Larger bookstores will often schedule their book signings months in advance, so make sure that you contact the bookstore well ahead of the time that you are hoping to hold the event. Start by making a list of stores and phone numbers. It is easier to start by approaching small, local bookstores who will have an interest in a local author or smaller chains.
Call them, ask to speak to a manager, and, when you get them on the phone, tell them that you are a local author and that your book is in their system. If they are not already carrying your book, make sure that you schedule your signing after they get your books in. Please note that, with a few exceptions, bookstores will not have your self published book in their system unless it is “returnable” and carried by a major wholesaler such as Ingram and Baker & Taylor. “Returnable” means that bookstores can return any unsold books for a full refund with no penalty or restocking fee. (Most, but not all, self publishing companies provide a Return Program for an additional fee.)
It is important that you are able to show that there is interest in your book, so be armed with an arsenal of reviews, reader comments, and blurbs about your book. Bookstores will want to ensure that you will draw a crowd to come into their store, so you should be prepared to pitch the manager or event planner on your book and why they should have you.
If you are unable to secure a bookstore, consider holding a reading in a unique atmosphere, like a coffee shop or restaurant.
Obviously, you want a crowd, not only to increase sales and exposure, but also to ensure that the bookstore will welcome you back in the future, when you release your next book. Use the resources that are already at your disposal by promoting the event on your personal and fan pages on various social media platforms. Invite local media to the event or offer to send them review copies to build hype for the event—pitching them will be just as tough as pitching the bookstores, so don’t be blue if you don’t hear back or you receive a polite “Thanks, but no thanks.” In many cases, your local news outlets allow users to add events to online community calendars, so find as many of them as you can, and submit the details of your event.
When the big day comes, remember to relax, have fun, and enjoy your big moment.
See my follow-up article on Author Tips for the Day of Your Book Signing or Book Reading.