Sunday, November 15, 2015

Non-Traditional Places to have a Book Event

I joined an on-line discussion on book signings recently. It reminded me that some of my most successful book events were held in venues other than book stores. I’ve read and signed in coffee shops, a restaurant, a university, tack shops (horse supplies and riding attire), feed stores, elementary schools, and art galleries.
My writing journey began in 1999 when my first children’s historical fiction novel was published by Coastal Carolina Press. CCP was great in that they set up several book events for me, some in book stores and others in less traditional places including a university, where I was part of a panel of authors speaking to a large group. It was so scary!

Schools are one of my favorite venues for signing my children’s historical fiction books. I visit schools and do programs about the history of North Carolina’s wild horses and colonial history as both are the inspiration for Pale as the Moon, Bear Song, and An Independent Spirit.

When my series of horse books with The Lyons Press came out one by one, I had book signings in tack shops and feed stores in addition to the usual bookstores. When promoting The Book of Mules the cover-girl-mule, Sadie Mae, joined me and even “signed” books with a rubber stamp of a horseshoe and her name.
My book launch for Puddin’ Tain, a children’s horse story, was held in a local restaurant. The owner didn’t charge a commission and guests bought their own food. All I had to do was show up with my books. It turned out to be a lot of fun and I sold books.

My latest book launch was for In the Garden with the Pruning Shears, my first cozy murder mystery. It was held at my county arts council’s art gallery. I teamed up with another writer and good friend. She was releasing a book of poems. We figured since the two of us were promoting very different kinds of books we’d draw more people and hopefully they’d buy both books. We served refreshments and gave away door prizes. It worked like a charm.
Think outside the box when planning a book signing. Depending on your book’s subject, there are all sorts of places to have a book event. Gift shops, coffee houses, cafes, schools, or community buildings can be excellent locations to hold a book event. Did you write a cookbook – then a grocery store might be the ideal place to kick it off. Maybe the murder weapon in your mystery was a hammer or you wrote a how-to book - have a signing in a hardware store.
Often the venue owner will not charge a commission on sold books. They are happy for the new traffic and PR your event creates. If they do charge a commission it is often less that the 40% usually required by bookstores. Get terms clarified before the event. The downside is you will have to bring your books. The Independent publisher/writer will usually have to bring their own books at bookstore signings, too. Some venues provide refreshments, but most of the time you will have to do that on your own. In the case of coffee shops or restaurants people buy their own food.
You will be responsible for your own PR. Send press releases to area news media, send out post cards, and email invitations and make good use of your social media outlets.


Make if fun. Do readings and have a drawing for door prizes. Folks love free stuff so give away some freebies like book marks, pens, and the like. When I did a signing of one of my children’s books at a mall gift shop the owner provided free colorful plastic horses to all who stopped by. Folks like free stuff. Be sure your bookmarks have all your contact info, website and Amazon link so even if someone doesn’t buy your book on the spot they can find it for purchase later. Print out coloring pages from one of your book’s illustrations for kids.

Provide some entertainment – if you sing or play an instrument do a short performance. If you are not musically inclined, then ask a friend to help you out. Having Sadie Mae along for my mule book signings added a fun element to those events. Sadie is the sweetest mule ever. She let folks pet her and little kids sit in the saddle, which she tolerated very patiently. If animals are involved be sure they are suited for the unexpected and are very good tempered. Have the owner supervising.

I find book events are not so much about selling a ton of books as they are a way to introduce yourself and your writing to the community and just celebrating the hard work that led to be published – whether traditionally or independently. But, I have been fortunate to have sold enough books at most of my unique book events to have made the day worthwhile.

Have you had a book signing in a unique venue? Or have you attended one? Share your experience with us in the comments section.