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Book Signings and Book Fairs: How to Sell More Books

Book Signings and Book Fairs: How to Sell More Books
by Fern Reiss, CEO,

Ever do a booksigning where you didn’t sell a single book?  Ever go to a book fair where you ended up spending more than you earned?  It doesn’t have to be that hard. Here’s how to maximize your sales at any book signing or book fair:

Jazz up the table. Most bookstores and book fairs provide plain, uncovered tables at which to exhibit, and most authors don’t think to bring much beyond their books.  If you want to maximize book sales, it helps to make your table look inviting.  Purchase the nicest, heaviest tablecloth you can afford, preferably in a color that goes well with the cover of your book.  Turn your book cover into a color poster and have it mounted on an easel backing (Most copy shops will do this for under $75.) Next, think accessories: When I exhibit my book, The Infertility Diet: Get Pregnant and Prevent Miscarriage for example, I scatter pregnancy test kits around the table—because they’re eye-catching, so people walk over to find out why they’re there.  For one of my PR clients, Katie Jay, who’s publicizing, her national weight loss association, I’d put up a huge poster showing her spectacular before-and-after photos.  Think flowers, smells, colors, textures—be creative!

Offer food.  The most successful authors know that the surest way to rope in a potential buyer is by offering them something to eat.  Some books lend themselves to food displays: If you’re selling a cookbook, consider a few sample treats from the book; if it’s a book on travel in Tuscany, try morsels reminiscent of that part of the world.  Even if yours is not a food book, however, you can do creative things with food.  For my Publishing Game books, for example, I bring fortune cookies which simply say, “Writers make their own fortunes” and the website.  Almost no one will turn down food.  And once they’ve eaten your munchies, most people feel obligated to at least slow down enough to leaf through your book.

Display the book nicely.  So many booksignings and book fairs feature authors who have dumped a pile of their books sloppily in the center of the table and are waiting for sales.  If your stack of books doesn’t look inviting, it’s unlikely that you’re going to attract buyers.  Go look in a bookstore for ideas, and work with the theme of your book to invent new display hooks.  For my book, Terrorism and Kids: Comforting Your Child, I feature a very stark, somber display.  But if I were marketing a book on babies, I’d bring along a small wooden cradle and stuffed animals to surround the stack of books; if it were a book on gardening, I’d put the books in a wheelbarrow. Even if there’s no logical display tie-in, put up a provocative sign: For author Margaret Benefiel, whose book, Soul at Work: Spiritual Leadership in Organizations I helped publicize, I’d put up a sign reading, “What do the Band U2 and Southwest Airlines Have in Common?”  (The answer, of course, is that both follow the principles of Soul at Work that Margaret outlines in her book.)  Don’t forget to set out a stack of your postcards; some people won’t want to buy on the spot, but might buy online later.

Engage customers.  So many exhibiting authors sit behind their stack of books and wait.  The best way to sell books is to be proactive.  And the best kind of proactive is to ask people a question—one that does not require a yes/no answer.  “Would you like to look at my book about pets?” might get a no.  “Do you have a pet?” is a bit better.  But “Which do you prefer, dogs or cats?” is a sure-fire winner.  In publicizing my Publishing Game books, I could ask people if they want to hear more about publishing.  But instead, I ask authors, “How many books do you want to sell this year?” – a great lead-in to explaining the many ways the Publishing Game books and workshops can help them to sell more books.  So ask a controversial question, a perplexing question, an inviting question. And keep the conversation going until the customer asks about your books.  You’re always more likely to make a sale if you’re not the one who initiates it.

Then make the sale.  It’s hard to sell books if you’re ambivalent about selling.  Once you’ve captured their interest—once you’ve explained the book—once you’ve outlined the benefits—close the sale.  Better than asking them if they want the book, assume they want the book.  Try something like, “Should I dedicate this to you or is it for a gift?” or “Would you like this wrapped as a gift for someone?” (Don’t forget to bring some gift wrap and bows!) Or how about, “If you’d like to buy one for a friend as well, we can ship that for you directly.”  Sometimes people need a little nudge.  So nudge.

And don’t forget to smile and have fun!  The more fun you’re having, the more books you’ll sell—guaranteed.


Fern Reiss is CEO of ( and ( and the author of the books, The Publishing Game: Find an Agent in 30 Days, The Publishing Game: Bestseller in 30 Days, and The Publishing Game: Publish a Book in 30 Days as well as several other award-winning books.  She is also the Director of the International Association of Writers ( providing publicity vehicles to writers worldwide. She also runs The Expertizing® Publicity Forum where you can pitch your book or business directly to journalists; more information at  Sign up for her complimentary newsletter at

Copyright © 2011 Fern Reiss


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