placed several books in table-top stands so that they were clearly visible to anyone even glancing our way. In between the stands we placed a few bookmarks, small foam board backed book covers, and other marketing material so that people waiting for their book to be signed would have something to pick up and handle and also learn more about the upcoming books from the publisher. What we didn’t have on the table were cell phones, water bottles, coffee cups, food or anything else that would distract from the task at hand–selling books! We all have cell phones. And during a long day of signing, we need coffee or water or a bite to eat, but it does not all need to be displayed along with the books that you’re there to sell. Keep them off to the side, behind you, or under the table.

NUMBER THREE: We stood behind the table. We only sat down when we were signing. That’s right, the rest of the time we stood. Why? Because you don’t greet company sitting down. You stand up, invite them in and provide a warm welcome. People are much more apt to come to you if you are up and welcoming them. Sitting down behind your table puts a wall up between you and your potential future readers.

NUMBER FOUR: We got to work. It wasn’t enough to have a clean well merchandised table, and authors at the ready. We needed to let people know who we were. While Adam and Lance stood at the table, I worked the door. As every customer walked in, I greeted them with a “Hello, we have some new and exciting authors signing today. A Jack-the-Ripper romance and a soldiers’ story of serving in Afghanistan.” At the same time, I handed each person walking in a business card of each of the books we were signing. As a side note: we use business cards instead of bookmarks to pass out as they are much cheaper and easier for people to carry around. And I just didn’t hand out the cards in a random fashion. I made sure that the cards were face up in the correct position so that the customers coming in could easily read them at a glance. And I placed the card for Ripper – A Love Story on top when a woman was entering, and the card for On Two Fronts on top when a man was entering. Yes–I know, that’s profiling. And that’s exactly what marketers do. Now, with business cards in hand, customers would look to the table where Lance and Adam immediately said hello and invited them over.

By following these simple steps we made the environment in which we made “selling” more inviting, and in the end… We sold books! In less than the three hours that we were scheduled to sign, we sold out of all the books Barnes and Noble had in stock.

Think of your next book signing as if you were a “store front” or a “display counter” and merchandise your space so that you maximize your sales position, and like us, you too will be invited back.

–Rich Devin