Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Autograph Party

Sandra here welcoming you to Seekerville. Be sure and read at the end of this article the premier announcement of a new writing contest and be the lucky winner of the entry fee.


You’ve received the call.

You’ve revised, copy edited, filled forms for the cover, etc.

And your book has finally arrived. Hooray

Sandra and her friend Carole signing

Now comes the fun part. Celebrating with your family and friends.

Your first book always gets the most publicity. Newspapers love the angle “local author sells first book” So make the most of it and have fun while you’re at it.

Here are some helpful hints to prepare for that first autograph party. (Yes, you can start now even before you’ve received “the call”)


1. First and foremost: Contact your editor and/or the publicity department of your publisher. Did I say contact your publisher? Yes, yes, yes. Most publishers provide a list of publicity requirements and recommendations. Follow them closely. After all, as their author, you now are a representative of their name. You will want to act with their standards in mind.

Cheryl Wyatt signing at the Harlequin Booth

of the Book Expo 2009 in New York

The last thing you want to do is cause stress for your editor or get your publisher upset. Most important-they will give you dates for when books can be ordered. Nothing worse than showing up for an autograph party and there are no books.

If you’re not published yet, ask authors you know in the publishing houses you are targeting for this information and keep a file.

2. Contact your local bookstore. They usually are very supportive. After all a successful signing means business for them. I’ve yet to go to an autograph signing and come out with just one book. How about you???? Plan with the manager. They often have a mailing list or newsletter. So give them enough notice to include your signing in their store publicity.

If you aren’t published yet, haunt your local bookstores. Introduce yourself to the manager. Let them know that you are a writer. They will be more excited for you when “the call” comes if they’ve been part of the journey.

Use any event as an excuse to use a bookstore. Most bookstores have meeting rooms and can be used by critique groups, writers groups, speakers on writing. Bookstores benefit because a writer in a bookstore means good business. I mean don’t we buy tons of books?

Mary Connealy signing at ICRS

3. Send a press release to your local media. Do this as soon as possible as radio stations, television stations and newspapers, especially in large cities need lead-time. If you have your autograph party date all set, you will get extra publicity from the article.

Send the press kit to the local newspaper, radio talk shows and television stations. Radio talk shows are pretty easy to get on and often you can be interviewed on the phone while you sit at home in your bedroom slippers. If you aren’t interviewed, the media will often announce the autograph party on their events calendar.

Even if you aren’t published yet you can develop a press kit. Many authors have press kits on their websites so you can take a peak to see how its done. It’s a good idea to have the professional photo (that has rights for reproduction), cover art for your book, contact information, business cards, etc.

Workshops are available for developing a good press kit. For more information, volunteer to help with the publicity committee of your local chapter of ACFW or RWA.. You’ll learn great publicity tips.

4. Print invitations to your party and send them out to everyone you know. Many authors use their book cover and make post cards. Be sure you ask permission from your publisher. They can send you the digital data to do so.

Put out announcements at all contact places where you are known, i.e. local writers groups, loops, church bulletins, work bulletins, the spa or gym you belong to, the Starbucks you sit at every day, etc.

5. Find the perfect outfit to wear. You are celebrating a new profession. Look professional. Remember, you’re representing not only yourself, but your publisher and the store.

Some historical authors dress in the period they write in. This is fun and an icebreaker.

6. Prepare your table presentation. Some publishers send out some materials but most authors, especially beginning authors need to develop their own. You can make a poster board with your cover. Announce you’re a local author. Include your photo. This is handy to leave in the store after the party is over. Most bookstores will feature your books. In fact, most authors find that they actually sell more autographed books after they leave. Some people are just too shy to approach a celebrity.

Seeker, Janet Dean, is very creative and artistic with her table presentations. In Janet’s debut book, Courting Miss Adelaide, the heroine was a milliner. Janet took a large hatbox and filled it with goodies to give away during the party. Notice the beautiful bouquet of roses too. Use anything you can to make your table attractive and inviting.

Janet Dean signing her debut book
Courting Miss Adelaide

Many authors have a bowl of candy to encourage people to stop by and chat.

Cookies or cake is nice also. At one of her booksigning parties, Janet Dean had the baker put the cover of Courting the Doctor’s Daughter on the cake.

7. Prepare give away items. These help break the ice, especially if you’re signing among strangers. Bookmarks, ink pens and candy are always a hit. The best place to get ideas for give-aways is to go to the give-away room of freebies at a conference. You’ll see a plethora of items with the author’s name, website and book title on them. Items include, match boxes, nail files (I personally love these as you always need one), letter openers, balloons, candy, flashlights, buttons to wear, pencil holders, magnets, etc.

My favorite thing to do while at a party between signings is to walk around and offer a bookmark. If someone shows interest you can tell them you are the author. This beats sitting at a table twiddling your thumbs.

Raffles are another popular way to attract customers. You can always raffle copies of your book. Seeker Glynna Kaye is planning to offer a basket of Seeker books when she signs for her October release of Dreaming of Home. Great idea Glynna. Once a customer comes up to talk to you about the free book, they’re ready to purchase one themselves.

8. Provide a way to collect email addresses. A raffle is a popular way to obtain mail or email addresses. State they do not have to be present to win. Print out raffle ticket blanks that require name and mail/email address. Have them check if they’d like to be included on your announcement for your next book. This saves legal hassles later.

Missy Tippens asked her bookstore to write the customers name on an index card for signing when they purchased the book. They would bring the card to her to show they had paid for the book. If they included their email/mail address, their card was put in the box for the drawing. This by the way, is a wonderful way to get those names correct when signing. You won’t believe how many ways there are to spell the most common names. This also helps if you’re in a crowded room and it is difficult to hear the name the customer is telling you.

signing at ACFW Conference 2008


The moment has arrived. Now the fun begins. If you’re shy, make sure you have some trusted friends that promise to hang around and laugh a lot. Strangers are less shy to approach if there is a crowd already around your table. They want to see what all the fun is about.

Mary Connealy who has probably been at more signings than any of us gives this advice:

"And above all else remember you are NOT THERE TO SELL BOOKS. You are there to impress the bookstore owner with your respect for them and love for them. Say thank you often. Compliment their beautiful store."

Mary Connealy and friends

And also always remember you are representing the publisher. Smile a lot and have fun.

So speaking of having fun. Do any of you have any suggestions to add? It never hurts to have tons of ideas for the perfect autograph party. And remember friends. Autographed books make terrific gifts. Go to the parties you can and support not only your friends, but the business you are a part of. Check out Seekerville Weekend Edition for upcoming Seeker autograph parties.

I’m still on the Pacific Coast. In Oregon now so have been out picking huckleberries, blueberries and blackberries. I just toured the Cheese Factory in Tillamook so have cooked up some yummy cheese blintzes smothered with the berry sauce of your choice. There’s coffee and tea to go with that.

Oh yes, as promised. CWOW - Christian Writers of the West, the Arizona branch of ACFW are offering their first writers contest for unpublished writers-The Phoenix Rattler-Does your story have bite? Click on the link for details. If you want to be in the drawing for the entry fee, let me know in your comment section (add email address). Drawing will be tonight at 9:00 pm PST. Winner will also be announced in the Weekend Edition.


Walt M said...

As a former Oregon resident, I think the cheese and blueberries sound great.

So does the list, I just hope to need it someday.

Debra E Marvin said...

Sandra, thanks for the complete directions of "how to have an autograph party". I, and a hundred of my closest writing friends, am looking forward to using it someday!

Great examples of how you clever Seeker ladies are being so successful at it.

I looked at the link for the contest and I'd like to give it a try! So please put my name on the list for the entry drawing.

Cheese blintzes with berry sauce? Are you serious. Yum-O!

Rose said...

Great ideas. I'm going to print this post off, in hopes I get to refer back to them someday.

I have expresso and breakfast blend brewed and ready to go.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Rose, I'm helping myself to coffee and Sandra...

the blintzes....

The berry sauce???

Oh mylanta, woman, how did you KNOW this was just what I needed???

I'm printing this off because it is chock full of ideas for authors at all stages, but we newbies, oh my word, Sandra...

You know I pretend to NEVER be frightened by anything.

The idea of a signing and nobody comes????

Scared To Death.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for these words of wisdom. So timely.

And the blintzes!


Audra Harders said...

Wonderful advice, Sandra! I love all this pre-planning to the big event.

Still praying for the call to come, but in the meantime, my notebook of *published author preparedness training hints* is growing fatter by the day, ha!

Love the pics of Seekers at signings. I'm so proud of each and every one of you!!!

Enjoy those blueberries -- my personal fave : ) I see Ruthy has added blintzes. I'm bringing yogurt and sponge cake for berry parfaits!!

Julie Lessman said...

Okay, Sandra, I'm doing this all backwards, apparently (what a surprise!!). Wish I'd had this blog BEFORE I'd done any book signings!!! Great info and great blog, my friend.


Pepper Basham said...

What a great post. I'm printing it off so I'll be READY - (ever the optimist)
It's a great step-by-step with so many hints I'd NEVER think of on my own, especially since I'll probably be pretty overwhelmed when the time comes.
Thanks for sharing this.

Melanie Dickerson said...

I enjoyed your post, Sandra! Those autograph parties look fun.

Please put me in the drawing. The only way I'm going to enter a contest these days is if I win the entry fee! melaniedickerson at knology dot net.

Pepper Basham said...

Btw, Sandra I'm going to enter the contest so please put my name in the drawing
Thanks a bundle.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hey Walt, Oregon is a gorgeous state. How could you leave? Oh wait, Its the emerald state because its well watered. smile

I know you're going to need this info someday. Hang in there.

Sandra Leesmith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cara Slaughter said...

Sandra, thanks for your fantastic suggestions! I didn't realize so much was involved.

Beautiful pictures of the Seekers!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Wow Debra, a hundred friends. Your party is definitely going to be a success. And fun.

Thanks Rose for the coffee. Writers always need plenty of that. I'm going to pour a cup now.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Ruthy, Yes, take notes because your debut novel WINTER's END, Love Inspired, will be coming out in March. The way time flies, that will be here before you know it.

You are already getting prepared. Love the new photo.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Good morning Jules, With your flair for writing, I'm sure you'll be signing many more times. If your next series is as good as the Daughters of Boston series, Revell should send you on an autograph tour. smile

Sandra Leesmith said...

Audra, yogurt and sponge cake. yum. Thanks for the extra goodies.

Yes, Audra, your day is coming. I just know you're going to need that fattening preparedness notebook and soon.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Pepper and Melanie, Thanks for stopping by at Seekerville. I've entered your names as requested.

btw all of you faithful followers have super chances of getting the call one of these days and do you know why?

Because you are continuing to learn and improve your craft. You love writing.

Walt M said...

Sandra, why did I leave Oregon? It was because I found a job in Georgia that moved me much closer to family and allowed my wife to be a stay-at-home Mom.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Awwwww perfect, Walt. I hear Georgia is a beautiful state as well.

Lorna said...

Since my first book comes out a year from Revell a year from now, I was just thinking about these things. Thanks so much, Sandra! I promise to put this post to good work.

I'm also more than a little impressed by the Seeker author's creativity. Love it!

Erica Vetsch said...

Great tips...I'll confess, book signings scare me rigid.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Cara, You're going to need this info soon also. Are you going to dress in period "twenties" style???

Sandra Leesmith said...

Lorna, Congratulations. You will make Revell proud. Be sure and remind us on Seekerville when the time comes.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Erica, That is why you make sure your best friends are there with you. Turn it into a party. smile. After all you will be celebrating that first book.

Myra Johnson said...

What a fantastic guide to book signing, Sandra! With my very first signings coming up this fall, I'm glad for all the advice I can get!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Yes, Myra, Congratulations. Not only is One ImPerfect Christmas your debut novel, but it is Abingdon's as well. Congrats to you both.

I'm reading ONe ImPerfect Christmas btw and love it. Stayed up too late last night reading. smile.

Mary Connealy said...

Sandra, this was the nudge I needed to go email the Omaha World Herald. It's the biggest newspaper in Nebraska and they've been great about including book signings I'm doing. A small mention but still really nice.

Do NOT assume you're not big enough to make the big papers and big radio stations. A lot of these radio stations have 'community calendar' moments and will announce your signing if you just ask.

Jessica said...

Wow, what an in-depth post! Thank you. Someday I hope I can come back searching for this. :-)
You guys have had some amazingly cool signings!

I love the contest title and blurb. Wish my western historical had bite, but based on numerous contest results, I don't think it does. LOL Still, you can enter me in the drawing. It won't hurt to get more feedback, right? LOL

jessica_nelson7590 AT yahoo DOT com

Mary Connealy said...

I want to add here that what I said about complimenting the book store owner...I have found the people operating Christian book stores to be some of the nicest people in the world.

They really see their store as a ministry. Visiting with them, learnign their story, is inspiring. I met a young man who was the worship leader at his church who was writing Christian songs and had aspirations to find a career as a contemporary Christian singer.
I met another whose wife was there and she talked about God opening the door for them at the store, leading them there. Really, the nicest people in the world.

And I've had signings at regular book stores, too. These poeple love books. You've got so much in common with book sellers. And they like to talk marketing. I had one tell me to write a vampire novel. She couldn't keep them on her shelves.
Christian vampires. No wait, Cowboy Christian vampires.

Well, who knows. Maybe someday. :)

She was so fun I could barely be bothered to sign books.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Thanks Mary for the additional advice. Mary has done so many signings around the country so is the true expert. She gets super news articles too.

btw when Mary said to compliment the bookstore owner/manager, she wasn't meaning just to "kiss up" for favors. Truly, it is a good idea to become friends with the managers of your local bookstores. Ask for an appointment or introduce yourself while in the store. Tell them you're an author or an aspiring author and that you would appreciate any assistance on their part. Booksellers have a lot of inside information about the market. They can pass that on. I've had booksellers tell me what readers are looking for. They recommend a new and upcoming author to watch. They hand over industry news. And as I've mentioned, when you get "the call" they become as excited as you.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Mary, How funny. We were both writing the same thing at the same time. Hooray for bookstores.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Jessica, Keep hanging in there. You will get that call with persistence and perseverance. And yes, entering contests is a great way to get feedback. And if you final, your manuscript is sitting on an agent or editors desk.

Mary Connealy said...

I was in an area store once before my book released and asking about if they planned to carry it and I could tell they were a bit leery of me. I think they get self-published authors some wanting to get their books in the store.

Bookstores are a hard sell for that.
But, once my book was released and on their shelves, I'd go to the shelf, pick up my book, carry it to the Customer Service desk and say, "I wrote this."
They seemed to love talking about it and were as excited for me as I was for myself.
I've also had good luck taking the books to the service desk and saying, "Some stores have let me autograph my books they have in stock. Would you be interested in that."
they almost always say yes. If they say no, I'm as nice as can be about it. But I think only one has ever said no.

Also at the end of the signing, ASK if you can sign any books to leave behind. Once that book is signed, I don't think (this may be incorrect for some publishers) but I don't think they can return them. So a signed book is a sold book, so I respect a bookstore owner who is hesitant to allow me to sign them. But many say yes, or more often they'll say, "Sign five of each."
Do NOT do this without asking. I feel like it's rude because you're sort of 'sticking' them with a book they might want to return. And they've often ordered a whole lot of your book, more than usual, so returning a few isn't an unreasonable outcome. In fact a publisher will often encourage a book store owner to order plenty with the assurance they can be returned.
And bookstores, like everyone else, are working very close to the edge these days financially, you do NOT want them annoyed with you and possibly hostile to having you come back.

Mary Connealy said...

Let me add, that usually, when people take my advise, it leads to disaster.

I felt a disclaimer was in order. :)

Jill Kemerer said...

What a terrific post! I think you covered every imaginable base--it's a keeper!

Pepper Basham said...


Thanks for the added info. That's really helpful.
And I want to add -
I took your advice about my first chapter and..well...I've two requests for full.
Even if nothing comes of it, I definitely don't see it as a disaster.

Btw - as an aspiring author, I've talked with bookstore owners about books that sell and books they think would sell. Their recommendations are great AND (to echo your earlier words) they're really friendly. When I've mentioned I'm 'trying' to write a book, they start encouraging me and giving me ideas. It's really sweet.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Mary, You're too funny. But you're right. Most bookstores will allow you to sign a few. You can get pretty gold foil stickers that say "autographed" and also "local author" to put on the books.

And if you've made that connection with the owner and sales staff, they will certainly promote those signed books after you leave. Borders in Tempe used to keep a display near the door featuring local authors. We loved signing there and they loved having us. Win win situation.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Thanks for stopping by Jill. I'll be picturing you using this keeper. smile

Sandra Leesmith said...

Pepper, Congrats. Two requests for full. That is HUGE.

Keli Gwyn said...

What a thorough, helpful list, Sandra. I'm saving it for the someday when I've sold a book and am planning my own autograph parties.

I'd love a cheese blintz, but hold the sauce plz. I'll leave it for all the berry lovers out there.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Keli, I'm picturing you using this info also. Won't that be an exciting event? Hang in there.

Vince said...

Hi Sandra:

I’ve been to many book signings -- as a fan. I do have a few suggestions.

Go to the store the day before, scout the location, and then ask where you will be set up. If it is a bad location suggest another location and even offer to bring your own table and chairs. I’ve seen authors put in the most uncomfortable and noisy locations.

Make sure the public knows you are the author. I do not like to approach someone who I don’t even know is the author. Have a big photo of yourself on the table or better yet on an easel. (An easel and large photo makes you look more famous.)

Don’t spend the whole time talking ‘shop’ with one or two of your friends. Few people want to interrupt a conversion between people they do not know. (If you have to have your friends there for support, stop every few minutes to leave an opening for a newcomer to join.)

Don’t sit at a desk fully surrounded by your books as if you were a newsstand vender. People will think they have to buy something if they approach you.

Have a free gift to offer prospects but don’t offer any sticky food that can damage books. Food can be a bad idea. Store owners hate food.

Be ready for the public. The public can be very insensitive – even rude. They are not like romance authors. Have graceful answers for these questions – all of which I have heard people ask authors.

How much do you make for a book?
Do you know any famous authors?
What do you think of (famous author)?
What do you think of (title of a romance novel you didn’t write)?
Let me tell you about the romance I intend to write someday?
Is your book as trashy as other romances?
Do you think you will ever write a real book?

I’m sure authors can add a lot more. Just be ready for the public.

I’d like to enter your contest.

vmres at swbell dot net.


Sandra Leesmith said...

Hey Vince, First off I want to thank you for attending author signings. You're our hero.

Secondly, Thanks for the added advice. You're right on with all of your suggestions. And yes, the friends are great, but they should know off the bat that when a stranger approaches, they suddenly have to go shop. smile.

You're right about the location. Excellent point. Near the door is best so passer-bys can see you. If the store is in a mall it is fun to even be outside the door. If you're stuck back in some corner, by all means ask to move. Most managers are helpful.

And for the questions, we can only hope customers aren't going to ask those questions. The main one I get is "where is the bathroom?" so be sure you know the answer. LOL Or they ask where to find a certain book. I always direct them to the nearest clerk.

Thanks again Vince.

Missy Tippens said...

Great, info-packed post, Sandra! Thanks so much for sharing the info.

By the way, I love your book signing photo! And for those who haven't read Sandra's children's book, it's fantastic! (Even if you're not a kid.) And a beautiful book as well. :)

Tina M. Russo said...

Great article aside Sandra, those are some lovely pictures!!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Thanks Missy for the kind remarks about my book. Thank you for sharing your photo. Have had lots of compliments on them.

And Tina, can you believe I got them all posted? LOL Without having to call for help.

Tina's our tech genius and has had to bail me out of trouble more times than she cares to count. Thanks for always being there. smile

Sandra Leesmith said...

Well folks, Its nine here so know its really really late back east. Thanks for joining us.

Hubby drew a name for the contest.

Debra Marvin-Congratulations. I will email you with directions of how to obtain the entrance fee.

Janet Dean said...

Better late than never or so I hope. I've been out of town, speaking to a book club. Even sold a few books. :-) Wonderful tips for doing a book signing, Sandra.


Edwina said...


Thanks for the excellent tips! I can't wait to plan my first autograph party! I would love to win the entry fee; please enter my name:


MJ Smith said...

Hi everyone

Great ideas! I'm having my first book signing soon. I can't wait.

I'll be talking about my book launch on my blog from the preparation until the day of the launch.

All your tips and comments are welcome.