Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sign Books Before You Eat the Fried Chicken

“I once had an impromptu book signing in a hospital waiting room and sold 18 books,” said author Nancy Robinson Masters (

I was sitting across from Nancy at a table in a small candy store. We had just had lunch at the popular and noisy fried chicken place next door and found this location where we could talk without being interrupted by waiters doing the hokey pokey in the aisles.

“You sold books at a hospital waiting room?” I barely got the words out because my mouth was hanging wide open.

“Yes,” Nancy said. “I was talking to the receptionist and I just happened to have my book with me. I laid the book on the counter in front of her and explained that I was the author of the book. She boomed in a big voice, ‘You’re the author of this book?’ Everyone was looking at me by then and I started talking about it and the next thing I knew I was going out to my car and getting a box of books. I had an autograph session right there in the hospital.”

This led to a discussion on why she didn’t do book signings in bookstores. There’s too much competition with other authors and “you’re competing with thousands of books all around you.”

She’s right. An author needs to get creative when it comes to marketing his or her book these days. And bookstore appearances don’t always work well. But book signings can be very lucrative. Especially if you try them at locations other than a bookstore.

Here are a few successful stories:

  1. Gloria Teague ( started talking about her new book while waiting in line at Wendy’s Hamburgers. Three of the workers and two people in line purchased books that she just happened to have in the trunk of her car.

  2. Paula Alfred ( wanted to set up a book signing in her home town of Poteau, Oklahoma. There are no bookstores in Poteau, so she asked a retirement/assisted living home to host the book signing. This was front page news. She sold over 60 books.

  3. Bob Avey ( thinks “outside the box” when it comes to book signings. He’s always trying something new. Bob had a booth at the watermelon festival in Rush Springs, Oklahoma. His latest mystery, Beneath a Buried House, didn’t have much to do with watermelons, but it does take place in Oklahoma. Bob sold 27 books.

  4. Kathy Lynn ( set up a booth on the street in Cowan,Tennessee during Polly Crocket days and sold her historical Cherokee Indian novels. She sold 250 books.

  5. Charles W. Sasser ( had a true crime book that took place in Oklahoma. His publisher gave him over 500 copies of the book. He shared a booth at the State Fair in Tulsa. He sold out in one weekend.

  6. Craig Roberts ( self-published a book on the JFK assassination. He set up a booth in Dallas at a JFK Convention and sold out of his initial print run of 2000 copies.

Nancy Robinson Masters, after telling the hospital waiting room story, suggested that “anywhere a lot of people are waiting is a good place for a book signing.” Places like the fast lube, the car wash, or the barbershop. “Those folks need something to read!”

Just then the proprietor of the candy store piped up, “Folks wait in here to get into the chicken place next door on Friday and Saturday nights. We’re always full. You could have a book signing right here!”

Nancy’s reply was, “Let me give you my card and we’ll set something up.”

This article originally appeared in Writer's Weekly


  1. I am so happy you are sharing this type of info. I have heard so many authors say that they don't have time to do book signings or small-sales promotion. I just can't understand why there is such a seeming "denseness" regarding the fact that books are only sold--one at a time!

    Thanks for starting this blog!

  2. What great stories! The underlying theme seems to be; talk about your book.


  3. Sounds like a winning idea! Traditional autograph parties in book stores usually have few visitors, in my experience.

  4. These are all great ideas (and some from people I call friend). Thanks, Dan, for sharing what works!