Humor for Fiction Writers: How to Hand Sell at Book Signings

Planning a book signing?  Then you're in luck!  In this thrilling post (filled with dubious advice,) we explore the topic of hand-selling so you can make the cash registers ring.

Forget writing chase scenes, folks.  The real excitement of being a published author comes from meeting your public.  You know, the REAL PEOPLE who buy your books. 

(Breathe. It’s okay. Your reading public is likely to be much nicer in person than in Amazon reviews.)

Of course, if you’re newly published, you may not have a public.  Or the public you do have may not be willing to drive across the continent to attend your event in Yeehaw. 

(Yes, Yeehaw is a real town. Ask any Floridian.)

Not to worry! I have oodles of experience in the trenches, and I am happy to share all my wickedness – er, I mean, my wisdom -- with my loyal blog readers.

Let’s start today’s lesson with hand-selling.  You’ll need to get this technique down cold before you attend your first “real” book signing.

“Real” book signings are defined as events where you’ve pre-arranged a meet-and-greet to drink punch and sign books.  Book signings get even “realer” when your loyal supporters fail to show up, and the only person you recognize in the building is the store's owner.

This tragedy happens more often than you may think.  It requires you to wander the aisles -- and sometimes the mall -- so you can drag readers back to your lonely table.  At this point, you'll stuff your captives full of cookies, fill their heads with propaganda, and shove books into their faces until somebody finally cracks and shells out 9 bucks to buy your paperback.  That way, you can actually autograph one.

We’ll discuss other ways to comport yourself during “real” book signings in a later post.

In the meantime, let’s review the Lone deWolfe Method of hand-selling in preparation for your first big day!

Disclaimer #1:

The Lone deWolfe Method is not recommended for Shrinking Violets or Weeping Willows.

How to Hand Sell your Book to a Stranger

The week that your book is released, visit your neighborhood bookstore (or grocery store) to get some hand-selling practice.  Hang out in the appropriate fiction genre’s section.

Whenever some poor, unsuspecting shopper wanders into your aisle, grab your novel off the shelf, shove it into his/her hands, and exclaim:

“Ohmigosh! This author is AMAZING! You can hardly find his/her books ANYWHERE! They’re selling like HOTCAKES!”

Obviously, this takes some nerve.

If you happen to look like the photo on your book cover, you may want to disguise yourself with dark glasses and a baseball cap. Or better yet, change your greeting. The following spiel usually works for me:

“Hi!  My name’s Adrienne!  I’m so excited!  My book just got published!  Isn’t this a great cover?”

Then I shove the book into the shopper’s hands.

Insider Tip #1:

If you act like an adorable puppy, the shopper will humor you. I’ve noticed that people have a hard time putting down my book while I’m watching them. (Guilt is a powerful ally!) Of course, there’s no telling what folks do with my books once they wander out of my sight.

Insider Tip #2:

Chug a can of Red Bull (or 16 cups of Starbuck’s coffee) before embarking on your hand-selling mission. Once you arrive at the store, you’ll be feeling so much bolder! (And brassier!)

Fueled by Red Bull, you’ll have no trouble escorting a shopper to the cash register to make sure that your book doesn’t get . . . uh . . . how can I put this delicately?  Shelved in the colonoscopy section.

Other Ways to Stimulate Sales 

After you’ve chased every HOPE of a paying customer from the store, it is time to devise nefarious new ways to stimulate sales.  

To complete your initiation into the Published Fraternity, I challenge you to stretch beyond your mild-mannered writer persona.  Remember the lyrics from the Seals and Crofts song, “We may never pass this way again . . . ?” 

That’s right!  You must stand out!  Or rather, you must make your books stand out.  And that is the beauty of the Lone deWolfe Method!

Disclaimer #2: 

You did NOT read the following advice in the Writing Novels that Sell blog. Adrienne deWolfe never advised you to do any of the following mischief.  Got that?

Stroll back to the aisle where your novels have been shelved.  Carefully look left, then right.  Be sure that no pesky people with store name tags are wandering nearby.

Once the coast is clear, casually rearrange all the paperbacks in your fiction genre so that your book covers face out, toward the aisle. Make sure that your books take up at least 3 horizontal spaces. That way, readers can’t fail to notice them. 

Insider Tip #3:

During any unpaid, voluntary labor on behalf of your harried retailer, you may want to don your baseball cap and dark glasses, then tiptoe out of the store in stealth mode.

Expanding Your Sales Territory

In a week or two, after you’ve been banned from all your neighborhood book stores, move upstate.  Download the soundtrack from Jaws into your MP3 player so you become appropriately motivated to troll for readers.

Re-initiate the whole aisle-lurking, people-pouncing process.

Insider Tip #4:

You may want to write your next book under a new name.

Romance Writing Contests: Win $250! Click here to learn more.