Although I'm still new to the bookstore-signing scene, having done just two (the most recent one earlier this month), I am quickly learning what works and what doesn't work for me. Here are my conclusions:
1. Most authors can't just sit behind signs with pictures of their book covers and expect to generate sales to strangers. Of course, that'll work if you're a world-famous author like Stephen King. But most of us have to stand in a main aisle and introduce ourselves (and our books) to customers.
2. Don't be shy and reserved. I once watched an author spend hours slumped in a chair, not promoting her novels at all. The only books she sold were to friends.
3. Don't be loud and obnoxious. I watched another author scream at people (from his seat) as they entered the bookstore: "Do you like [name of genre] books?" Nearly everyone said "no" and I didn't see him sell a book.
4. Be friendly and outgoing. I wear a badge that has both my name and a picture of the cover of DUST and stand at the front of the store as a kind of unofficial greeter, smiling at people as they enter. Most make eye contact and some even say "hello" to me. Then I go into my spiel: "Hi. My name is Susan Berliner and I've just published a book called DUST." (I hold up the book.) "Do you like supernatural thrillers like those written by Stephen King or Dean Koontz?" Most people say, "no" or "sorry," and I thank them for their time.
5. Let people who like your genre skim through the book. I hand fans of paranormal fiction—about 20% of the people I talk to—my book while I summarize the plot: "DUST is a supernatural thriller about an evil swirl of dust that terrorizes a condo development..."
6. Find something about your book that will intrigue the customer. Since DUST is based on a real weather phenomenon called a "dust devil," I ask people if they've heard of dust devils. If they haven't, I explain dust devils are miniature tornados that arise suddenly on hot and dry spring days. I then tell them my novel was inspired by a dust devil incident in which an auto body shop collapsed, killing the owner. "It happened in Maine," I say, "so I thought Stephen King would write a novel about dust." All this time, the customer is looking through my book. Often, when I've finished my explanation, the person will offer to buy a copy.
7. Try to close the sale immediately. If the person doesn't want to buy the book, I thank him or her for listening and give him/her a DUST bookmark. Some people say they might buy the book later, but few of them ever return to my table. I usually sell DUST immediately or not at all.
8. Take a photo with the buyer. I walk the customer back to my table to sign a copy of DUST and have a picture taken of both of us with the book. (I post some of the best photos on my Website and Facebook pages.)
9. When dedicating a book, always ask the person for the spelling of the name. At my last book signing, I had two unusually spelled names: "Krisy" and "Annabela." If I hadn't asked for the correct spelling, I would have written both names incorrectly.
10. Wear comfortable shoes. After standing for more than five hours at my November book signing, my feet were killing me!