Promotion 101: Why Authors Shouldn’t Do Book Signings

Book signings seem to be obsolete these days. The good thing about this is an author shouldn’t really care. While book signings are slipping from existence, there are more creative options coming out for authors to promote each year. Many of them have brought in more books sales than a signing ever will for today’s author. Whether you decide to embark on a book tour or have a signing, is your decision. I would like to point out, however why you shouldn’t be disappointed if book signings do not bring you the success you seek. They usually don’t and this is normal. Book signings can be very disappointing. I’ve outlined reasons why you shouldn’t do book signings, instead of reasons why you should. I will also mention options afterwards that are not only better sales-wise but a lot more fun.

Book Signings Are Short-lived Sales

Book signings take a lot of effort to set up. Even if you do sell at a signing, which is highly unlikely these days, these sales are short-lived and most times forgotten. The most an author sells at a bookstore book signing is less than ten books. Some sell less than five. They say it’s important for an author to build a relationship with the people in the stores. Why? Not only do the workers care less about an author these days, unless you made a big impact, they won’t remember you from another author who signed at the store. If you do make an impact you’ll be invited back. I’ve been invited back to stores many of times. But the myth that authors build relationships with the stores by doing signings is completely false. There is such a turn over with staff at bookstores that building a relationship is not even possible. Either way you’re not there to make friends. You’re there to sell books and often this does not happen.

No Guarantee That Your Book Will Stay in That Location

Some authors think that just because they do a signing that it means that specific store’s location will keep their books on hand. This is not true. There have been many instances where an author had a successful signing, even signed out only to have that store not to order more copies of their books. Do not believe that your book will stay in a location just because you did a signing. This is not a guarantee.

Big Book Stores Do Absolutely Nothing To Market A Signing

So you’re all excited about your signing huh? You’ve made all the arrangements and your publisher has set it up for you. You’re expecting a huge turnout. You’ve promoted through your local radio station or newspaper. You even had a big contest on your web site, showcasing the event. You get to the store Saturday at 2pm to find that no one is there. Well, except the workers. What’s going on? You wonder. This is the big let down. Bookstores do not promote signings anymore. They put your signing in one dinky store newsletter, make one little sorry sign that you could have done yourself and that’s it. You find once again that you’ve done all the legwork only to be disappointed.

The truth is that a signing takes the participation of a bookstore to promote it. If they don’t it not only shows their lack of appreciation for you as an author, but also it shows they simply do not care. The truth is that big chains have grown rather cold-hearted in terms of welcoming an author for a signing. Some locations help the author more than others but as a hold, big bookstores no longer go to the trouble of making authors feel welcome like the old days. The alternative option is signing at independent bookstores. Independent bookstores usually throw out the red carpet when an author’s doing a signing. They appreciate you bringing readers to the store and in return you appreciate them for allowing you to sign. If you intend on doing book signings at stores you should focus on the smaller stores that at least show you they appreciate your presence.

Most Times Not Worth The Time And Effort

Due to the lack of participation with the stores or lack of publicity of your publisher, you’ll often be disappointed with a bookstore signing. An author can only do so much. You cannot force people to show up and buy your books no matter what you do. It's nothing more humiliating than being at a signing only to have people pass you up and treat you as if your book is less important than the ones on the shelves. Yet, it happens. Authors do not have to put up with this treatment simply to sell books. Those days are over.

A new day has come and now, authors hold all the cards. We have control of how we want to promote our books and where we want to sell them. Now that I’ve outlined why bookstore signings may not be worth it, below I’ve suggested some options and alternatives you may want to consider.


If you insist on doing book signings, skip stores altogether. If you want to sell books and have fun, try festivals. There are tons of festivals in almost every big city geared towards authors meeting the public and selling books. Festivals are so much more rewarding that even if you only sell a few books, you won’t care because you’ll walk away with so much more. You’ll get a chance to meet readers, other authors, other literary professionals, and media that attends bringing you publicity. This adds to more exposure.

Group Signings:

You can both get with some author pals and host your own group signings or participate in group signings at your local bookstore. Many stores hold group signings once a month and local authors are encouraged to participate. Group signings bring more readers to the event as well as give you the chance to meet other authors. Bookstores promote group signings more effectively than an individual author’s event. You also won’t walk away in shame if you don’t sell books. You may not sell at group signings but you’ll end up with more exposure and friends in the industry.

Book Club Signings:

Contact a local book club and see if they are interested in letting you do a signing at one of their upcoming meetings. Make your book attractive for them to pick as a featured book then let them know that you’d be more than willing to do a signing at their meeting. Book Club signings can be very fun because they also turn into discussions and this ends up being a learning experience for the author as well as the club.

Sign At Places of Your Choice:

You can also pick a fun place of your choice to hold a signing. This could be in the park, at a club, festival or in an arena where some big event is being held. This will attract people to you as they attend the other event. The difference between this and a book signing is that you order your books from your publisher then you sell them at the event and keep the profits. Be creative. You can even hold a signing at a baby shower, birthday party or family gathering. You’re sure to sell tons of books. Not only are you completely in control but you’ll feel more comfortable signing in a place of your choice. These are also the most fun. Remember to advertise your event. Put an ad in your local paper and promote online to people in your area. The possibilities are endless.

Last but not least, the biggest option would be:

Virtual Book Tours

It’s been speculated that VBTs sell more books than a regular book tour ever could. You reach more of an audience because you’re doing everything online. Some authors set up their own VBTs but if you’re not familiar with the concept and want to skip the hard work, then hire a company to work with you. They’ll do all the legwork and all you have to do is show up on blogs and sites. You’ll do interviews, pod casts, guest blogs and more. It’s all up to you. VBTs allow authors to promote from the comfort of their own home and at their most convenient time. Think of having a book tour in your robe and slippers. Sounds good to me. Also, you’ll gain more traffic to your web site, sell more books and meet more fans during a VBT than you ever could offline. The best thing is that your tour remains visible forever. Your appearance stays on the sites as long as they stay online so your tour is archived and will be visited by web site’s visitors time and time again. This of course means long-term exposure and sales.

We’ve all had bad experiences with book signings. If you’re like me then you’re completely turned off by them. I don’t plan on doing anymore in-store signings but luckily there are so many options available. Book promotion is easier these days than ever. Authors should take full advantage and only then will they receive the ample rewards that come along with that.

Remember to think out of the box. It takes creativity to promote effectively and to enjoy it.







By: Stacy-Deanne

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