Signing Books at Barnes and Noble

Signing books at Barnes and Noble in Bakersfield on Saturday was not a champagne affair, it was business. The friendly staff prepared a book table for me and told me I could sit behind the table, stand and do a meet and greet (my style) or be more of a barker and grab shoppers as they came through the door (not my style).

I stood by my table feeling very much like the perfume girl at Macy*s, the one who tries to catch your eye in hopes you will offer your wrist for a spritz. I gave myself a pep talk. You are not a wallflower at the prom, this is business. You are doing your job. Then I prayed. God send me one person to talk to. Okay, God, I would like to sell at least one book; okay, five books. And, could you somehow make this fun? God sent Julie.

Julie had attended my morning creative writing workshop at the main library and promised to come to the signing in the afternoon.  She buzzed through the door like a freight train on fire and beelined to my table.

“Are you going to sit in that chair?” She pointed to the chair behind the table.

I shook my head.

“Well, can I sit there? I’m a little tired.” She settled in. Then she began shouting out to customers like a street vendor, leaving the chair to pull browsers away from other tables and lead them to me.

“This is author of The Sheep Walker’s Daughter,” she told them with a voice of authority, “she’ll tell you about her book and then you are going to want to buy it!”

Julie gave me instructions. “Don’t tell them so much about the book. Just hook ‘em and sell ‘em.” She talked about my book as if it were the greatest gift any mother could expect to receive on Mother’s Day, and she hadn’t even read it.

At the end of the day, Julie had sold three times the average number of books an unknown author can expect to sell at a book signing event. It was fun!

I told this story to a friend of who owns a shop. “What will I do when I go to the Bay Area and I don’t have Julie?”

My friend’s eyes sparkled. “Take me! I can do that. It will be fun!”

In all the books I’ve read on marketing, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the suggestion to take a barker with you, but they are literally work their weight in gold. A good barker has no shame. They have the gift of exhortation. They love to draw attention and people respond.

If you need to sell and lack silver-tongued savoir faire, befriend a barker.

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  • Lynne Favreau

    That's a spectacular tip. And congrats.

  • My beta team attended my B&N signing. While they socialized with other invited guests, they reeled in every passerby who showed any interest in the book... 

  • Sally Whitney

    Sydney, what a wonderful idea! I'm going to remember this. It has to be much easier for someone else to talk about how wonderful your book is than it is for you to do it. Thanks for the tip.