What Book Signings Are Like

Right now I’m in the Omaha, Nebraska area visiting my good friend Janet Syas Nitsick.  She signed up to be one of the vendors at the AppleJack Festival in Nebraska City, Nebraska.  There were lots of vendors, but Janet was in the Fox Center.  I played the gopher for her, running around and getting things she needed.  It was a lot of fun.

janet at booksigning

Janet Syas Nitsick at her table. She is dressed in the same outfit the heroine is on The Bride List book cover (which is featured on the poster next to her).

So anyway, I don’t think I’ve ever done a post on what an author goes through to set up a book signing at a craft show, festival, or some other kind of event where people can sell things.

1. The author needs to search for events that are going on in their area that they are interested in going to.  

There will be a person to contact if you want to be a vendor.  The author contacts the vendor, and the vendor will give the author the information on where to go, when to be there to set things up, etc.

2. The author needs to look at expenses.

There is usually a cost to reserve the spot.  For this particular event, Janet paid $75 to be a vendor.  Also, since she’s in Nebraska, she is required to charge sales tax.  In this case, Nebraska City’s sales tax was 7.5%.  The sales tax varies from one city to the next. (The taxes all go to the government. She doesn’t keep it.)  In addition to that, Janet had to figure in cost of gas since this is almost one hour from her home and money paid for food and drink while she is out.  Also, she had to keep track of the miles she drove. Those costs are business related and can be written off when she files her taxes, but she will need to keep careful track of her expenses, so receipts are a must.  I mention all of this because unless she can make more than all of the expenses, she will not make a profit.  So as you can see, her asking $9.95 for a paperback isn’t outrageous.  If she was to have any hope of recouping the costs, she needed to ask that.

3. The author must engage people.

One thing I noticed over the two days was that if Janet didn’t start talking to people, no one would have bought her books.  The rules of marketing are different when you’re in person.  Online, you have some flexibility. You can do free reads, engage in social media, run ads, etc, but at a book signing, you don’t have that luxury.  You need to get out and mingle with people.  If you don’t, people will go right by the table without looking back. About half the people Janet talked to loved to read, but they hadn’t planned on stopping by the table. She had to make eye contact with them, smile, and engage them into a conversation in order to get them to stop. When I found out they loved clean romances, which is what she writes, I kept wondering why they didn’t stop before she talked to them. So if you’re going to have a book signing, you must be willing to get out there and socialize.  (The same was true for other vendors as well. Those who initiated the most conversations sold the best.)


Now, I skipped over the whole thing where an author has to set up their table because I have pictures for that!  Pictures are the fun part. 🙂

When you’re at an event, the big thing is setting up the table.  Just as marketers stress attractive book covers, blogs, and websites in the online world, it’s important to present an attractive table to appeal to your ideal audience.

Below is the process for setting up the table.

First, we got the skirt around the table.

skirt around table

After we set up the book signing poster, we finished lining the table with tablecloths to cover it.

top of table and poster

Then we put the items on top of the table where they belong.

setting up table

table is complete

Janet is somewhere in this picture.  Can you find her? 🙂

Now you add the author, and everything is ready!

just add the author

And I thought I’d show what it looks like inside a building when all of the vendors and set up and doing business:


This is the view from one of the entrances.  Janet was to the left in the corner, so you can’t see her table from this angle.


This is the view from Janet’s table.

And though this has nothing to do with the topic, I saw the bathroom sink and thought it was so cute that I took a picture of it.

cute bathroom sink

About Ruth Ann Nordin

Ruth Ann Nordin mainly writes historical western romances and Regencies. From time to time, she branches out to other genres, but her first love is historical romance. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska with her husband and a couple of children. To find out more about her books, go to https://ruthannnordinsbooks.wordpress.com/.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to What Book Signings Are Like

  1. I just bookmarked this post so that I can use it if I ever get to the point where I’m doing a reading or a book signing.

  2. I’m not the best person to do decorations, so I’ve been lucky that my cover artist, Anya Kelleye, was at all the book signings I’ve done. She does an excellent job setting up my table. There’s so much more to this than people realize. And it’s really hard to recoup expenses. One thing that did happen to me at one book signing, though. I gained a fan, and now she buys my books and tells people about me on Facebook. That signing was worth it just for that!

    The only ones I’ve done have been at actual conventions. I’ve thought about setting up a booth at our two local festivals. I used to have a booth at one of them when I was doing eggshell ornaments. Those local ones are really fun!

    • I’m awful at decorating. I have a terrible time telling what things look good with what. I even have to have someone help me match up clothes for me when I buy them. 🙂 So if I ever did a book signing, I would have to have help with how to set up the table.

      Originally, I didn’t even factor in all the costs involved in doing these things, but as I was tallying up Janet’s sales, I realized it wasn’t a straight profit. I had to think of how much the table cost, and that led to all the other things she had to put money into in order to get things lined up and ready for the weekend. She still made a profit when all was said and done, but it wasn’t as much as I originally thought it was going to be.

      However, finding a new fan who mentions your books to other people is worth its weight in gold! To me, that would be worth it, even if I lost money on the book signing because that is something that you can’t put a dollar value on. I’m so glad that happened to you!

      I love eggshell ornaments. They’re so cute! If I saw one at a booth, I would jump on it. Most of the time, I see clothes, candles, make-up, and items for the house. Do you have anymore of those ornaments on hand that you are trying to get rid of?

Comments are closed.