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Are Author Readings/Signings Worth It Any More?

Remember the old days of publishing: you’d get your book picked up by a publisher and then some magical publicity department would start booking you to do lots of high-profile signings and readings at book stores, schools, etc…

My, how times have changed. Nowadays, authors have to do all of their own online publicity. Unless you’ve already churned out a few bestsellers, publishers aren’t going to do a whole lot for you.

But is that a bad thing? Yes … and no.

Sure, we’d all love it if our publishers took out full-page ads in the NY Times to promote our books. That would certainly help sell copies. So would getting booked on Oprah or creating radio spots.

But one of the most common types of publicity — book signings and readings — has been falling by the wayside. Why? Because it just doesn’t sell books.

Booktour.com, a Web site used by authors and publishers to publicize book signings, readings and other live events since 2007, shut its proverbial doors today. And that’s no surprise; authors often tell me that these book signings and book readings are pretty much a waste of time. Not many people show up (after all, who is going to take the time to show up and meet an author they’ve never heard of before). Even if people do show up, the number of copies sold is generally minimal.

Maybe it’s time that authors re-think how they market themselves. After all, couldn’t you get a lot more out of doing online interviews, guest blogging on other sites, and/or creating your own podcasts? Such methods of online promotion have multiple benefits that in-person appearances do not, including:

  • They speak to a national audience — not just a local one
  • They’re targeted so that they reach the people who are already interested in your subject matter
  • They’re timeless. People can watch your podcast when it’s convenient for them, not just in the two-hour window that you’ve dedicated to the bookstore near their home.

Yes, folks, the verdict is in. Book signings just don’t do it any more; much like publishers don’t do it any more. It’s up to you, the author, to figure out how to leverage the vast world of the internet to get the right audience of potential readers exposed to your book. You just have to find them.

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5 Comments

  1. I completely agree, though it is disheartening to know that book signing events are not successful for most authors these days. I have done a few, and have a few scheduled for my newest book, and I rely on friends and Facebook allies in the location to help me promote it. I enjoy seeing old friends and meeting people who have emailed me at book signing events and I am thrilled if 25 books sell, which is not much. I will look into guest blogging and podcasts!

  2. I think it really depends on the type of book you are writing and how hard it is to publicise your event to that audience. I write non-fiction and the book I have out now is written for a pretty well-defined niche group who can be contacted through clinics and support groups.

    For me, on opportunity to speak for a few minutes at one of the support group open meetings and sell books afterwards could be quite valuable. I haven’t got to that point yet, but I don’t think it would be time wasted even if I didn’t sell any books on the spot.

    I do think that book signings at bookstores aren’t worth the effort because you don’t get a targeted audience, but if there are events that attract your audience specifically–having a table set up to sell books and talk to attendees could still work.

    • I agree that all marketing tactics are dependent upon your audience. If you can get your niche group of readers together for a book signing, then it very well may be worth it.

  3. Pingback: The 411 on the Effectiveness of Book Signings | Stacy-Deanne: My Own Corner of the World

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