10 Pro Tips for Your Best Book Signing Event

The staff at River Oaks Bookstore knows about book signings. Since their doors opened in Houston 45 years ago, the booksellers have handled more than 3,000 book events for authors. That’s why their feedback on Bill Herrington’s book event last week mattered.

Their unanimous response? “It was one of the best events we’ve had,” they all said. In contraflow-cover-mockup-front.pngfact, book sales tripled their expectations.

It’s no wonder. Nearly 60 friends, family, and colleagues had streamed into the cozy shop to celebrate Contraflow, Herrington’s memoir about the leaders who provided hope to New Orleanians in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The evening was a culmination of years dedicated to shaping his eyewitness experience into a compelling tale.

So how can you ensure the same positive experience for your own book signing event? We teamed up with the author to share some pointers.

The publisher with Bill Herrington, the author of Contraflow


Tip #1: Align yourself with a publisher who is an advocate for you.

An advocate will provide the accountability and encouragement to see your project to the end. “From my endorsements to my book event,” said Bill, “Ella has pushed me to go further than I thought possible. I was initially hesitant to host an event, but my philosophy became, ‘Go big or go home.’”  

Tip #2: Define your goals and expectations.

Book events typically result in few sales, so don’t make the mistake of measuring your success solely by numbers. Set realistic expectations by shaping the event around your original goals. What were your reasons for writing the book in the first place? Whether you sell more or less books than you hope, this is an opportunity to bring these goals to life beyond what was accomplished in the pages of your book.

“In my case, my primary goals were to share my story with family and friends and to honor Houston leaders,” said Bill. “These two goals were even more important to me than making sales. So we based every detail of my book event on these two goals.”

Tip #3: Plan your format.

Decide whether you prefer a casual signing or a more structured format that designates a time to share a formal reading and in-depth thoughts. Be sure to mention the plan in your invitations so guests know what to expect.

Bill said, “I decided that my two-hour signing would be a come-and-go event on a weeknight. I liked that people stopped by at different times after work to grab a book, say hello, and mingle. However, there were some downsides, like the fact that some were pressed for time and had to leave before my speech that was given midway through the evening. So you really have to think about what you want.”

Tip #4: Choose a fitting location.

Consider a venue that maximizes your ability to accomplish your goals as well as your guests’ ability to attend. A bookstore is a solid pick because it has ample space and staff experience to accommodate a book event – and it’s usually in a recognizable location. Most stores keep a portion of the book sales in exchange for handling logistics like tables and chairs, book purchases, parking, and refreshments.

For Bill’s signing, we chose River Oaks Bookstore because it provides a charming atmosphere in the heart of Houston. Bill said, “I visited the shop before the event to introduce myself, ask questions, and scope out the space. I like that a small shop can make even a small event feel well attended. If you prefer to not share a percentage of book sales with a store, another idea is to host your event at a spacious home.”

Tip #5: Arrive early to arrange your materials.flowers.jpg

Bring plenty of books, a display stand, and several fine-tipped black Sharpies for easy signing. Set out business cards and a stack of press releases that can be left with the bookstore as promotional materials. Name tags and Sharpies are useful if you’re welcoming people from different social and business circles. Finally, keep a water bottle on hand to keep your throat clear.

Bill said, “Colleagues sent flowers, which turned out to be a nice touch as a table centerpiece.”

If you want to get creative, you can also display photographs, a slideshow, or other materials related to your book. Some authors choose to have their book cover, author portrait, book title, and name enlarged on a standing poster board. This might be worthwhile if you plan to host future signings.

 Tip #6: Plan your message.

When it comes to your written message, choose the page of the book on which you’ll sign, which might differ in your paperback and hardcover formats. Be ready to ask for names and spellings, try to personalize the message, and sign your name legibly. If you don’t know a guest well enough to write a personalized message, consider a signature phrase, such as “Much appreciation” or “In gratitude.”

This is also a great time to express verbal thanks for your endorsers, family, and community members who contributed in some way. Guests attend these events because they want a personal connection with you as the author, so think about how you can take this deeper than what they can read in the book on their own. Consider telling about how you made your choices on content or cover design, or explain your emotional journey in making your book. Aim to keep it short – no more than 15 minutes. Bill said, “You’ve got to practice and rehearse what you’re going to say. The only thing I wish I’d had was a podium to glance down and remember everything I wanted to say and everyone I wanted to recognize.”

Tip #7: Recruit others.

Before the event, ask friends and family to mention the book event online to drum up curiosity and potential sales. Then ask them to arrive a little early at the event to help welcome guests and make them feel comfortable. Designate a friend or two to take photographs at the event. Afterwards, offer to sign some copies to leave at the bookstore as an incentive for them to sell.

Most importantly, pay attention to your guest list. “I didn’t send an Evite to everyone I know,” said Bill. “I invited people whom I trusted would bring a positive, supportive energy for an enjoyable evening.”guests

Bill offered a few more tips on inviting guests. “You need to spread the word yourself. The only people who will come to your event are those you bring,” he said. “So invite the centers of influence. Invite people from your circles far and wide. Invite them even if they already own your book because they may want their book signed or may want to buy more as gifts. Like any party, you’ll want to invite more than you think will come because about 20 percent won’t show up. And don’t be afraid to send a reminder – people have good intentions but might forget because they’re so busy.”

Tip #8: Ask for reviews.

Before the event, insert a typed note or bookmark into each book that communicates three things: gratitude for the purchase, an invitation to enjoy the book, and a request to leave an honest review on Amazon. This is a perfect opportunity to collect reviews from your readers, which can boost your online ranking.

Tip #9: Make it fun and interesting.

Showcase another guest of honor or a product that you think would interest your guests. Because Bill’s book was about paying tribute to city leaders, he invited former Houston mayor Bill White to share a few words about his role in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Not only was Mr. White relevant to the evening – he added credibility to the book.

We also coordinated with Mr. White to display his own book, America’s Fiscal Constitution, along with a bowl to collect names for one complimentary copy. This added an element of fun for guests but also brought attention to Mr. White’s book as a gesture of thanks.

Tip #10: Use social media.

Encourage your guests to post pics on social media before and after the event to spread the word about the book.

After a long journey to publication, you don’t want to miss out on the satisfaction of a successful book event. So follow these ten tips and then – in Bill’s words – “Go big or go home!”  

Ella7_croppedElla Ritchie is the founder of Stellar Communications Houston, a business communications and book publishing team that delivers quality, integrity, and reliability to nonfiction authors, business leaders, nonprofit organizations, and federal government agencies.  Connect with her on LinkedIn or Facebook, or check out the website for more information.


Author portraitAs a corporate banker in New Orleans for 20 years, Bill Herrington actively supported community education alongside his wife Frances, a teacher. In Contraflow, he uses his unique perspective of the extraordinary leadership witnessed after Hurricane Katrina to raise funds to support the education of youth impacted by natural disasters or family tragedies.


9 tips to nabbing your best endorsement


Detail of a businessman gesturing tumb up

A few months ago, corporate banker Bill Herrington whooped with joy. I’d just told the first-time author that the former mayor of Houston, Bill White, would endorse his book. He knew White’s words would lend credibility to his memoir about leadership witnessed after Hurricane Katrina.

But White wasn’t the only one. Since then, seven more prominent leaders have endorsed Contraflow: From New Orleans to Houston, which was released last week to mark the 11th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. They include a former senator, former U.S. Army General, school president, former school superintendent, sheriff, magazine editor, and board member.

These endorsements lend more than credibility to Bill’s book. They also extend his reach to people beyond his personal and professional circles, leveraging his opportunities to have an influence on others and to make sales.

So how do you nab your best endorsement? Try our nine strategies for success.

  1. Dream big.

When you make your list of prospects, go big. Brainstorm high-profile people who are relevant to your material. Retired folks make great candidates because they may have more time on their hands but are usually still very connected to the community. Politicians, celebrities, company presidents, prominent community leaders and professionals . . .  The possibilities are endless. Of course, you’ll also want to brainstorm the people you know – and the people they know – who are already in your network. But the point is to reach higher than you think is possible. You’d be surprised how accessible people are.

  1. Pique their interest.

Make sure your email request is as thoughtfully written as your manuscript. You’re asking for more than just a quote – you’re asking for their trust in lending their name to you and your work. So it’s more than just an email; it’s a campaign that’s tailored to each prospect. And one way to get your foot in the door is to craft a subject line that gets attention. Here are some of the subject lines we used to pique the interest of our prospects and motivate them to read our email.

“Mention in an upcoming book”

“References to your leadership”

“Do you remember Mr. Harrigan?”

“A John Wayne Dude”

Some of these won’t make sense to you, but they make sense to the prospect. Take your time and consider the most meaningful approach for each person.

  1. Leverage a publisher.

The more prominent your prospects, the more people that are probably already knocking at their door. Set yourself apart as someone to be taken seriously by introducing your book through a third party, such as an assisted publisher or literary representative. Your prospect is more likely to respond because you’re communicating that you’re more than a one-man band . . . You’ve invested in a credible process and have other people backing you.

Here’s how we introduced Bill’s book to one of our prospects.

Dear (Prospect),

I want to share an excerpt about you in a client’s upcoming book, Contraflow: From New Orleans to Houston. It is his account of the lives of people, businesses, and cities that were temporary reversed and permanently altered by Hurricane Katrina, one of the most catastrophic storms on record. The book is slated for release on April 29, the 11th anniversary of the storm.

We mentioned in the first line that our prospect is in the book so he’d sit up and take notice. And we included the target release date as another way to communicate that this was a serious project – not just an item on Bill’s bucket list.

  1. Share a worthy purpose.

Everyone wants to be part of something bigger than himself. Invite your prospects to be part of your big purpose. The more worthwhile the cause, the more likely they’ll want to join you.

His purpose in publishing the book is two-fold. He wants to honor the civic and corporate leaders, including you, who stepped up to help New Orleanians, exhibiting tremendous leadership and compassion in their time of crisis. He also wants to generate charitable contributions in support of the education of youth who are impacted by disasters and family tragedies.

  1. Drop names.

Mention any weighty endorsements you already have. Your prospects want to know they’re in good company.

Because we admire your leadership, I’m also writing to ask you to add your endorsement of the book to those who have already done so, including retired U.S. Lieutenant General Russel L. Honoré as well as the University of Houston’s Center for Public History.

  1. Tell them why they matter.

Explain why you value their name and how their endorsement will make a difference.

I believe your name would lend credibility to the book, helping readers move past any negative connotations they may associate with Hurricane Katrina.

  1. Make it a win-win.

Think of some way you can return the favor by endorsing his/her own cause.

I know that you’ve recently published your own book, and I would be happy to include it in your byline to raise awareness for your cause as well.

  1. Make it easy.

Include a few samples of endorsements that they can edit. If they like your work, it’s standard practice in the publishing world to provide the words you’re hoping for.

If interested, please provide a quote by Friday, July 15. I’ve included a few lines below that are representative of the type of endorsement I’m seeking. To save time, you’re welcome to use them in their entirety if they reflect your sentiments. If you prefer to modify them or write something new, of course that’s more than fine.

  1. Let your material speak for itself.

The first eight tips will get your foot in the door. But no matter how great your pitch, it’s ultimately the quality of your materials that persuade your prospect. Bill’s manuscript and cover design were attached, both of which had been refined through more than a year of editing, designing, and revising with a professional team. His materials reflected his dedication and thoughtful process – and that’s what finally nabbed his endorsement.

Ella7_croppedElla Ritchie is the founder/owner of Stellar Communications Houston, a business communications and book publishing team that delivers quality, integrity, and reliability to nonfiction authors, business leaders, nonprofit organizations, and federal government agencies.  Connect with her on LinkedIn or Facebook, or check out the website for more information.


author portraitAs a corporate banker in New Orleans for 20 years, Bill Herrington actively supported community education alongside his wife Frances, a teacher. In Contraflow, he uses his unique perspective of the extraordinary leadership witnessed after Katrina to raise funds to support the education of youth impacted by natural disasters or family tragedies.

So you want to be an Amazon best-selling author?

Best sellerFor what it’s worth, you aren’t alone. You are actually among millions of other authors, both traditionally and self/independently published.

In order to overcome the competition, you need to do a better job at using all the tools available to you — and you absolutely must be ready and willing to do some hardcore marketing.

When I say hardcore marketing, I’m not talking about social networking. The main thing you need to remember about social networking is that it’s just that: social. Although I’m not always successful at getting this point across to some authors, I ask you to think about how you feel when an author-friend on Facebook posts blatant self-promotion over and over. For most people, it’s a complete turn-off. There is actually a good way to market using social networking, but that is a subject for another day.

Back to Amazon. Here are some tools and resources that you can leverage to become a best-selling author.

#1 Maximize your Author Central Page.

If you don’t have one already, set one up. The link for Author Central is https://authorcentral.amazon.com/. Make your bio interesting, link all of your books to your page, add a good author photo, and plan to post updates on a regular basis. If you’ve created a book trailer, be sure to post it here.

#2 Create an author account at shelfari.com.

Sign in using your Author Central username and password. Add your books to your bookshelf, and be sure to include as much interesting detail as possible to your books. This can include character information, settings, themes, keywords, and more. The beauty of Shelfari is that the information you add to your book will also appear on your Amazon.com book page. There is quite a bit more you can do with Shelfari, so visit this link to learn more: http://newbieauthorsguide.com/2012/03/26/shelfari/.

#3 Join Goodreads (another Amazon site) and then convert your account to a Goodreads Author account.

Follow this link for more information: https://www.goodreads.com/author/program. Keep in mind that Goodreads is a social network for readers. The same rules about blatant self-promotion apply here as well. My best suggestion is to join one or two groups focused on reading books within your genre(s) and initially just observe. There will be no need to introduce yourself as an author, because your author status will be included in your posts. When you are comfortable with a group and feel it’s time to join the discussion, do so as another reader. Don’t try to recommend your own books. Let other group members ask you about your books first. Then be very humble!

#4 Run a deal for a limited time.

When you run a deal on your e-book, $1.99 is good, but 99¢ is much better. Do it for a limited time. Talk to your friends and family again. This time, enlist their help. Ask them to be a partner in helping you become a best-selling author by posting on Facebook and Twitter and talking your deal up. You might even want to create a flyer to share. Whatever you do, this is one time to do it up big. Regardless of what happens, be sure to thank each and every person for helping.

#5 Reviews, reviews, reviews!

The bottom line is reviews. Everything I’ve suggested thus far is leading up to this one major goal that will help you achieve Amazon best-seller status. If you have to give away e-books or print copies of your book to get reviews, it’s a good investment.

Don’t be afraid to talk to your family and friends about reading your books and posting reviews on Amazon. The more reviews you have, and especially those five-star treasures, the better your chances of being included in one of Amazon’s promotions.

There are outside services such as Bookbub that – if you have a large number of reviews, like 100 – will take your money and include you in a daily email blast going to literally millions of e-book readers who have signed up for deals in specific genres. Keep in mind, the more readers signed up for a genre, the higher the cost. I’ve run Bookbub deals for many (many) authors who are now Amazon best-selling authors, and even a couple who made it to New York Times and USA Today best-selling author status. The great thing about Bookbub is that this is one rare instance in which you stand a very good chance of recouping your investment, PLUS you should gain more reviews and increase your exposure.

Now that you’re on your way to becoming a recognized brand, here are a couple of “Don’ts” to keep in mind.

Don’t waste your money on advertising. If you’re tempted to place an ad, figure out how many copies of your book you will need to sell to pay for it. Just be very cautious. If you are traditionally published, approach your publisher for a release ad in Booklist, Library Journal, or Publishers Weekly. If they are willing to give you the exposure, great.

Don’t try to do it all. The assignments listed above, along with an author website, Facebook, and possibly Twitter, provide plenty of social and professional interaction for now. If you also have a blog, great! Just don’t let all of this take away from your writing.

Achieving best-seller status is work, but the results are rewarding. If you believe in your writing, your message, and your talent, don’t give up!

David Ivester

Our guest blogger, David, is our author advocate, publicist, and marketing consultant who provides insight into what it takes to get an author’s books into as many hands as possible. He creates scalable, custom marketing programs based on each author’s individual budget and goals.



Ella Hearrean Ritchie is the owner of Stellar Communications, a Houston company that delivers quality business communications and book publishing services on time to nonfiction authors, business leaders, nonprofit organizations, and federal government agencies.  Connect with her on LinkedIn or check out the website for more information.