BOOK SIGNINGS : Do's and Don'ts by Joy Margetts


Becoming a published author rather unexpectedly, has opened up a whole new previously unexplored world to me. The whole publishing/marketing journey has been a steep learning curve, with a few full -blown side swipes included.

There have been definite highs – like wonderful reviews, and uncomfortable lows – like the boxes of unsold books. But on the whole I’ve enjoyed the ride. There have been lots and lots of lessons learned - if I should ever do this again. It genuinely has been an enlightening and rewarding experience.

This month I encountered another new experience – a real life, post lockdown, book signing – in a ACTUAL BOOK SHOP! I was excited and terrified in equal measure, not really knowing what to expect, being so grateful for the opportunity, and knowing it was something I had to do. At least once, anyway.

So I thought it would be useful to record for posterity, some of the things I learned that day, and I am sharing them here in case they might be of use to any of you lovely book writers and producers.(WARNING: do not take too seriously!)


-          Take an extra pen, in case you run out of ink because of the HORDES* (HOARDS) of people who want your signature (note to self - take spare reading glasses too, in case you drop a pair)

-          Take plenty of copies of your book, (as well as postcards and bookmarks to give away), because of the HORDES (HOARDS) of people who are going to want several copies each.

-          Dress appropriately – go for the smart, casual look to not overawe the HORDES (HOARDS), but appear professional nonetheless (note to self - avoid dressing in the style of your hero/heroine, if you write about medieval knights and monks)

-          Do have a ready smile for everyone, whether they actually buy a book or not. (You can make a rude face after they turn their back on you.)

-          Do have a drink handy, or accept refreshments from your hosts, to keep you voice well lubricated and melodious, and your breath fresh (mint imperials also advised)

-          Do take time to present your book signing table well, with appropriate accessories and posters

-          Do situate yourself in a prominent position so that the HOARDS (see above) can access you easily, and the subsequent queues will not disrupt the other, less discerning shop customers who have not come to the shop just to see you.

-          Do have a properly set up card reader for taking card payments – it will help the queue to move more efficiently (see above – minimum disruption)

-          Do line up at least two good friends to come and ‘visit’ the shop, to exclaim with surprise to see you there and hang around the signing table looking decidedly interested.

-          Do remember what your book is actually about… people will ask you!


DON’T ‘s

-             Don't bother taking extra pens if the shop sells pens…

-          Don't bring so many copies of the book that your other half breaks his back whilst carrying them in, and then breaks his back carrying them out again…

-          Don't worry about what you wear as long as it is warm – they are going to situate you by an open door, which has to remain open because of Covid regs…

-          Don't worry about smiling; stick your tongue out if you like – you’ll be wearing a mask the whole time anyway…

-          Don’t drink the proffered three cups of coffee before ensuring that the shop has a toilet you can use… (for bad breath – see point above re masks)

-          Don’t bring lots of accessories to decorate your table before checking how big the table will actually be (see also - other half’s bad back)

-          Don’t assume you will be able to choose where you situate your table (see above)

-          Don’t assume that the shop has WiFi connection good enough to support said card reader… (note to self – check mobile phone data)

-          Choose your ‘friends’ wisely. One that stands by the table blocking it from view and stays for an hour wanting to bring you up to date with Aunty Dotty’s leg ulcer, their disastrous holiday in Rhyl, and how their digestive system reacted to the Indian takeaway they had last week, might not actually help with sales…

-          Don’t be discouraged if the HORDES (HOARDS) don’t show up. They missed out.


I actually had an absolutely fabulous time at my first book signing. No I didn’t sell hundreds of copies of my book, not even tens of copies. But I met some wonderful people, including the local MP, and had the opportunity to encourage an independent bookshop on National Bookshop Day. What I would say is DO look for opportunities to do book signings, especially in partnership with bookshops, and DON’T be frightened of approaching bookshops, especially local independents. My hosts were so grateful that I made the effort to come and sit in their lovely shop for a few hours. They thanked me profusely, bought several copies of the book themselves, and even supplied me with free coffee and chocolate. Win win.

* Just had it pointed out that I used the wrong 'hordes/hoards'. So I've put both in now so you can choose! Who actually knows?!



Sandra Horn said…
Thank you for this, Joy! It made me smile. Oh yes, I remember it well, or something very like, including the over-size friend completely blocking the view of me and the books - but it was fun and I did meet lots of lovely folk. More power to your signing hand!
Joy Margetts said…
So glad it made you smile. And yes my 'friend' wasn't the smallest of people either! Thanks for commenting!
Elizabeth Kay said…
I was particualarly touched by the child who wanted me to sign a copy of Harry Potter, as she didn't have anything else suitable. It was, I felt, a new meaning of the word suitable.
Joy Margetts said…
Elizabeth - What did you sign in it?!!!
Wendy H. Jones said…
Brilliant post. Thank you, you’ve got it spot on.
Peter Leyland said…
A great piece Joy. I've hd two book signings - one for an educational book in Consett! and the other in my local library for a self-published work. But do you know they cancelled that at the last minute??? Luckily a local pub stepped in and let me hold it there. Needless to say I never gave the library a copy of the book.

I am going to keep your "Do's and Don't's" lists for future reference just in case. You never know.
Joy Margetts said…
Thanks for your kind comments Wendy and Peter.
Kirsten Bett said…
Thanks for your post Joy. And awesome that you got to do a post-Covid book signing. I also know what you mean about steep learning curves, been on one of my own recently. I decided to go ebook only first time, but I am sure every disadvantage has its advantage as my hero Johan Cruijff once said. I might do a blog on his sayings in November!
Ruth Leigh said…
Superb! I have made notes. Lots of pens. Carefully chosen slender enthusiastic friends who don't mind humping boxes. What on earth should I wear?? I still say a wimple would make you stand head and shoulders above all other authors (on a number of levels)
SC Skillman said…
Excellent post which truly does encompass the highs and lows of book signings. I love it!

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