Swoon Author Kimberly Karalius: The Dos and Don’ts of Book Signings
If you’ve ever wanted to be an author, then you’ve probably daydreamed about book signings. I know I used to. I hadn’t been to many book signings myself, so that left a lot of room to embellish. I pictured sitting on a throne-like chair with a magical fountain pen, ready to sign a pile of books taller than me (which wouldn’t be that hard, if you’ve seen me in person. I’m short). Lines to rival those at Disney World. YES.
But daydreams are daydreams. I had plenty of fun in school participating in book events like readings and panels; those experiences definitely prepared me for book signings, but there’s still so much more to learn. After returning from the Summer of Swoon tour (which I recapped on my blog), I embarked on my first two solo book signings.
Doing a solo event feels so different than being on a panel or touring with my fellow Swoon authors. It’s been fun to see the creative ways bookstores create displays and signs for the events. The Bookshelf in Thomasville, Georgia takes the cake for that so far – I mean, CHALK BOARDS:
Solo events can also be a little intimidating when you realize that the readers coming to your events are there to see you. Suddenly, being witty and charming for two hours straight is a harder task than you first thought. But you manage to pull it off. Or at least I did (so you can too!).
For instance, when I was in Thomasville, someone in the audience asked me who my dream cast was for Love Fortunes and Other Disasters. With full confidence, I said, “I think Jeff Goldblum could play all my characters.”
Wasn’t even trying to be funny. The man has serious talent.
After coming back from my second solo book signing, I thought about what I’ve learned so far about the process. So I present to you some takeaways:
DO practice autographing your book. Because the logistics are more complicated than you’d think. Once I knew what the Love Fortunes and Other Disasters title page looked like, I figured out where on the page I would sign. Some readers want their autographs dated. Others want autographs personalized to themselves or loved ones. I learned early on to ask everyone how to spell their names, because there are so many ways to spell even the most basic names like Ann. Better to ask and get it right!
DON’T have expectations about attendance. My graduate school professors used to warn us young writers that, in the event of a book signing, it’s perfectly normal and even a rite of passage if no one shows up to one of your book signings. That may sound a little morbid, but it was a good warning because you can never tell what the turnout will be like, even with social media on your side. I was lucky to have had people attend both of my events – I even had a line at the Wesley Chapel Barnes and Noble signing!
However, I didn’t realize that it’s harder for booksellers to bring in readers during the summer. Once school’s out, families hit the road on vacation. Maybe it’s a southern thing, but the roads are thinner once we reach May, and if tumbleweeds existed here, I’d see them bouncing down the street until September.
So don’t let the numbers matter. Instead, focus on enjoying the readers who are there, because they came out to see you and you’re going to bring the awesome, right? What’s not to love?
DO wear comfortable clothing. It’s fun to dress up for book signings, but it’s important to also have a trust-based relationship with whatever you pulled out of your closet. Because once you start signing books, posing for photos with readers, and answering questions, the last thing you’re thinking about is what your dress is doing. I’ve discovered that I love wearing accessories that allude to my book; I try to wear shades of nail polish that match colors on my book cover, and wear a necklace or bracelet that goes with Love Fortunes in some way (like my key necklace that I may or may not have gotten from Love itself).
DON’T assume that people have already read your debut novel. Love Fortunes and Other Disasters was released upon the world on May 12, 2015. Plenty of time for readers to find my book, read it, and then happily attend my book signings? Not exactly. In the two book signings I’ve done, only about 3% of attendees had read my book beforehand. Most of them had waited until the events to get their copies. So that means that during Q&A sessions, I couldn’t delve too deeply into talking about the book’s content for fear of…
But I still got to talk about other fun topics, like how Swoon Reads works, what the Summer of Swoon tour was like, and other writing-related (or Goldblum-related) questions.
DO expect to be living your dream. When it comes down to it, book signings are adventures. You never know what to expect, except that you’re getting to travel to wonderful bookstores and meet people who are as passionate about books as you are.