Reader Friday: Let’s Talk Book Signings

My new banner for 2019 spring/summer book signings.

Do you attend book signings?

If so ….

What do you hope will happen at the event?

Do you prefer the author to read an excerpt? Share the story behind the book? Share the inspiration that triggered the initial story idea? Open the room to questions? Play games for a chance to win a free paperback?

What’s your wish as an attendee? Do you look forward to seeing one special author, year after year?

If you don’t attend book signings, would you like to? Which author would you most like to meet in person, and why?

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About Sue Coletta

Sue Coletta is an award-winning crime writer and an active member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. Feedspot and named her Murder Blog as “Best 100 Crime Blogs on the Net” (2018-2021). She also blogs at the Kill Zone (Writer's Digest "101 Best Websites for Writers" 2013-2021). Sue lives with her husband and two spoiled guinea pigs in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire and writes two psychological thriller series (Tirgearr Publishing) and true crime/narrative nonfiction (Rowman & Littlefield). And recently, she appeared on the Emmy award-winning true crime series Storm of Suspicion, and will be a panelist at the 2021 New England Crime Bake. Learn more about Sue and her books at

17 thoughts on “Reader Friday: Let’s Talk Book Signings

  1. Great questions, Sue!

    As an attendee, I like a *brief* reading. Longer than five minutes puts me to sleep, even though I like the author. Better to do two or three short punchy passages, interspersed with talking about the inspiration, the story behind, and Q&A. A power point presentation with relevant photos adds another level of interest.

    Thanks for the excellent idea about giving away a paperback. I’ll be doing a couple of reading/signing events next month and will incorporate that.

    • I agree, Debbie! Anymore than five minutes and I’m nodding off. Have fun at your book signings! We have a blast playing my Name That Serial Killer game for a chance to win a free paperback.

  2. I’ve attended many book signings and had several myself. I’m not so much interested in a reading as I am in hearing from the author. What’s been going on with him/her lately? How did the new book get created? Anything happening re TV/movie adaptations? The people attending are already fans of the author and will be buying the book anyway, so hearing an excerpt is not that big of a deal. However, if the author is attending a broader event–for example, on a panel with other authors–then a reading is almost a must.

    • I agree, David. Most people want the personal touch rather than a reading. Although, I do have one venue that insists I read an excerpt at every book event. It’s a library, so maybe that’s why. I’d much rather chat. 🙂

  3. If the author knows how to perform, a reading can be enjoyable. At the local science fiction convention, most hour-long readings are packed if the author is a talented reader. A fan base doesn’t hurt either. That’s also the case when they do signings, later.

    I wonder if standard book signings at bookstores are archaic. In these days of social media, anyone can talk to an author and get to know him/her. A bookstore line for a signed book, if anyone shows up, with just a minute in the author’s presence doesn’t mean as much.

    • They’re not archaic in my area, Marilynn. I’ve sold out more than once. Gone are the days of sitting around hoping for one or two people to show, but it took time and patience to weed out the slow venues from the busy ones. Plus, I return every year, so that helps create a local fanbase.

      We also need to think outside the box. Book stores and libraries aren’t the be all end all for book events. For example, I included a real tattoo shop in SILENT MAYHEM, so I’m doing a signing there tomorrow. It helps that it’s on Weirs Beach. Not a bad way to spend the day!

      I have a friend in SC who sets up in hospital lobbies, and her books sell like crazy.

  4. I enjoy an author reading if it is a short, punchy excerpt. Hearing the way the author gives voice to his or her words is revealing about how they imagined the action. I may have stressed other aspects of the scene while reading their book because my life experiences color how I interpret the passage.

    Oh, and if the author isn’t comfortable reading aloud, that makes a huge difference to my anticipation of buying their book.

    What I truly enjoy is getting to know more about the author. Why does she write this genre? How does he conduct his research for the technical side of his story? Does the author put boots on the ground in all the locales used in her story? If she writes a series, how does she keep it interesting for herself and her readers?

    I’ve attended a couple of signing events at the local library. (Oh how I wish our one chain bookstore or the library would sponsor more author events!) At both events, the library made up a gift basket containing a couple of the author’s books and drew audience members’ names.

    As for who I would love to see at a book signing? My list is so long. But it starts with Nora Roberts in her J.D. Robb persona, Dean Koontz, C. Hope Clark, Sharon Sala, Heather Graham, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, Marie Force, Brenda Novak, C.J. Box, Michael Connelly, Phillip Pullman, Jim Butcher, Sue Coletta, James Scott Bell, John Gilstrap, Laura Benedict… (You thought I was going to leave you guys out, didn’t you?)

    • Hahahahaha. Seeing my name jolted me back for a minute. You are too kind, Suzanne!

      Excellent points. It makes a huge difference if the author reads with the same passion and emotion as when s/he wrote the passage.

  5. I attend several each year. Most of them have both an excerpt, as others have said, not to long, and some personal stories linking real life to the author. I do have a large collection of autographed books.

    For a signing, have a plan. Know what excerpt you are going to read. Have your stories written down. Keep it light, even if you are writing about a personal heartache. Keep it to 15 to 20 minutes. Practice. There are authors I have seen in person several times. I have heard “that” story before. But the telling is fresh enough.

    As a reader, invite your friends. Introduce them to the new book by your favorite author.

  6. I have attended many book signings and worked some as a bookseller. I love authors who come early and mingle with attendees before the event. That personal touch has such a positive effect on the audience and garners more participation during the Q&A.

    Personally, I think a five minute reading is too long- I’m antsy after about two- and not every author is a good reader. A prize at the end is always fun as long as there isn’t too long of a wait before the author gives it away.

    My biggest pet peeve is the author who shows up and signs their books like they are on an assembly line with very little to no interaction with their fans. Also, the author who watches the clock. If the event is going well, I say stay and have fun. If it’s not, close it down.

    One of the best authors who came to my store while I was there was Shaquille O’Neal. He was hilarious and didn’t pitch a fit when most of his fans wanted a shirt or basketball signed rather than his book. He also didn’t act like he was above everyone, like some other authors I shall not name. (I didn’t work the event, but coworkers told me Eric Carle was fabulous and stayed to sign books until he physically couldn’t sign his name any longer. I wish I had been there.)

    • Yes, yes, triple yes! Authors need to relax and have fun with the audience. I remember one signing I did way back, where only two people showed. Y’know what? We laughed the whole time. It was a blast! Authors who worry about how many books they sell or when the event ends won’t make new fans. People pick up on that stuff. On the flip side, if readers line up to speak with you, the least you can do is make them feel valued. We’re sunk without readers.

      Thank you for sharing your perspective as a bookstore owner, Christine!

  7. Thank you for posting this question. After doing this author thing for over two decades, I still don’t know what is the right thing to do at a signing event. I avoid reading if I can because I believe the author’s physical voice is irrelevant to the reading experience. And, frankly, I find readings to be boring.

    Also, I rarely attract anything close to a “crowd.” Three or four devoted fans are always loved and embraced, and I generally just sit with them and chat about things. I tell them about the origin of the series, and some of the inspiration for the story. Then we chat. Sometimes, the fact of the chat draws others in, but mostly not.

    That will get us through the first 30 minutes or so. Then I take a break to sign books for people who are in a hurry, but make it clear that the chat will roll on for as long as anyone wants to talk.

    When the group finally dissolves, I wander the stacks and introduce myself to shoppers. I tell them that I’m the guy at the front of the store and that I write thrillers. I give them a book mark and tell them I hope they have a good day. Some will circle around to buy a book, most will not. But all of them Google me.

    • I like your casual approach, John. Sounds like you’re making your readers feel appreciated. Do you do a lot of signings? I find if I hit the same venues at around the same time every year, I draw bigger and bigger crowds. ‘Course, I live in an area that attracts floods of vacationers, so I tap into that market. They love going home and telling friends about the author they met on their trip. Others take a bookmark or card and hunt me down at a later signing, after they’ve had time to check me out online. People are funny!

  8. Hi Sue, perhaps because I’m a writer I love to hear about the writing process. I am fascinated by the different ways a book can be written. I don’t personally like a reading, but I like a Q and A. One of the best talks I’ve been to was by Matthew Reilly. He talked about why he writes and what interests him and talked about his journey (he self-published in the 90’s and walked into bookstores asking if they would stock his books. A publisher bought one, rang him up and offered a contract). He was passionate about what he does and was also funny. Going to author talks gives me great ideas for myself. I like to go and see what others do and how the audience responds.

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