As an author who has held over 300 events/signings and is very comfortable promoting books, I have noticed that style of approach will differ from author to author. The key is to find your comfort zone--and it's always the one that works the best―for you. If you're getting the big sales, then it's working.
A while ago, I read an article on book signings and the author had said one should always move toward the customer and never sit or stand behind the table. Reading this, I had to chuckle because I was once at an event where an author did exactly what the author here suggested. He went into the aisles, books and bookmarks in hand, smiling and talking to everyone, while I stood behind and sometimes beside my table, bookmarks in hand, smiling and greeting everyone. Sometimes I sat down.
At the end of the event, he had sold 5 books at $14.00 each. I had sold 30 books at $26.00 each.
Why? Many people who came to my table said they felt "jumped on" by the other author. By moving toward them, he had invaded their physical space. He seemed "desperate" to some customers, and all of this turned people off; whereas I seemed genuine and open to them, and they were curious what was going on at my table.
At another multi-author event, an author stayed beside her table, just slightly out front and it worked for her. She had good sales. Again for me, I stood and sat at intervals, and still outsold her.
So what really sells a book? I think it's an author's genuine love for his or her craft, for the particular book that they're promoting and for people in general. At least, that's how it is for me.
There have been occasions where I have left my table. If it's super busy and I miss giving a bookmark to a customer or I see someone loaded down with books by comparable authors, I'll sometimes go up to them and give them a bookmark. "For your books", I'll say. Or, "I forgot to give you this." That small action, non-invasive, will often lead to natural discussions and many times the person who has been standing in the lineup will leave it to check out my books.
Even at signings with well-known bestselling authors, the authors are usually at the table, either sitting or standing behind or beside.
I believe it's a combination of advertising prior to events, ads in the stores, signage near the author (on the table or in sign holders), the book itself, but mostly it's how the author presents him- or herself.
It is definitely less invasive to have the customers come to you. The key is knowing how to get them to visit your table. I'll often have a draw box at one corner of the table, with a visible sign posted that describes the prize(s). Once in a while, I'll have chocolates in a bowl. But most often, I reach across the table after making eye-contact, smile and hand them a bookmark.
Tip: Hand them a bookmark. Most people will just take it. Don't ask if they want one. Try not to ask any question that can be answered by "yes" or "no". That usually results in "no". Just hold out your bookmark and go directly into your greeting, tell them who you are and what you're doing.
And don't forget to smile and enjoy what you're doing. I love signings. I genuinely enjoy meeting people, talking to them, and many times there is no advertisement prior to my events, except online. But it makes no difference. Every customer who walks by me is a potential reader of my books--or they know someone. I like to approach strangers in the same way I would a long lost friend. And I can't wait to meet them. :)
For more book signing tips, check out this article at:
If you're an author, I'd love to hear about your thought on this, and your own approach to book signings.
If you're a reader, I'd also love to hear from you. I hope you'll share with me what kind of approach you think works best. What do you prefer and why? How can an author improve your experience in a bookstore?