signing (books)

you know, applying your signature to a page in your book

How can I sign stock of my book at bookstores?

Drop by a bookstore when they’re not busy, check to make sure they have your book on the shelf, find a manager, and say something like, “I’m an author with Prettycool Publisher and I noticed you carry my book–can I sign your stock?” (I would recommend naming your publisher because the minute you say “I’m an author” the manager will wonder whether you are a self-published author looking to sell your book in his/her store, and that will just lead to confusion–just my two cents.) I’ve only ever had great responses to this nerve-wracking proposition. And usually, the employee I’m talking to will then want to introduce me to other employees. Everyone feels very happy and you’ve just made friends with a bookstore. I recommend tweeting after you leave the store (“I just signed copies at the wonderful Bestybest Bookstore!”); it’s a nice way to give the bookstore a shout-out.

How exactly should I sign a book?

It seems odd that I have things to say about this, but I do. Here you go:

  • Where: Sign on the one title page that lies flat when you open the book. I once signed on a different page and the bookstore manager told me that I was doing it wrong, and she seemed pretty grieved by it. I’m sorry to everyone who has a copy of Where Futures End that I signed on the wrong page. I’m not sure why I’m sorry, but I am.
  • How: Some people say your author signature should be different from your legal signature to avoid identity theft or something like that, but I bet your internet passwords are an easier target than your signature, just saying. In any case, you should pick an author signature that is quick and easy to sign. You won’t believe how hard it is to sign a book when the buyer is talking to you at the same time.
  • With What: A pen with ink that dries quickly and won’t smear when you close the page. Most authors I know use Sharpies. Do you care that Sharpies are not archival quality? Then use something else. Some authors do very extensive pen-testing, but that’s way too much pen-anxiety for me–ymmv.

Why should I sign books?

Signing stock at a store is a great way to start a relationship with that bookstore. It also means your book will get a shiny sticker (Signed Copy!), which might help it sell faster or get displayed more prominently. Some stores will keep your book on their shelf a little longer if it’s signed, but some stores have no qualms about sending unsold, signed copies back to your publisher. Obviously if a reader asks you to sign their copy of your book you’re going to say yes (right?), and that’s a great way to make a connection with a reader who will probably go on to buy your future books. And if you find yourself at an event where you don’t have books to sell or sign, sign some swag and hand that out! I used to be shy about signing swag because I hate to get all Gilderoy Lockhart on people, but readers kept telling me they really wanted me to sign the swag I gave them. So do that.

Dang, signing books makes me feel like a rockstar. How can I do more of this?

Set up some visits. Arrange to do a signing at a conference or convention. Drop in on bookstores while you’re traveling. Win “Witch Weekly’s Most Charming Smile.”



(publishing) timeline

my attempt to pinpoint when stuff will happen in your publication process

Is this timeline bound to vary widely?

Why yes, yes it is. But here’s my best shot:


Month 0: You accept a deal to publish your debut novel. Much celebrating.

Month 2-3: You sign your contract. Your first installment of your advance is on the way.

Month 6: You receive your edit letter.

12 months before publication: You see your cover art. Book goes up on Amazon for pre-order.

6-9 months before publication: ARCs go out. Cover art might start to appear online.

6 months before publication: You book a venue for your book’s launch party. You sign up for blog tours if your publisher isn’t arranging that.

0-3 months before publication: Trade reviews of your book start to go up online.

1 month before publication: The brunt of your book’s promo begins. You send out postcards, if you want to.

0-3 months after publication: More promo. You might do some bookstore/library/school visits.

3 months+ after publication: The spotlight shifts to the next season of novels. You are are too busy writing your next book to care.

6-9 months after publication: You receive your first royalty statement.


(school/bookstore/library) visits

when you make an appearance at a school/bookstore/library to promote your book

How can I do school/bookstore/library visits?

If you’re high on your publisher’s priority list, they might schedule some visits for you. Otherwise, you can schedule your own by contacting schools/bookstores/libraries and letting them know you are available for appearances. You can do this by email or with postcards (see also SWAG). You might start by contacting local places. If  you want to travel to other states to do visits, you can try asking the venue to pay for your travel expenses. In general, you can ask schools and libraries to pay for you to visit them, as you will do a presentation for students/patrons. Bookstores will not pay you but will try to sell your books during the event (and after).

Are visits worth the time/energy/cost?

Yes? They can be fun, they promote your book, and they help you build relationships with booksellers, librarians, teachers, and readers who might continue to promote your book long after your visit has come and gone. You can make money from school/library visits. You might sell books at a bookstore visit. Plus, you can always just do one or two visits, see how you like them, and then decide whether you want to do more. And your visits can be sporadic, booked around your personal schedule.

No? Preparing for and traveling to these appearances takes a lot of time away from your writing (not to mention your personal life). They’re exhausting and sometimes not fun. Bookstore visits are a toss-up: few people will be motivated to come out to see an author they’ve never heard of–you might end up paying more for parking than you make from book sales.

You might try joining up with a group of authors to do your visits so that you’ll be more likely to draw attendees and/or so that you can share some of the travel costs. You can turn your visit into a panel, which might be more fun for you anyway (yay for writer friends!). You might also try doing visits at bookstores that already have teen reading clubs in place so that you are guaranteed some kind of turnout.

See also: Tour.


(book) festivals

events where readers can buy books

What are some major book festivals where I can promote my books?

Festivals tend to be pretty regional, so check for something in your area. The two that I hear about most often are YALLFest (east coast) and YALLWest (west coast).

How can I sell my book at a festival?

You must apply, usually pretty far in advance. If your publisher isn’t planning on pitching you for a festival, you’ll need to apply on your own. Check out the websites of the festivals that are in your area or that you think you can travel to, and look for a sign-up page. But know that just because you apply to participate doesn’t mean the festival will accept you. You can apply to sign/sell your books as well as to participate in a panel.

Will my publisher pay for me to participate in a festival?

Probably not, unless you’re a lead title. But you might as well ask your editor.



free stuff you give away to promote your book

What kind of swag should I make for my book?

You don’t necessarily have to make swag, but it can be nice to have something to give away at a conference or signing. Here are some common swag items:

  1. Bookmarks. You can get these pretty cheaply AND mail them pretty cheaply. Make sure they include your book’s ISBN so librarians can order your book easily.
  2. Postcards. You can mail these out to libraries, schools, and bookstores with a handwritten note saying you’re available to do events. Make sure to note if you’re a local author, and include your book’s ISBN.
  3. Stickers/Temporary Tattoos. These are a bit more expensive than bookmarks, but still really easy to mail, and can be a little more exciting to pass out at a signing. You can use your book cover or title or a tiny bit of your cover art–whatever looks cool.
  4. Pin-back Buttons. If you give these away at conferences, you’ll have people wearing an advertisement for your book! You might come up with a cute phrase and use a little of your cover art for the design. But these are a PAIN to mail and can be expensive.
  5. Other Stuff. I don’t know, get creative. Try not to spend all your money on it, though! Swag may or may not affect your sales at all.

Will my publisher pay for my swag?

Probably not, unless you’re a lead title, but I guess there’s no harm in asking your editor. Sometimes they’ll surprise you. It also might be nice to officially get permission to use your book’s cover art to make your swag, since the art does not technically belong to you.

Where can I get swag made?

So many places. Do some research. Report back here and I’ll add your favorite swag manufacturer to this page. 🙂



(library/bookseller) conferences

gatherings where book people learn about upcoming books

What are the major conferences where my book will be promoted?

Who attends these conferences?

Booksellers, librarians, teachers, bloggers, authors, illustrators, and other industry folks. NCTE is geared more toward teachers, BEA toward booksellers, and ALA towards librarians. Publishers set up booths that look like mini bookstores in order to showcase their recent and upcoming titles. Authors make appearances in these booths for about an hour each in order to sign copies of their books, which are given out for free to librarians, bloggers, and anyone else who has paid to get into the conference.

Should I go?

Well, it’s a lot of fun! You’ll get free books and meet other authors. You can try to set up a time to meet your editor and her team while you’re there. If ARCs of your book are available, your publish might set up a time for you to sign them and give them out. But if your publisher doesn’t pay your way, you will have to pay for a ticket to the event, airfare, food, and hotel stay. That’s a lot money.

Will my publisher pay for me to attend these conferences?

If your book is a lead title, your publisher might pay for your ticket to the event, airfare, food, and hotel stay. If your book is not a lead title, your publisher will probably not pay for any of this–although they might pay your ticket to the event even if they won’t pay for travel expenses. Ask your editor! But be prepared: some publishers will ask authors NOT to come, or at least not to hang around the booth, so that the publisher can make sure the focus on the books they have already planned to showcase.

How can I get put on a panel for one of these conferences?

I think they take proposals* (*please see the comments section), but your best bet is probably to have your publisher set you up. Again, that’s not likely to happen for every debut author.


(book) trailer

like a movie trailer, but for your book

Should I make a book trailer?

Yes? It might make for good promo and it could be fun.

No? It’ll be really expensive, and it’s hard to do well. Your publisher probably won’t help pay for it (although it doesn’t hurt to ask your editor). You can save money by doing it yourself but… it probably won’t turn out so great (sorry, don’t throw things at me).

I’m going with “Yes?” How should I do this?

You could look into one of the companies that make book trailers (I know nothing about these companies, so you’ll have to research that yourself). Or you might try asking a student filmmaker to try his/her hand. Either way, make sure to keep the trailer short. Movie trailers are like two minutes long, right? Any longer than that starts to get taxing. Also, don’t use any music or images without first getting the rights.

How should I use my book trailer?

You can ask a blog or website to host it, like a cover reveal. You could release the trailer at the same time as some other big news (cover reveal, new book contract, award nomination, etc.) in order to create extra buzz. You can show it at your launch party and other in-person events. If you are going to do a school visit, you might ask the school to show your trailer ahead of time in order to get the students excited for your visit. And definitely put it on your website.