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Why would you attend a book signing?

My friend, [info]jimhines , put up an interesting post yesterday in which he questioned whether book signings were really worth the bother
 
I already planned to cover this topic in my series on The Fine Art of Self-Promotion next year (I think it’s part ten), but after reading Jim’s post, I thought I’d ask my research question now. 
 
From your point of view as a reader, why would you attend a book signing? 
 
Even though I very much look forward to the day when I’m a published author and can sign a copy of my novel for someone, I think a book signing is really more self-gratification for the writer than it is self-promotion. 
 
After all, what’s in it for the reader, other than a chance to meet the author? What’s more, he/she’s expected to pay for the privilege by purchasing a signed copy of a book.
 
From the reader’s point of view, it’s really not that big a deal, unless of course, they’re a fan of the author’s work, but in that case, wouldn’t they buy the book anyway?
 
I don’t think signings are a bad idea, but from a self-promotional point of view, I believe they should be the encore rather than main event. Personally, I have no desire to attend a book signing where there’s nothing on offer but the chance to watch the author write a note in his/her novel for me. 
 
However, I’ve bought many books from writers after hearing them speak at an event.
 
It’s not so much a question of whether or not an author should do a signing event, as it is about what else he/she can offer potential book buyers to make the effort of turning up worthwhile. 
 
Part of the thinking behind setting up the New Jersey Authors’ Network was to encourage writers to take part in multi-author events. I’ve organized two of them myself, and from what I’ve seen I’d say people are more interested in attending something like a Q&A panel (followed by a book signing) than a reading, or a straightforward ‘turn up, buy my book and I’ll scribble a note in it for you’ event.
 
From the point of view of a reader, I think it’s more interesting to hear authors talk about their work, and writing in general, than it is to hear them read an excerpt from a book, though of course, that’s just my opinion.  
 
How about you?
 
If you didn’t already know the authors or their work, what kind of pre-signing event would make you attend a book signing? 
  
  


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( 72 comments — Leave a comment )
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the_faery_queen
Dec. 22nd, 2009 01:23 pm (UTC)
im a writer groupy :) people want to meet famous people, i want to meet writers. i want to see what they're like, i want to ask them questions, i want them to sign my book and i can be all fan like :)

i would only attend a presigning event of someone i didn't know if they were at a convention. then i'd be there for other reasons. i was in waterstones when a writer was there, he had self published. turned out my friend had actually read his book, but didn't know his name at all. (no point to that) but i might go if their book sounded good, or the cover looked good. or if they were anobody writer because i wanted to see how they had done it. nobody writers aren't busy and have time to chat at signings. :)
jongibbs
Dec. 22nd, 2009 01:56 pm (UTC)
For the NJAuthors' network events, the panel members pick a theme eg."The Suspense is Killing Me! (How authors keep you turning those pages)" and shape the panel discussion and Q&A session around that.

Of course, during the introductions, they get a couple of moments to show and tell their books too :)

The idea is to offer people something other than just the chance to buy a signed copy of a novel from someone they haven't heard of.

From what I've seen, it works quite well, though a lot depends on where and when the event is, and how much effort people put in to publicizing/promoting it.
(no subject) - the_faery_queen - Dec. 22nd, 2009 04:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Dec. 22nd, 2009 05:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
dendrophilous
Dec. 22nd, 2009 01:48 pm (UTC)
Aside from one signing when Bujold visited a local bookstore, I've only been to signings at cons. Those are pretty attractive pre-signing events. (But I still only got books signed from authors whose work I'd already liked.)
jongibbs
Dec. 22nd, 2009 02:01 pm (UTC)
I've bought a lot of books from guest speakers at GSHW meetings. If I like their presentation, or they come across as interesting, I'll buy their book, even if I know I'll never read it (I'm sure I'm not the only one who does that).

My thinking is, unknown authors (and by unknown I mean not famous) would fare in the book sales and self-promotion department, by putting themselves out there a little more. Also, guest speakers usually get paid, so any after-talk sales are an added bonus ;)

Thanks for sharing :)
(Anonymous)
Dec. 22nd, 2009 02:17 pm (UTC)
I like to go to author readings (the first reading, then short Q&A, then signing kind of events). I don't think that I would go to a pure book signing, but I sometimes bring books to a reading or buy the book after the reading and let the author sign it if I liked what I have heard. I think there is a huge difference between the typical American or British book reading and the typical European (or German?) book reading. The focus here is on the reading. The Q&A is sometimes very short, because nobody likes to ask the first question, which is why a good moderator is so important. I was told (and Kazuo Ishiguro and other authors confirmed it) that in the US and the UK it's exactly the other way around (focus on Q&A, little or no reading).
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - jongibbs - Dec. 22nd, 2009 05:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
bogwitch64
Dec. 22nd, 2009 02:20 pm (UTC)
There are many layers to this answer, and it all depends upon WHO you are.
George Martin could pack in fans at a hundred book signings and never have to say a word to satisfy them.

Bogwitch could maybe pack the local bookstore with friends and acquaintances for an hour doing one book signing and not have to say a word to satisfy. Well, maybe a, "Hi! How are you?"

Therein lies the obvious difference. For Martin--he doesn't need a book signing. It's a little self-gratification, a little giving back to his fans. Someone like me? I'd probably sell more books by having a signing in my town, because people are curious little oysters and would come out to see a local celeb.

For all those in the middle--which is where most writers are going to fall, I'd say a q&a is a good way to bring people into a bookstore outside of your sphere, or draw them to your event should they happen to be there. You'll generate more sales when a buyer can put a face to the book in their hands. Personally, I LOVE signed copies, so I'd be one of those drawn in and purchasing. But is it worth traveling around to do it? Meh--I don't think so. It's one of those things--if you happen to be in the area, or at a con or other venue, go for it. If not, once the local venues are used up, be done.
jongibbs
Dec. 22nd, 2009 05:42 pm (UTC)
I was thinking about this from a reader's point of view. If you didn't already know the author of his/her work, what would tempt you to go?
(no subject) - bogwitch64 - Dec. 22nd, 2009 05:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Dec. 22nd, 2009 06:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
eneit
Dec. 22nd, 2009 02:25 pm (UTC)
One friend who writes childrens books, far prefers to do school visits rather than signings. She gets to do fun writing excersises with the kids, the kids let their imiginations run riot for a bit, and she gets new fans for her work.
jongibbs
Dec. 22nd, 2009 05:42 pm (UTC)
The school thing sounds like a great idea - especially since they have regular book fayres too :)
sandy_williams
Dec. 22nd, 2009 02:28 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I'm not to big on attending author book signings either. I would be more tempted to attend if it was a group signing with some type of panel/Q&A beforehand, and I think this set-up is more beneficial for authors as well. Readers might show up because they're a fan of one person's work then end up buying something from one of the other writers.

Maybe book signings will become a thing of the past. I can't remember who wrote the blog, but someone asked the question "Is the Interneting destroying author mystique?" Before the net, the only way for readers to meet the author was at a signing. Now, we can shoot an email, send a tweet, or participate in a chat or forum to make a connection. Book signings just don't seem to be relevant anymore.
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - jongibbs - Dec. 22nd, 2009 05:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - jongibbs - Dec. 22nd, 2009 06:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - mtlawson - Dec. 24th, 2009 01:26 am (UTC) - Expand
peadarog
Dec. 22nd, 2009 02:44 pm (UTC)
It's a chance to meet other fans of the same author. These can be big social events too...
jongibbs
Dec. 22nd, 2009 05:45 pm (UTC)
That's true, but what if you're not already a fan? What would tempt you to go?
(no subject) - peadarog - Dec. 22nd, 2009 09:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Dec. 22nd, 2009 09:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
bondo_ba
Dec. 22nd, 2009 02:49 pm (UTC)
I am just about the worst person to ask this kind of thing. I never, ever go to an event just because a celebrity will be there (especially if said celebrity is an actor, ugh!). I give no more importance to a signed book than to a regular book (and other than monetary value, I can't understand people's fascination with autographs), and I hate standing in line.

I am not statistically relevant, of course (most people just adore fawning over celebrities), but I wanted to leave my opinion!
out_totheblack
Dec. 22nd, 2009 04:30 pm (UTC)
I think I have to go with you there. A friend made me go with her to New Orleans because Anne Rice was doing a signing. She brought all her books for Anne to sign. As far as I was concerned, it was much ado about nothing. I don't tend to be overly fanish about "people" (actors or writers), but I will get fanish over talent, the ability to act really well or write really well.

That being said, if I'm at a book store and someone is doing a signing, I always make of point of stopping and talking to them. It is sort of recognizing their accomplishment and being brave enough to show up in public and have tons of people walk by and ignore you.
(no subject) - jongibbs - Dec. 22nd, 2009 05:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Dec. 22nd, 2009 05:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bondo_ba - Dec. 22nd, 2009 06:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Dec. 22nd, 2009 06:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - out_totheblack - Dec. 22nd, 2009 07:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tracy_d74 - Dec. 23rd, 2009 03:37 am (UTC) - Expand
dferguson
Dec. 22nd, 2009 03:07 pm (UTC)
I've been to three or four of Harlan Ellison's book signings. Years ago back in the 70's/80's. But his book signings were more like performances than anything else and just a lot of fun in general.

I went to Levar Burton's book signing mostly because of his Star Trek connection and I'm a Trekker from way back. Same thing with going to Keith R. DeCandido's book signings. He's written Star Trek books and I knew him from our connection doing reviews for the same podcast and we've throw emails back and forth at each other.

I've had two book signings of my own. Both were interesting but the one that had nothing but women attending was a real blast...LOL...the only time in my life where I've had twenty women hanging onto my every word.
jongibbs
Dec. 22nd, 2009 05:49 pm (UTC)
'...the only time in my life where I've had twenty women hanging onto my every word.'

I knew it, you're only in it for the groupies ;)
kmarkhoover
Dec. 22nd, 2009 03:31 pm (UTC)
If I wasn't already familiar with the writer or his books, I would not attend a book signing as a reader.
jongibbs
Dec. 22nd, 2009 05:50 pm (UTC)
How about a panel Q&A beforehand? If the subject piqued your curiosity, would you be tempred to go then?
(no subject) - kmarkhoover - Dec. 22nd, 2009 07:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
sandrawickham
Dec. 22nd, 2009 05:11 pm (UTC)
"However, I’ve bought many books from writers after hearing them speak at an event."

This is how I'm buying most of my books now..at conferences and conventions. I meet the authors, hear them speak at a workshop or on a panel, then buy their book and have them autograph it for me.

I can't help it! I get to "know" the authors a bit, then get really excited to read their work and the fact that they are available to sign the book is a super bonus!! Maybe that will wear off once I've been around longer, but right now, my best advice to authors is get to any event I'm at, sit on a panel, be witty and charming, and I'll BUY your book!! ;)

(I need a comment editor...)
jongibbs
Dec. 22nd, 2009 05:51 pm (UTC)
'...sit on a panel, be witty and charming, and I'll BUY your book!'

Dang! I knew there was a catch :(
(no subject) - mtlawson - Dec. 24th, 2009 01:39 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Dec. 24th, 2009 01:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
clarionj
Dec. 22nd, 2009 05:16 pm (UTC)
I agree the interactive kinds of events work better; they both serve the attendee/reader and the author promoting a work. I do attend readings when I can, and the books I buy are based on the quality of writing from the excerpts read. So there is some value to reading from a work. I've also found it really depends on how well the author reads and how entertaining he or she is in the talk. But yes, multiple author events and workshopping events probably serve all better.

As an author, I'd much rather do an interactive event. The last thing I'd want to do is stand in front of people reading from my work. I'd rather look at their work and talk about writing with peers.
jongibbs
Dec. 22nd, 2009 05:52 pm (UTC)
I think it takes the pressure off (I know it would for me). Besides, even if nobody shows up to hear what you've all fot to say, you won't be bored, right? :)
asakiyume
Dec. 22nd, 2009 06:36 pm (UTC)
I would never go to a book signing of an author whose work I didn't know. In fact, I can only recall going to one book signing at a bookstore--it was for Brian Jacques, the Redwall author, and I brought my kids. As it happened, he was marvelous; did a great reading. We didn't stick around for the signing part--the lines were huge--but we did buy a book (we would have anyway), and later I got his cookbook, too, all because he had talked about it at the signing. (And I love it.)

I **would**--and have--gone to a lecture by an author whose work I didn't know, if the topic were interesting, and at the very few conventions I've been to, often the panels are more than half composed of authors whom I don't know.

I think as with blogs, so too with author events: if you're putting them on for your fans, fine: you and your works may be enough to draw them out. But if you're doing them to interest people who aren't already fans, then you have to have something to offer that makes them curious.
jongibbs
Dec. 22nd, 2009 09:10 pm (UTC)
'...then you have to have something to offer that makes them curious.'

I suspect that those who offer that something sell a lot more books than those who don't.

Thanks for sharing :)
(Deleted comment)
jongibbs
Dec. 22nd, 2009 09:07 pm (UTC)
Oh dear. I apologise if I've offended you. I certainly didn't intend to insult you or anyone.

I think we're actually in agreement as far as the value of a public appearance goes. I'm just saying that if we offer more than just the chance of a handshake and an autograph, the extra effort should prove hugely effective because we're more likely to get bums on seats at an event, which should lead to more sales.

As for Jim's five books, though I've bought the Goblin series for my son since reading Goblin Quest a couple of months ago, I'd not heard of him before we met on LJ.

Jim seems like a great guy, I certainly hope to meet him one day, but if I'd never heard of him or any other writer, I personally wouldn't attend a book-signing-only event, even if he/she had twenty books in print.

To be honest, I'm not even excited by the thought of someone doing a reading, though I grant you it has more appeal than a simple signing.

As you say yourself, the vast majority of readers really don't care. Where I think we disagree, is that I think by focusing more on how to appeal to that teeny tiny percentage that do, authors can reap big rewards.

After all, the more people who read and enjoy a book, the bigger the buzz, right?
(Deleted comment)
jongibbs
Dec. 22nd, 2009 10:36 pm (UTC)
One of the big pluses of being the Garden State Horror Writers is the number of great speakers we get each year. For example, in 2009 we had Elizabeth Bear, Greg Frost and Ellen Datlow to name but three :)
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