Happening Book Signings? Oh Yeah!

Former community college instructor Patti Lacy is drawn to stories involving secrets and multicultural characters. Her second novel, What the Bayou Saw, releases April 30th. She is currently working on a fictional series entitled “Spanning Seas and Secrets.” Patti and her husband, Alan, live in Normal, Illinois. They have two grown children and a dog named Laura.

How to Make a “Happening” Out of Your Book Signing

Your first book is due to release in two months. You’ve blogged till your fingers ache, bragged till you’re hoarse. You’ve scheduled book signings, a library appearance or two. As you sit at your computer, outlining your next WIP, snaky tendrils curl about your gut. What if no one shows up as you sit at a table piled with books and cute little stickers? Sweat prickles your underarms just thinking about it.

You need a plan, and I’ve got one to offer, thanks to Jeane Wynn and Travis Thrasher.

Weeks before the event, prepare a flyer that clearly delineates the event’s time and place. If possible, colorfully display your book and a photo of yourself. Post these papers in every shop window that will take them. Stuff them in church mailboxes.

E-mail attachments to those who prefer paperless notices. Mail them to your neighbors and friends if you can afford the stamps. Contact your local media outlets. If your publisher uses a publicist, get them to do this as well (sometimes they’d rather have local folks call; sometimes not. Just to be safe, why not do both?)

Gather knick-knacks and decorations related to your book. I clothe the signing table with a green paisley throw, sparkly shamrock confetti, the photo album of my trip to Ireland. Hopefully the green scarf around my neck adds another shade of green to accentuate the beautiful cover Kregel designed for An Irishwoman’s Tale.

If your budget allows for pre-wrapped chocolates or mints, they seem to draw folks to your table…or at least the sweets draw their kids. I also prepare “pub” bags (clear-wrap party favor bags) that include two bookmarks, a bag of Irish breakfast tea with a tiny copy of the book cover glued on the paper sleeve, and a business card.

Book-signing day has arrived.

Goodies bulge your satchel. You’re dressed in what you think is a sharp-looking, writerly getup. The snaky tendrils become a giant python that’s squeezing you to death. How can you get rid of “event day suffocation”?

Travis Thrasher, author of suspense thriller Isolation, offered valuable insights before my first An Irishwoman’s Tale event. “If the people don’t come to you, go to them, book in hand. Ask them what they like to read. Tell them about your book if they don’t run away screaming.”

I paraphrased—don’t we writers always—but Travis taught me a wonderful principle about book signings. Don’t just sit at your desk, bored and scared stiff. Arrive early. Walk around the store to familiarize yourself with the store layout. Carry a book and practice your testimony—yes, your book is a testimony—with an unsuspecting customer—no, it can’t be your friend—to let the blood flow and release energy to your brain.

Second, remember you are in the store to create a community atmosphere as well as sell your books. You want the bookstore managers to call YOU next time! And they will, if you chat with their customers about what a great store this is, listen carefully as that young writer shares his writing story, direct that elderly woman to the row of health books related to hernia care.

Just last week, a book buyer I met at my St. Paddy’s Day signing at Barnes & Noble, attended my local writing group. It was a wonderful chance to witness to a young woman going through a difficult time in her life. Today I will mail a blown-up poster of my book cover to Hannah, a teenager, whose mother is struggling with recurring ovarian cancer. Hannah, who has missionary friends in Ireland, longs to reach the land o’ a thousand greens. This determined young lady has already saved $2,000 for her trip. The least I can do is send her a poster, inscribed with “Hannah’s Dream.”

Oh, dear friends, book signings can about SO much more than selling a few books. You can create community, rev up interest in one of your staunchest allies, the book seller, minister to the hurting, and make new friends. Look it as a “foot-washing opportunity”, and your exultant heartbeat will burst through those strangling snakes!

Please visit my Home Page and look under Recent Writing News OR event calendar to see pictures. Please e-mail me if you have questions.

The past can’t stay buried forever. Since leaving her home in the South, Sally Stevens has held the secrets of her past at bay, smothering them is a sunny disposition and sugar-coated lies. No one, not even her husband, has heard the truth about her childhood. But when one of her students is violently raped, Sally’s memories quickly bubble to the surface unbidden, like a dead body in a bayou. As Sally’s story comes to light, the lies she’s told begin to catch up with her. And as her web of deceit unravels, she resolves to face the truth at last, whatever the consequences.