My self-publishing journey: Holding a book signing at Barnes and Noble
I don’t know what it is about holding a book signing in a bookstore but the idea had always been too appealing to me as a writer, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
Sure, I had a fancy book launch in Manila which completely stunned me when a lot of people came to attend. I didn’t realize being a celebrity was such a tough job until I got tired of smiling for the cameras while my event planner orchestrated the videos. I didn't mind though, at least for one night.
That was amazing and truly unforgettable.
But like an inquisitive child, it didn’t seem to be enough.
I wanted to have a book signing in a real bookstore in the middle of bookshelves among the very people who take the time to actually come and hunt for a good read.
I didn’t have the chance to do that in Manila because I didn’t know who to contact and send my proposal to. I also didn’t have enough time to not just execute my plan but to wait for results.
So I went to a local Barnes and Noble store in Houston when I came back to the States and asked if I could hold a book signing at their location.
I knew it was a long shot because I was an indie author.
But that’s okay.
After publishing my book FOBOLOUS independently and earning positive reviews from people who actually took the time to read my 90,000 word novel and write me their feedback – asking if I could write a sequel and get the first book turned into a rom-com movie – I’ve already deleted the words “long shot” from my vocabulary.
And for good reasons.
Two weeks ago, I got lucky.
Barnes and Noble gave me the opportunity to participate in their local author event and I was granted my longtime wish - to hold a FOBOLOUS book signing in the ultimate bookstore of my dreams.
Check out the book signing here.
What I learned
Because the Barnes and Noble book signing was my first author event in the United States, I was ecstatic. At the same time, I was dazed, panicky, and pretty MacGyverish – meaning I did stuff as I went along.
In case you plan to be as crazy as I am in pursuing your dreams one day, let me tell you how I prepped for my book signing and hopefully, you’ll pick up a thing or two on what to do and what not to do in your own event.
To send a proposal for a book signing, you have to prepare a media kit including a synopsis and a marketing plan for your book. Give your kit to the CRM (Customer Relations Manager) of the bookstore of your choice including a physical copy of your book. Let the CRM know your intentions to hold an author event in their bookstore. Follow up and wait until they give you a call back.
If you are given a chance to hold a book signing, ask the CRM what they allow and all the specifics of the event. Know what you need to bring and what time you can set up.
The bookstore will give you time to promote the event and order your books (if you prefer to provide the books yourself). Use this time to call newspapers, TV and radio stations, bloggers and all other venues that you can tap to provide your press release. Newspapers have lead times so make sure you send them your PR at least 10 days prior to the event.
Invite everyone that you want to join you at your book event. The more, the merrier.
Prepare promo materials for the book signing such as bookmarks, postcards, etc. that you’re willing to give away to those attending your event and buying your books.
Bring your favorite pen.
If you don’t have anyone to help you haul your books and other things that you need to bring to the event, ask the CRM how to go about it and make prior arrangements. The bookstore staff usually helps the authors set up if needed.
Know what to wear prior to the event so it doesn’t add extra pressure when you’re already battling a million other things in your head on the day of the event.
Remind your invitees about the event a day to the exact hour before the event starts. Be on time.
Interact and network with your fellow authors during the event. Make sure all your guests are attended to. Make them feel comfortable. Don't let anyone feel left out.
If everything goes wrong with your book signing, that’s fine. You did your best. Smile and tell yourself, “You are living your dream.”
Send a thank you note or token of appreciation to the CRM and the staff after the event.
What had happened was
There were a few things I wouldn't have done at my book signing and won't repeat given another chance but then again, it would not have been unforgettably amazing if everything was perfect.
I wore jeans – all the authors at the event were dressed to the nines – because I didn’t make prior arrangements with my family and friends to help me haul my books to the car and inside the bookstore. I wanted to wear my little black dress and fuchsia pink high heels but my practical side won over my inner fashionista.
I came a few minutes late. You could say I was promoting “Filipino Time” but honestly, traffic in Houston on a Friday is pretty bad.
I shared the table with two other authors so I didn’t have the opportunity to act like a dignified author behind the table chatting with people asking for an autograph. I sat on the side of the table while signing books and mingled with my guests almost the entire event. I just ignored the stares from those looking at me wondering if the silly girl in jeans was the event planner signing books on behalf of the author. Right?
I did not bring comfortable shoes in my car. I could barely walk back to my vehicle after standing in my high heels for 5 hours. I realized, taking them off, walking nonchalantly at the big parking lot in front of the mighty bookstore, and looking at the night sky in self-victory only happens in fiction.
When all else fails, make sure you have pretty hair. It goes a long way. Thanks to my stylist Ferdie!
My first book signing in America - that sounded FOBOLOUS ha! - was a success. The book event was held on a Friday and most of my guests came straight from work. Some of them even dropped by before running to the airport to hop on a plane or go on an interstate road trip that night.
Without my guests, my book signing would have been boring and meaningless.
And I am forever grateful.
Thanks again, ladies and gents for gracing the event despite the traffic and the limited parking in the area.
PROPS to my sister in crime Marylou Celespara-Lot for helping me before, during, and after the event while running around in her ultra cute high heels, too. You go girl!
To everyone else, I have no words to express how much I appreciate your presence. Maraming salamat. For those who were not able to come, next time, tara let's!