What Not to Do at a Book Signing

ACFW Advice, Book Signing, Friends of ACFW 15 Comments

By Terri Gillespie

You finally made it! You’ve spent weeks of preparation: posts on social media, e-newsletters, flyers everywhere, radio interviews, reminders to family and friends, sandwich boards on your dogs. There’s a table and chair set up just for you at the local bookstore. Soon you’ll be meeting, greeting, and signing your name and special Bible passage inside your books with a fine-point sharpie.

But wait! Before you enter the store, you want to be make sure to not sabotage all yours—and the store’s—efforts. Here are a four easy things to remember NOT to do the day of your event:

  • Don’t be Late. If the signing begins at 9:00am, late would be 8:45am. The store manager will most likely be there early. Offer to arrive shortly after they do. In that time you can:
    • Get a lay of the land. Where are the bathrooms, where is the fiction section, the greeting cards, etc. So many times customers asked me these questions about the store. Because I arrived early and looked around, I could say, “Hi, I’m Terri, an author here for the book signing, and you can find the bathrooms just past the children’s section.”
    • Review the sale flyer for that day. Learn what the specials are, especially for non-book items.
    • Tweak the table set up. If you’ve brought peripherals like stand-up displays and giveaways, now is the time to set those up—before the throng arrives. Be sensitive to leaving aisles open for traffic.
    • Meet the staff. Knowing the names of those hardworking folks is important. And it creates a family/cooperative culture.
  • Don’t be a Diva. We are guests and need to remember we don’t own the place. The management and staff are not there to serve us. Instead:
    • Offer to help the staff promote their sale items.
    • Be open to suggesting—gasp—other books to customers or non-book items that may be on special.
  • Don’t be a Statue. Many of us writers are introverts. We tend to keep to ourselves and talk with imaginary characters. As a result, many of us are a little shy around real people. There are ways to avoid looking like a deer in headlights:
    • Stand up some of the time. It’s easier to make eye contact and less intimidating.
    • Walk around a little. Nervous energy can be released with a little physical activity.
    • Welcome people as they enter “your” area. Show them you’re glad they came. Be sure to use the store name.
    • Introduce yourself. When people come in who aren’t aware of the event, they can look at us strangely. Extending a hand of introduction relieves some of the awkwardness.
  • Don’t Monopolize Conversations. We’re so excited to be able to talk about our books that we can forget readers may have their own questions or just want to know where the greeting card section is. We can avoid embarrassment by:
    • Making Eye Contact.
    • Asking them their name. (Write it down—it helps to remember.)
    • Pausing intentionally to give them space to talk.
    • Watching their Body Language. People will tell you they need to move on or their child just ran off, or need to use the restroom—without ever saying a word. Be respectful to watch and listen. Release them if they need to go.

Remembering these four Don’ts can produce a more successful and enjoyable book signing for you and those around you. And, who knows, the store manager may even contact you to come back for another event. (Yes, that happens!) Sign on!

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Terri Gillespie: author of Making Eye Contact with God—A Women’s Devotional, She Does Good Hair (2013 LYRA Best Women’s Fiction) and CUT IT OUT! (2014). She was a managing editor of the Tree of Life Version of the Holy Scriptures (Baker Publishing). Member of ACFW, AWSA, and CAN.






Comments 15

  1. Egad, they’re here to buy my book,
    and TALK to me…oh, dear!
    I do not know where I should look
    for help to tame the fear.
    Perhaps I should be cool, remote,
    and something of a loner.
    Or maybe – how would you vote? –
    I could be swave and deboner.
    Now they’re asking why I wrote it,
    and, not trying to be funny,
    I said, “For the cause of Lit,
    and to try to make some money.”
    The session’s over, and no alas, alack…
    but (Uh, OH!) they want me to come back.

  2. Thanks, Terri! This is great advice. I would have never thought to come early and check out the lay of the land, for example. But I’m sure customers would expect you to know these things. Good article.

  3. Great post, Terri! These are very thoughtful and practical ideas. I remember doing a few book signings with you. Fun memory! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Great article, Terri! Thank you for all the tips and reminders. You are so thoughtful of others and this shows in your book signing dos and don’ts. It’s always a pleasure to join you in a signing!

  5. Terri, thank you for your informative post. I especially appreciated your suggestion to “get the lay of the land.”

    At a book signing at my local Christian bookstore–a store I frequented–the store manager placed my book table right inside the front door. Because of this strategic position, several customers who entered thought I was a store clerk and asked me where to find various items. Since I knew the layout, I was able–and very glad–to help.:).

    Perhaps I should consider applying for a job as store concierge to assist lost customers. :). One never knows what opportunities a book signing will bring. 🙂



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