In 2014, Taylor Swift made headlines when she wrote, “There are a few things I have witnessed becoming obsolete in the past few years, the first being autographs.” Apparently, the iPhone generation prefers selfies over signed photos, especially when social media sites like Instagram and Snapchat have only made it that much easier to upload a successful selfie and share your new celebrity status.
Now it’s 2016, and autographs aren’t the only thing adamant fans are passing up on. Book signings, unfortunately, are also on their way out.
Author Noah Charney offered some insight into the tragic trend when he finished up his own book tour late last year. “In recent years, and especially since the recession of 2008, when author advances shrunk and publishing had to tighten its collective belt, one of the first things to go were book tours.” He goes on to admit that “touring doesn’t necessarily translate into better book sales.”
Another author who recently went on a book tour, Holly Robinson, agreed that publishers don’t care about book signings anymore. “Alas, the age of book tours is over. Every writer I know, with a few best-selling exceptions, has been told by their publicists and editors to just forget those bookstore appearances. ‘Nobody comes anymore,’ they explain.” Robinson funded her own tour and admitted that the money spent versus the money earned didn’t even compare.
Authority Publishing even went so far as to call book signings a “waste of time for authors,” and wrote that everything from hosting a contest to speaking at a local service group would be a better use of your efforts.
And yet, Robinson doesn’t believe that book signings have lost their significance for authors.
“So why do a book tour, especially if you have to pay for it yourself?” she asks. “The reason bears repeating: we writers put our words on the page to reach someone.”
Sure, maybe you’re reaching those readers from the written words that were typed up in the comfort of your own dark corner of the world, but you’re still reaching them; still pouring your ideas out with the silent confidence that it’s your story to tell and one that they need to read.
As author and long-time reader Adam Carter wrote after attending a book signing of his hero, Neil Gaiman: “Hearing the man read his own work is to really hear it for the first time, with a conviction and an intonation that is unparalleled.” Carter didn’t stay after for the book signing, but left to “get somewhere quiet and read, while your (Neil Gaiman’s) voice was still fresh in my mind.”
But what if you’re not a “Neil Gaiman?” What if you aren’t a Rowling or a Patterson, or any other best-selling author with hundreds of fans lining up for your every appearance?
Luckily, the same social media that made autographs obsolete is putting the power in the author’s hands and making it easier now more than ever to host a successful book signing.
In The Balance’s post about setting up successful author readings and book signings, they list promoting your book on social media among the top three things you can do as an author. “Put the signing on your author website, promote it on your Facebook page, Tweet it to your followers.”
Blogger Stacy Deanne takes it one step further and even suggests hosting a purely virtual book tour altogether. “It’s been speculated that Virtual Book Tours sell more books than a regular book tour ever could,” she wrote. “Think of having a book tour in your robe and slippers. Sounds good to me.”
Whatever you do, don’t forget that you’re doing it for the readers.