We’ve all done it. We walk into our local bookstore and there is an author sitting at a little table with a stack of her books trying not to look pathetic. We quickly duck behind the greeting card rack, and ooze over to the bargain bookshelves, acting especially interested in the History of Manhole Covers in Providence, Rhode Island. When she looks away in desperate hope to the next person coming in the door, you make a dash to the café. This calls for a stiff caffeinated beverage!
I’ve been on both sides of that torture device called the signing table. I’ve been the skulker and I’ve been the victim author. I’m a survivor of an interminable two-hour signing in which the only people who approached me were a woman asking for the bathroom, and a child wanting to know if I was J. K. Rowling.
But signings CAN be a way to interact with your public, whether it’s at a bookstore, a book festival, or a literacy night. The key is to think like a carnival barker. How can you entice, not the adult with the credit card, but the child with command of the adult with the credit card.
Here are some fun ways to draw children to your table, which will bring their parents and make both stay long enough to chat with the charming author and peruse her must-have books.
Many authors snag kid attention by providing an activity related to their book. For my book Substitute Groundhog, I provide everything to make a pop-up groundhog puppet that needs no supplies. I wrote a catchy jingle to go with it, and I act it out with the kids when they finish their puppet. While waiting for the child to finish, parents will flip through my books and ask questions. Or I ask them—“How many groundhogs would you guess we have in the wilds of Texas?” (Answer: none)
A final example is for my nonfiction book, The Hole Story of the Doughnut. I provide doughnuts printed on heavy cardstock along with sequins, gems, and small beads. Children first color the frosting and glue on the “sprinkles” while I chat with parents about the sea captain who invented this delicious treat as a teen cook’s assistant on a sailing ship.
Think about how you can make your table cover work for you (ALWAYS have a table cover), signage with kid appeal, activities that are easy and relatively quick and clean, and things to take away that have your books and contact info. It may lead to a sale long after the signing.
Good luck—and speak kindly to the next hopeful author you see sitting alone at a signing table. Maybe even buy her book. One day that might be you!
We are nonfiction authors who support readers and writers through our writing, author visits, and workshops.
The Nonfiction Ninjas are a group of writers with diverse ideas and a strong belief in The First Amendment. The views expressed in each post are those of the author and may differ from others in the group.
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