Selling Books at Booksignings: The Top 4 Things a Potential Book Buyer Sees

If you’re an author who is planning on doing a book signing event soon, whether it’s for a self-published book or a title published by a major house, you’re likely going to experience a bit of anxiety. One of the most heart-pounding moments comes when a potential buyer saunters over and starts looking at your book.

Yikes! Don’t worry, be calm.

It helps to understand the thought process a potential buyer goes through when deciding whether he’s going to actually buy or not. Some people who walk up to your table are just being nosy and want to ask questions, but others are seriously motivated to buy your book. But they might need some convincing. You must pass four tests when selling books at a book signing.

Front Cover

The front cover is the main attraction. A good cover draws the book browser to your table. The title or the central image should be visible from at least three yards away. The quality of the front of your book cover is the very first evaluation point that a potential buyer uses when deciding to buy your book.

Back Cover

If you pass the front cover test, the browser will then flip it around to read the back cover. This is why it is so important to write back cover copy that sizzles and immediately gets the point. During the back cover review is your moment to throw in a few words about your book—a one-liner or what inspired you to write it.

Quick note: if the browser doesn’t pick up the book when he first approaches your table, put it in his hand, back cover first!

Inside Pages

The next action many book browsers take is to flip through the pages of the book. Now this is the turning point. Some people have already made their decision—they just flip through it to make sure it’s not written in another language, garbeldy gook or print so tiny they need a magnifier to read. Others will actually stand there and read a few pages (just ask them politely not to bend the spine back too much, yes some people do that). This is why it is important to have your book text professionally edited and formatted.


There is just one final evaluation a browser at a book signing will make before deciding to support your work. He will look at YOU. How you present yourself to the public is important in terms of both your appearance and your attitude. If you’re sitting back looking uninterested with a soda in your hand, that’s not going to motivate someone to buy a book from you—smile and be attentive yet not too pushy. Wear something professional and clean yet relaxed.

Knowing these four points of evaluation will help you succeed more when selling books at book signings. Take care to ensure that each point is as close to perfection as humanly possible.

How to Sell Your Books at Booksignings

Face to face book selling can be a bit scary at first, but very lucrative if you get the hang of it.


As an author, have you ever had trouble with face to face book selling situations? Most writers are not salesmen by nature. This is why many book signings turn into a big waste of time for self-published authors. It is embarrassing, sitting at that book signing table in a store all by yourself for an hour or more, staring at the book shelves, twiddling your thumbs, and trying to avoid looks from the sales clerks. If you want to make book signings worthwhile, you need to learn your customers.

Firstly, it’s flattering to be invited to do a book signing, but don’t book a signing in an area where your target audience doesn’t shop. For instance, if you have a book targeted for young people, why would you do a book signing in a shopping mall where senior citizens are the main demographic? Do research on an area before committing to a book signing.

Secondly, you have to come prepared with marketing materials. Don’t ever go to a book signing without bookmarks or flyers with more information about your book (preferably bookmarks because they are less cumbersome for your potential readers and they can use your bookmark no matter what book they buy that day). Also, have a professional poster designed and mounted on an 18 x 24 or 24 x 36 inch board that can be placed on an easel. Be sure the book manager has book stands available.

Thirdly, you have to call people over to your table. A good book display will bring interest, but in some cases people will just glance over your book table and keep browsing through the book store. Hand them a bookmark before they pass, smile, and ask them if they like “<insert your genre>.” You will be surprised how many people will give you a play and buy your book, just because you said hi!


To learn more about how to sell your book at booksignings, including what to say when you have someone standing at your table and the #1 thing you must do when someone walks up to your table, stay tuned for my eBook series entitled “How to Sell Books as a Self-Publisher.