This article was updated on 7/29/2019
If we want to do live book signings, as we covered in The Power of the Live Author, what is the best place to hold a book signing?
The short answer is anywhere and everywhere. The more you vary your venues the larger and more varied group of readers you reach.
The long answer is that it depends. First, it depends on your goals—are you just trying to garner exposure or do you need to maximize the money you make off of each book sold, do you simply need a location for those that you’ve invited or are you seeking a location that will drive traffic for you?
Second, it depends on your book.
Let’s digress for a moment then move backwards. Let’s quickly define what a book signing is, or, what we want it to be. What we don’t want is to sit at a table for two to four hours waiting for shoppers to come up and buy our book. This type of book signing rarely yields much fruit in sales or engagement. We want to hold book signings that are literary events, that give us a chance to engage an audience with a reading, a short talk, and/or a Q&A session before we get down to the business of signing and selling books.
TIP: A book signing with multiple authors can draw a larger crowd, and larger sales for all authors involved, but we will save the how and what of book signings for a later post and get back to the where.
Now, back to the question at hand:
To Bookstore or Not to Bookstore?
This question brings us back to your goals. If you need to make a book signing financially lucrative then stay away from bookstores. Bookstores take a fairly hefty cut of the profit leaving you with little in the way of revenue for each book sold. Yes, this means that you will have to buy the books to sell at the venue, but the increased profit margin to yourself (generally 40-55% of the cover price) makes this the best strategy.
Bookstores can be a good place to have a book signing if they are willing to promote the event and draw people in, basically earning their stake in the profits. This is particularly good for authors that are more concerned with building their audience than gaining returns. Local, independent bookstores tend to do this better than the national chains and are generally more willing to make your signing into an event rather than sit you at a table for a few hours to wait for your Facebook friend’s to show up and give the store the lion’s share of profits.
TIP: If you still want to seek out bookstores after reading this, use Google Maps to search out bookstores in your area (Tutorial Here). Visit each store’s website. Bookstores that keep an up-to-date events calendar already featuring literary events are a good place to start.
Thinking Outside the Bookstore
So, you have decided to stay away from bookstores, or you are a wise author and want to gain as much exposure as possible by expanding your venues.
So now you ask, “Ian, where is anywhere and everywhere? Where is the best place to hold a book signing?”
There is really no wrong place to have a book signing, really. There are the go-to places like cafes, libraries, restaurants, schools, community centers, etc. There are also places that most people wouldn’t consider. I have planned or attended successful literary events at a furniture store, in a random college student’s basement, at a yoga studio, at a dive bar, in the middle of the mall, and so on. If you can get a reading with a student group at a college, even better, as they do all of the promotion for you and have a built in audience.
What you are really looking for is a place that can help draw in an audience and can benefit from the audience that you work together to create.
Begin with places you are comfortable with or to which you have some connection. Do you know the owner of the local drugstore? Set up a signing there and leave a few books behind for them to sell. Worked out theological details of your Christian fiction book with your pastor? See if you can hold a reading in the fellowship hall. Belong to a local club or lodge? Speak with the events coordinator about a signing during an annual event or as a standalone event.
Even some chain restaurants have hosted authors I’ve worked with because they spent so much time writing there. From there explore other go-to places and then start to think outside the box. Start close to home then expand geographically.
Venues that have a connection to your book’s theme can also be invaluable. You published a non-fiction book on sports? Approach a sporting goods store. Your mystery novel is set largely on a golf course? Consider a reading and a game at the country club? The possibilities are endless.
Some months ago, I spent five minutes of a morning meeting with my team of Book Consultants on an activity brainstorming venues that were feasible for a book signing. I listed bookstores and the other go-to venues before we began. Within five minutes we had fifty different venues.
Where is the Best Place to Have a Book Signing?
Again, the answer is anywhere and everywhere, so long as you are comfortable approaching the venue, they are willing to have you, and it will give you a chance to engage an audience instead of sitting at a table. The best place isn’t a single place, but as many places as you can muster.