I just had two fun days at CSLA of signing my new book that just came out in September, D IS FOR DRINKING GOURD: AN AFRICAN AMERICAN ALPHABET. It was so exciting to see the response of librarians and teachers when they saw it. Even high school librarians bought copies to add to their collection after I explained how I visited libraries at local universities to dig up little-known information about the history of African Americans to include within the pages of my book. One librarian said that she plans to use this book in her “Buddy System” program where older students read to younger students. The book has an easy-to-read poem for each alphabet letter, but lots of important information in sidebars to provide the older readers with topics to talk about with their buddies.
Here are a few pointers I’ve learned over the years from attending my own book signings as well as observing other authors at book signings. If you have any tips you’d like to add to this list, please let me know!
*Bring along several retractable Sharpie® pens. I’ve tried different pens, but at one of my signings, the store had these pens available for authors to use and now they’re my favorite. The caps don’t get lost and they make a dark, legible signature. Bring several because sometimes they have a tendency to “walk off” and disappear as all pens do!
*Bring a sticky notepad and retractable ball point pens for people to write down the exact spelling of the person they want you to autograph the book for. This helps eliminate spelling mistakes.
*Dress for practicality and comfort. Wear comfy shoes because you might be standing on your feet a long time or want to walk the floor to see other conference exhibits. Bring a sweater if the signing is indoors as often businesses or conference centers run the air at a very cool temperature. If you’re anticipating lots of handouts from other exhibits, bring along a wheeled tote to save you from carrying a heavy load throughout the day.
*Bring a snack since many places don’t offer a wide selection of food if any at all.
*Consider having small change in your wallet or purse such as four 5’s and ten 1’s. When Audrey, my publicist, recommended this, at first I wasn’t sure that it was very important in today’s age of credit and debit cards. But I followed her directions and had some in my purse. I’m glad I did. The very first person at my recent signing purchased my book. When she was ready to pay for it, she reached in her purse and pulled out a twenty dollar bill. The sales rep at the booth said, “I’m sorry! I don’t have any change.” But I did! I ended up giving the sales rep all my small bills in exchange for her 20s and we had a very successful day minus that hassle. Thanks, Audrey!
*Bring a friend to help. If you’re expecting a busy time, a friend can sit with you at the book signing to help manage payment of the book, pass out sticky notes for writing down correct spellings of people’s names to autograph, or run unexpected errands that pop up. When scheduling book signings at ticketed events, I always ask for two complimentary tickets—one for me and one for my husband. Especially if you are signing books with children and have handouts or small activities, your friend (or hubby!) can help manage the crowd at one end of the table while you’re signing at the other end. Plus, it gives you someone to talk with if the day is a slow one.
*Always wear a smile and leave your ego back in your room. Many events are hosted by volunteers or have too small a staff to handle all the many details. Often, author’s name tags are misspelled, or they run out of author badges and give you an exhibitor’s badge instead, or have to give you a sticker to wear with your name on it. Don’t despair! Just smile in spite of any mishaps or inconveniences. Appreciate the people who are trying to help, enjoy the day, and spread lots of goodwill and cheer with a friendly smile.