Your book signing event tool kit

tool boxAuthors often ask me for book signing event advice.

I typically start the conversation by encouraging them to:

  1. Think beyond bookstores so they plan events where their target audience is already gathered.
  2. Make sure their book publicity plan includes much more than book signings.

My goal is to make sure they reach as many of the right people as possible, whether it’s through book signings, local media publicity, or a virtual book tour.

After I try to get them to think about doing more than book signings to promote their books, I shift to providing advice on how to make sure they’re prepared for that book signing that they’re so excited about.

What should you include?

What about you? Is there a book signing event in your future? You want to make the most of it, regardless of the venue. With that in mind, here’s what you need in your book signing event tool kit.

  • Two of your favorite pens. Don’t rely on your host to provide a pen that might flow too fast or too slow for your style. My current favorite is a fine point Sharpie , but you might like Pilot Razor Point or a BIC Cristal Stic. Make sure you have at least two of them.
  • Prepared remarks. You didn’t think you were going to just sit at a table and sign books, did you? Engage your audience with a short presentation that is content-rich and visually appealing. (Why visually appealing? Because you want TV cameras to show up – next point.)
  • Your best TV self. Make sure your presentation is newsworthy and work with your host to generate media attention for it – both before and after the event. For example, when Sharon Thompson did a signing for Built for Speed: The Extraordinary and Enigmatic Cheetah, she was joined by a cheetah from a nearby wildlife center (and sold 45 books). A cheetah in a bookstore – or a cheetah anywhere but a in cage – is newsworthy.
  • Treats. Thank your guests with an inexpensive edible treat that’s relevant to your book. A romance author might have a bowl of conversation hearts or Hershey’s Kisses while the author of a business book could offer wrapped chocolate coins.
  • A catchphrase that’s relevant to your book. Writing a short phrase before your signature helps personalize the experience for the book buyer. For my two publicity books, I write, “I’ll see you in the news!” Make yours short and relevant.
  • A friend, a cash box, and receipts. If you’re handling the sales yourself, bring a cash box with change, a pad of receipts (you can buy them at any office supply store), and a friend to take the money. Working with a “sales associate” frees you up to focus on signing and smiling.
  • Post-its. Name spellings aren’t as predictable as they used to be. (Just ask any Caitlin/Katelyn or Brittany/Britney.) Ask people to print the name for the book on a Post-it so you don’t make disheartening mistakes. (Your friend can handle this and attach the Post-it to the book.)
  • Backup books. Bring an extra box of books from your own supply in case you sell everything from the supply ordered for the event. (I’m an optimist.)
  • Business cards. Your presentation will be so impressive that some attending will invite you to speak about your book’s topic to their group. Make it easy for them to contact you by handing them your business card. Write down their contact information on the back of one of your own cards that you keep, too, so that you can follow up if you don’t hear from them.

What’s your favorite book signing tool kit item? Comment here!

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Sandra Beckwith is an award-winning former publicist who now teaches authors how to market their books. Three groups have recognized her site as an outstanding resource for authors, so you know her advice is author-tested.

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12 Responses to Your book signing event tool kit
  1. Sandra Farris
    September 11, 2013 | 3:42 pm

    I also have post cards with my book cover on front and synopsis on back, rack cards with all my book covers on front and back, and book marks

    • Sandra Beckwith
      September 11, 2013 | 3:54 pm

      Great ideas, Sandra! Thanks so much for adding to the list!


  2. Betty Summerlin
    September 11, 2013 | 4:39 pm

    A PayPal account is easy to get and comes with a free card reader that attaches to your smart phone. This allows you to take debit/credit cards, and scan checks for immediate credit to your account. It’ll handle those cash receipts as well.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      September 11, 2013 | 4:48 pm

      Thanks, Betty! That’s a great addition when your event isn’t at a retailer that’s selling the books for you. Thanks for the reminder! The device is called PayPal Here and you need the PayPal mobile app to use it. Learn more at


  3. Sherry Snider
    September 12, 2013 | 5:02 am

    Well, you know how I feel about testing and finding just the right pens for book signings. The ultra fine point Sharpie tested pretty well on multiple types of paper, but the Sharpie Pen with “No Bleed” tested even better.

    I highly recommend trying a Sharpie Pen on your specific book. Then, of course, keep several of your favorites handy. You never know when you might need to sign a book during a coffee shop encounter. 🙂

    • Sandra Beckwith
      September 12, 2013 | 2:01 pm

      Thanks, Sherry! And folks, Sherry knows what she’s talking about. She’s got an e-book on the subject, Best Pens for Book Signings. Find it here: . At just $.99, it’s a must-have!


  4. Maxine Neely Davenport
    September 12, 2013 | 6:13 pm

    I have my first book signing on Sunday, Sept. 15th for “Murder Times Two.” Thank you for the tips.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      September 12, 2013 | 6:58 pm

      Have fun with it, Maxine!


  5. Flo Selfman
    September 26, 2013 | 7:11 pm

    Bring paper, chipboard, fat felt pens, tape, and, if you have them, posters. Don’t count on the venue to display signage; you might have to create your own on the spot.
    Also, find out what else is going on at the venue. An author client was scheduled for a Saturday afternoon talk/signing at a three-story B&N store. They placed her near the top of an Up escalator. At the bottom, at the same time, was a jazz combo from the nearby university.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      September 26, 2013 | 11:36 pm

      Thanks for the great additions, Flo!


  6. Zoë Sharp
    October 8, 2013 | 10:45 pm

    I also usually take with me to events a sign-up sheet for my e-newsletter. Always a great way to stay in touch with readers old and new :))

    • Sandra Beckwith
      October 8, 2013 | 11:33 pm

      So smart, Zoe! Thanks for adding to the list!


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