ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Booksignings: Separating Fact from Fiction

Updated on October 18, 2017
Maggie Bonham profile image

MH Bonham is an award-winning author and editor. Bonham is also the author of more than 50 books as well as thousands of articles.


Have You Ever Had a Booksigning?

See results

You've seen it on the silver screen, the Hollywood stereotype of the writer pecking away at a manual typewriter in an office filled with books. I bet you've also seen in the movies the author signing a gazillion books to adoring fans with lines around the block in New York City. I received an email the other day from a woman who had written and self-published a children's book. She wanted to know what I thought of book signings and I thought it was a good topic to launch into.

Alas, most of Hollywood's visions of the author are a little more than a scriptwriter's pipe dream and the reality of book signings is lackluster at best. Book signings, in my not so humble opinion, are a hit or miss operation. New authors, myself included back in the day, seem to hang a lot of ego and hopes on book signings, when in fact, they're not that productive, unless you have a name that's a household word like Stephen King, Tom Clancy, or Bill Clinton. After you get your friends and family to come through begging, cajoling and blackmail -- assuming they do! -- very few people actually come to see an unknown author. What usually happens is that you show up at a bookstore and bookstore patrons try to avoid making eye contact with you so they don't have to buy your book. If you garner interest, you might be lucky at the bookstore and sell about 6-12 books over a half day.

That's on a good day.

Yes, I have made sales at bookstores, but I had my secret weapon with me, Kiana the wonder Malamute, who was beyond impeccable in manners and would do agility at a drop of a hat. People oooohed and awwwed over her and occasionally I made a quick sale. But as I said, she was the sales gimmick and even she couldn't part those with the hardest of hearts away from their well-earned cash.

Even if you do manage to sell books at a bookstore, the chance of you "hitting it big" is pretty infinitesimal. Even a self-published author would find it hard to justify sitting in a bookstore for a couple of hours and selling 2-3 books.

So, why do authors do book signings at bookstores at all? Beginners do it because they don't know any better. Pros do it because 1. They have a big enough name or 2. They want to foster goodwill among the bookstores. The second is important because even though you may not have sold a single copy there at the bookstore, the bookstore will often have you sign the stock and your books will sell afterwards. It's common for me to go into a bookstore, look for any of my books and sign them right there. It's a nice political thing to do.

You may note that I talk about book signing at bookstores, but what about at other places? I will sign at Science Fiction cons because I have fans there. I do that because quite often I do make enough sales there to justify my existence at the signing. I'm there talking on panels, yapping away and promoting myself and my books as well, so I usually have enough of a fan base to have a real signing. If there's a book signing at a bookstore, I tag along too because I'm there and it's worth my while. I've done signings at agility events with my agility book (go figure!) and sold a couple dozen there. Targeted book signings often work. Not so targeted, not usually.

So, you're a self-published author and you want to do book signings. Most likely, you'll have to stick with independents because unless you have distribution, the big chains aren't going to carry your books. You need to have distribution with Ingrams, Baker and Taylor or a recognized distributor. Even if you do have distribution, many indy authors can tell you horror stories about various distributors and how they just can't get their books to the signing on time. Some big box stores just aren't going to carry your book, period, largely because they want returns and most authors and small presses don't do returns.

Most big box stores won't buy the books from you either, which means you're effectively screwed trying to do a book signing with them anyway. Small indy bookstores may buy books directly from you, but expect selling them at a 45 to 55 percent discount. When you consider what you're getting your books for, you're really not making a lot off of that. In fact, if you count in shipping, you might actually be making less.

If I do sell my books directly to fans, I do discount. It seems fair as I can take a few bucks hit and still make a few dollars off the sale. I get a new fan. The fan gets a signed, discounted book. Everyone is happy.

My thought is that a new author can do more to promote their books than simple book signings. Look at setting up a webpage, get involved in social media, and figure out who is really your fan base. Once you have those figured out, you can then determine how to make a book signing work for you. Until then, you're simply not using book signings effectively.

© 2014 MH Bonham


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)