Only big-name authors with PR agents get Barnes and Noble Signings, right? WRONG!
My second ever public book signing was at a Barnes in Noble in Denver, Colorado which I had set up MYSELF. I sold out of my book before my two-hour window closed. I felt like a bonafide rockstar. Now, I’m going to tell you how.
Again, not everyone owns audacious pants. If you dream about signing books at your local chain book store, but can’t bring yourself to reach out, I am more than happy to offer this service so all you have to do is show up the day of your signing with an ink pen and a smile. Schedule a free consultation and I’ll have you promoting your books in no time!
On the other hand, if you do not wish to outsource something you are capable of doing yourself, here is everything you need to know.
You got this!
Step 1: Write and publish a book.
Here is the kicker for some people. BN will not carry Amazon books. Even Amazon publishing houses are met with a turned up nose when signing in a BN. They are mortal enemies with a Montague and Capulet rivalry. Their children (authors) want to play nice, but it is forbidden. If you are self-published author, you must publish your paperback or hardback through Ingramspark or the like with wide-distribution. After you’ve published, be sure BN will sell your book on their website. How do you get them to carry your book? Follow this link for guidelines. Once your book is for sale through BN, you’re ready for Step 2.
Step 2: Reach out to the desired location.
Dust off your tenacious pants, pick up the phone and say, “Hello, I was wondering if you could tell me your four-digit store number.”
When you get the store number, you can hang up and breathe again. Wipe the sweat off your brow, and cry tears of joy it is over… for now. This store number is how corporate BN names their email addresses for each store.
Step 3: The email.
All BN event coordinators have a similar email address: CRM[store number]@bn.com (Boulder’s looks like this: CRM2333@bn.com). You’ll need the book title you wish to promote, the corresponding ISBN, and the time frame for your signings. Send this two to three months before your proposed event.
Here is the exact email I sent to about eight BN locations. I asked three months in advance, and of the eight, I booked four signings within the time frame I requested.
Dear BN Staff,
I am excited to have my debut novel, Apparent Power, published and available through Barnes & Noble!
I am writing today to propose a signing event at your location. The book is released on December 11th and I am interested in dates between December 16th through December 23rd.
Kirkus Review: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/dacia-m-arnold/apparent-power/
Thank you for your consideration in this matter.
Dacia M Arnold
Author and Blogger
Now that my book baby is a few years old, I will change the narrative a little to fit my most recent reason for promoting which is I am new to the area and hope to bring local awareness to my writing. Or something similar. Whatever best tells your story and will garner a mutual excitement to promote your work.
Click SEND! Do it, Tenacious Pants.
Step 4: Wait one week and call!
If you cannot manage talking on the phone for five minutes, how are you going to get strangers to buy your book in person for two to five hours? Take a deep breath and do it! You can!
Call and say, “Hi. I’m author [your name]. I sent an email recently about an event proposal. I’m just reaching out to check the status on that.”
This phone call will be routed to a manager who will check the email, look up your book to ensure they carry it, and tell you if your dates are open. If they say anything other than no, you’ll need to repeat this step until you receive a solid date or until they tell you, “No. Stop calling here.”
If they say, “I have to check.” Or “Let me see if…” then call one week following until you receive your answer or they say to call them back within a longer or shorter timeframe.
I did it all myself.
Each of these steps I took myself to make something I felt like a pipe-dream come true. You deserve success. Your work should be read. Marketing is uncomfortable, but promotion is the best route to get noticed.
Step 5: You have a date!
OMG It’s happening! You need to send another email. This follow-up email will include a high-resolution author photo, image of your book cover, short author bio, and book blurb. It would also be prudent to remind them, “I have September 4th on my calendar 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.” Or if you have not hammered out a time, request a time. You should know what time you’re signing at least one week in advance.
Things to consider once you nail the gig:
Barnes and Noble Signing Tip 1
Barnes & Noble will order 20 to 50 copies of the book you are promoting. Only under rare circumstances will they allow you to furnish your own books. If you do not sell all the books, there is a strong chance they will be sent back to the publisher after a certain length of time. Those are royalties on the line! Move those books.
Barnes and Noble Signing Tip 2
Have free things to give away to anyone who walks by. One non-book-related and one or two book-related. I gave out candy near the end of the long checkout line. This got people to the table because candy in a dish is understood as free. They will not assume everything else on the table is free. I also had free bookmarks and Christmas ornaments.
Barnes and Noble Signing Tip 3
I found this very strange, but most people will not assume you wrote the book. They will assume you know where the calendars and bathroom are. So when you hand them a bookmark tell them, “Did you get a free bookmark of my book?” Then they’ll say “No”, “No, thank you,” or “Oh, you wrote this? Tell me about your book!” For the Christmas ornaments I would explain, “Here! Have a Christmas ornament! It’s a little book. I made them this morning and they look a little rough, so if you say ‘no’ I understand.” “Oh this is your book? Care if I read the back cover?” Hint: Never care.
Barnes and Noble Signing Tip 4
Practice your log line (a line that sums up your book in five words or fewer), and prepare a tailored explanation of the book based on what plot points have gotten you the *raised eyebrow*. For example:
“My book is set in Denver during an apocalypse.” Customer raises eyebrow and nods.
“Apocalypse happens and Mom saves the world.” Customer replies, “Don’t they always?”
Read people’s responses, and by the tenth explanation you’ll know who might appreciate which aspect of your book.
Step 6: Getting Ready
I spent a lot of time Googling this question: What should I bring to a Barnes and Noble Signing? I pack heavy, but here is a few things to consider:
- Your favorite writing pen for signing. If you don’t have a favorite pen, any will do. Most authors sign their books on the title page inside the cover. If this is the route you choose, gel or ball-point is fine. A thin felt-tipped marker works, too (Fun Fact: this is what Neil Gaiman uses).
- A great attitude. If you suffer from RBF (if you know, you know) or you’ve been told people find you intimidating, you’ll have to spread on the charm pretty thick. Raise your eyebrows when you smile. Make eye contact with people and say “Hello”. No one will talk to you if you appear as if you don’t want anyone to talk to you.
Other optional things to bring:
- Free treats. I stick to candy. I admit, it is a very white-van thing to do (lure them in and snatch them up) but candy can be a great ice-breaker.
- Free swag. Small inexpensive items like bookmarks or trinkets are fun. Give them to everyone, not just people buying a book.
- A small notepad or notebook. If I do personalized signatures, I use a notebook to write down the persons name before I ruin it in the book they are purchasing. This also helps me keep track of how many books have sold.
- Barnes and Noble will have minimal signage, so bringing any sort of display is fine. Keep in mind your table might be very small.
Also, DON’T FORGET TO PROMOTE YOUR SIGNING ON SOCIAL MEDIA!!!! Write a press release. Post to local Facebook pages. You can rely on Barnes and Noble to do very little promotion on your event.
Step 7: Show Up
Today is the day! I recommend showing up about 20-30 minutes early. This will give you the opportunity to meet the staff available to help you, find the bathroom, get a coffee, and maybe do some shopping. Seriously, I have a serious addiction to books. It’s best to just get it out of your system.
In addition to getting comfortable in your surroundings, you also have a little bit of time to rearrange the table they offer you, request a different seat if one is available, add another table if they can accommodate so you do not spend any moments of your limited time not ready to sell your books.
Step 8: Wrapping Up
When you’re done, you are truly done. Either your time is up or you ran out of books. If you have one or two books left over, signing them before you leave is fine. Many bookstores will add a sticker to the front labeling it as a Signed Copy. Just let someone know you did. Or don’t. If they have a “Local Author” section, they could place remaining copies there. I personally am more likely to buy from the local author section.
I hope you found this helpful. Selling a single book in person in Barnes & Noble, or any bookstore, might seem like a pipe dream, but it’s easier than you think and not nearly as intimidating as you might imagine.
If you’ve followed this advice and completed your book signing, PLEASE leave a comment with your experience.
I know there are far more introverted authors in the world than extroverted, and people have a difficult time convincing themselves their work is worth reading, much less someone else. This is no doubt why I’ve becoming a full service book coach. I do so much more than project management and web design. I provide Public Relations support, too. I spend as much time answering general questions about marketing in the literary industry as I do carefully evaluating an author’s platform. The sooner you partner with a writing coach, the faster you’ll move from selling to family and friends to gaining a wide audience.
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