(from the US National Archives; in this store championing the environment, we could stock maybe one of our books? Possibly it is not the best place to have a stock signing. Just FYI.)
What is a stock signing?
A stock signing is when an author goes to a bookstore to sign the copies of the books the store has in stock. It’s not an event — you aren’t sitting at a table with a line of fans eagerly awaiting your signature — you’re just stopping by so that the store can later put a sticker on all the books you signed that says ‘Signed Copy’ and have that as a shopping bonus for their regular customers. The goal is for the store to have signed copies of your book to sell to their customers for the next few months.
Why should an author do stock signings?
Doing stock signings establishes a good relationship with the bookstores you sign for. Having signed copies of a book that they love is a bonus for any store — it gives them an extra edge in selling the book. If you’re willing to come by the store and sign books even without a crowd of fans waiting for you, you must really like books! And bookstores! And signing your signature repeatedly!
The second reason is that it gives the undecided bookstore consumer something to influence him or her towards buying your book. Obviously, any people who are ginormous fans of your work will pick it up whether or not it’s got your signature. But if there’s someone who has heard good things about your book, but is kind of waffling between your book and another book, having a signed copy can tip them over the edge towards picking up the book that is yours.
In summary: it’s good for community relations! And sales! You can’t go wrong.
How do you set up a stock signing?
It’s best to do your stock signings around when your book is coming out — in the first month or so, say. So you shouldn’t wait years and years and then be like, ‘Hey! Stock signing today!’ unless you have just won a significant award like the Pulitzer.
The next thing to do is call or e-mail in advance. Not every bookstore or comics store in the US may be stocking your book; they may be doing events at 10am; 95% of their staff is sick this week — you want to arrange with a bookstore that is strongly supporting your book to have you come in at a time that is convenient for them, a time when they’re not simultaneously struggling with toddler story time and the brunch rush.
If you have a publicist and/or an agent, you may even want to get them to call or e-mail the bookstore in advance for you. If a bookstore isn’t strongly supporting your book (taking more than five copies), they may not want to have you in for a stock signing. If you call them on the phone about this, they may end up turning you down, but feeling incredibly guilty — thus blighting your whole relationship. Having someone else call them (or calling or e-mailing them yourself while pretending to be your assistant-who-doesn’t-really-exist), is a good way to avoid this, and also to avoid sounding super self-aggrandizing when you yourself call to explain how awesome you and your book are.
(And a side note: just because a bookstore isn’t strongly supporting your book doesn’t mean they don’t like it — they may not be sure of how it will sell, and have ordered a small quantity hoping to reorder if they can sell the first few copies.)
When you’re arranging a stock signing, you want to nail down a time, a date, and a store contact. The store you’re working with may be happy to let you off the hook with, ‘beginning of the first week of April,’ but you want to make sure you’re showing up at a time that works well for them. It also lets them be prepared by pulling the books off the shelves or out of the back room for you. And it makes you feel more comfortable so that you’re not walking into the store, taking a bookseller unawares, and asking for their attention at a time when they’d started taking inventory.
Then the easy part — you show up and sign books!
(If you are a comics person and you also do a sketch as well as sign your name, that is also always appreciated.)
Stock signings are great because you can do multiples of them in a single town — while you can’t do a bookstore event at every bookstore in, say, New York City, you could sign stock in every store. And it gives every store you sign in a motivation to sell your books better — and a personal connection with you.