Luckily for authors who want to get in on chain store signings, Barnes and Nobles released an article specifically listing the ways that authors can secure spots for signings and events at their store locations.
While their website mentions that they often host people with a small following, that is not always the case. The above, official website basically says “just call your local store.”
There are a few things to make sure you’ve done before you make contact.
- Get independent feedback on your book and make sure it feels professional (content is appealing, internal and external elements meet professional standards.)
- Make sure that your book is returnable and has at least a 55% wholesale discount. (Indies can set this up with your Ingramspark account for your book—chains do not, as a general rule, work with Createspace. Avoid talking about Createspace since it is their main competitor. Because of this, most of my titles aren’t even available on the expanded distribution channels within the Createspace author tools. As far as bookstores are concerned, I hate Amazon.)
- Rehearse or roleplay speaking with a manager if you are nervous. Remember that writing is a form of communication; you want to represent yourself well as a professional communicator.
- Know your ISBN.
- If you have specific and relevant good reviews, use them.
- Have a press kit prepared so that you can send it at the drop of the hat.
- Do your homework. Know where you are calling and who to talk to.
When I started securing signings, I called a random B&N and asked to speak to the CRM about a signing. The location was a store that I used to spend a lot of time in, but because of its location and area decline they rarely held author events there any longer. He did refer me to the largest store in his area and gave me its CRM’s name. Tip: always ask for more information than you think you might need. The next store was able to set up a future event (partly because I name-dropped the first CRM, and partly because they immediately looked up my book on Amazon to check my reviews.) In order to have the best sales possible (which is in the store’s best interest—it’s not considered greedy to make this happen,) I asked two things: 1) what do you normally do/expect with authors and 2) what times/days seem to generate the best results for sales and/or foot traffic. Eagerness to help the store succeed is the right kind of enthusiasm to demonstrate.
The CRM might say yes, they might not. This is the right person to talk to. He or she has the power to book whichever authors they want at a local level provided the wholesale discount and returnability are set properly. While some chains do not accept POD or independent books (Books-a-Million) Barnes and Nobles’ CRMs are not tied to any rule against them. Past bad experiences, however, with unprepared writers or poorly produced books can make them reluctant. Sell yourself and ask how you can overcome any potential objections—some CRMs who might be opposed to an indie author signing might be less resistant to using you at a larger “local authors” event or a “new authors” day if they have that sort of multi-author event which are typically no more than once per year, but draw larger crowds.
The trick to securing a book signing is to pick up a phone and call. That’s easily the biggest part. Fear and lethargy often win the day and many authors simply talk themselves out of the ask. Fear can be very real: learn to fake it if you have to, but you’ve got to make the call (pump some Eye of the Tiger beforehand if you need to, but pick up the phone.) Maybe you’ve been rejected before—so call the next store. If it happens a few times, feel free to ask the event manager for feedback and even permission to call back in the future. Use smaller rejections to prepare for greater future success. Everything can be a learning experience.
A couple things to remember about setting up signings at chain bookstores:
- Approach book stores several months in advance of your targeted date.
- Be prepared to “pitch” an event manager or coordinator.
- Help spread the word through all media outlets (free and paid) available to you.
- Double check everything (if it’s an indie store, make sure they have books for your signing!)
- Travel with a toolkit that includes pens, promo materials, etc. Mine includes pushpins, rubber bands, and duct tape—all of which have saved the day at different times.
- Pre-decide on any passages for readings.
- Be sure to send a thank-you and follow up with everyone involved.
These things often apply to smaller, independent stores as well.