If you've been an indie author for any amount of time, you've likely heard about or seen indie author signing events. Maybe you've even attended a few. Like all things in life, author signing events are not created equal. Here are some things to consider when choosing a signing.
1. Where is the signing located?
This is a two-fold question. First, is in the same state where you live? Will you have major traveling expenses, or is close enough to drive?
Second, where is the signing itself located? Signings in the lobby of major hotels are different than signings in basements or bars or libraries. The location of the signing is a major factor in whether or not people want to go, can go, or can find it.
2. What kind of authors will be at the signing?
Some signings are for any all genres, like Baltimore's Book Fest. It was a large tent in Inner Harbor with indie authors of every size, genre, and audience. I sat between a self-pubbed MG author and three indie-press military/horror authors.
Other signings are more narrow in scope. The recently-attended Kiss And Tell Author Event in Allentown, PA was an event for primarily contemporary romance. At least 80% of readers who approached my table indicated that WOULD NOT EVER READ FANTASY. Even if it was paranormal romance...
3. How big is the event?
Now, in a lot of facets of life, size matters. And author events are no exception--sort of. Big events tend to get more readers attending, and smaller events tend to get less readers attending.
But big events have a lot of big authors and that means lots of competition for selling books. Readers can only carry so many books home (despite the carts and wagons and bags they bring to facilitate their shopping) so a huge event with hundreds of signing authors isn't necessarily the best choice.
On the other hand, smaller events have less readers, but also less competition. If only 20 authors are selling and singing books, readers could easily take home a book from every single one of them. By far, my best show to date was Deep in the Heart Author Event, a small event in a rad bar in downtown Austin. It was the smallest event I've ever done, but I sold more books than at any of the big ones.
4. How much does the event cost?
Most events charge authors somewhere between $100 and $300, but some can be even more (or less). This is a big deal. How much you paid for the event will directly correlate to how many books you need to sell to break even and *gasp* make a profit!
Don't forget to include travel costs like food, gas, tolls, and hotels into your calculations. If you need to sell hundreds of books to break even, then you might want to reconsider. You're likely setting yourself up for failure.
5. Who is hosting the event?
This question has become even more important in recent years as event scams have swept the industry. Because events are often booked more than a year in advance, event hosts were left in a position of holding a lot of money from a lot of people for a length of time, and some of them didn't handle it responsibly.
I have only been a victim of an event scam once, for the Indies in NY signing, which was supposed to be in the lobby of a hotel in Times Square and feature several best-selling authors as well as some of the most popular indie authors in the industry. But it turns out, those authors never agreed to come and the hotel was never actually booked. The event coordinator posted pictures of her new car and her with her husband on vacation in the meantime...
Paypal was great throughout this process and actually refunded the entirety of my investment, which was very fortunate for me. Others weren't so lucky. I know a few international authors who lost their multi-thousands of dollars already spent on travel arrangements.
Moral of the story? Only book signings with reputable hosts and save paying for the last minute. Getting money back a year later is a hard sell!
6. What will you get out of it?
Obviously, we'd all like to walk away from a signing with pockets full of cash, but that isn't likely. I've never done more than barely pay my expenses and maybe earn a little something over that.
Otherwise, I make connections with new and loyal readers, meet bloggers face to face that I've known online for years, take pictures and tag on social media, put my books in the hands of readers, and meet my fellow comrades in the indie author industry. I learn what readers are looking for, what sales tactics help sell my books, and how readers value the cost of books.
There is more than just money to be had at signing events.
7. Can't find what you want? Host your own!
If you live in a small town, have trouble getting away, or can't find any events in your genre near you, you might think you're in a pickle. But this is really a great opportunity!
There's nothing to stop you from hosting your own signing event in your area. You just need a location, like a local coffee shop. I've never had a business decline a signing, because they know it means business for them as well. I get to sell books to the coffee drinkers, and the coffee shop sells drinks to my readers. It's a win-win and many small businesses are eager to participate. Just ask!
You might go a step further and find other authors in your genre (or not!) who live in your area and want to be involved. You might just make a friend out of it!