You’re excited. You’ve just heard back from your town’s leading bookstore and they’ve booked you for an author event and book signing in two months. They’ve asked you to do a “little talk” before you sign books. You said, “Sure! Of course!” And now you are staring at the email on your computer screen wondering what to talk about at your book signing event.
I have my own ideas about what to talk about at an author event, but I always like to do some research to make sure I don’t leave anything out. I was surprised at the lack of information available on what to actually say when you are at a book signing event!
- I found information for readers on what to say when they meet the author.
- I found information on how to host a book signing event.
- I even found information on how to dress at a book marketing event.
However, I found almost no information on what to talk about at a book signing event.
Well, I’m going to remedy that right now.
7 Things Authors Can Talk About at Book Signings and other Author Events
The following list includes ideas I’ve had for author events, as well as a couple of things I found in my research on the topic. So, the next time you have the opportunity to speak at a book signing or author event, you won’t be at a loss for words.
Idea 1: Go Traditional and Read a Passage or Three from Your Book
This idea works well regardless of the type of book you have written. If you’ve written fiction, then choose a passage that is exciting and ends with a cliff-hanger. Make sure the passage you’ve chosen doesn’t give away any spoilers, as well.
If you’ve written nonfiction, it depends on the type of nonfiction you’ve written. If it is heavily story-based, like a history or memoir, the same rule mentioned above applies.
If your book is more didactic and informative, then choose your best chapter and go from there. For example, with my book Public Speaking Super Powers, I usually choose to read either the intro that talks about the difference between talent and skill, or the chapter about overcoming the fear of speaking. Most people who read that book pick it up because they resonate with those pieces of information.
ACTION: Find passages from your book that will resonate with your audience and entice them to purchase it so they can get more.
Idea 2: Answer Questions
This is another traditional idea. Readers love to ask questions and hear their favorite authors answer them. This also takes much of the preparation off your plate. And, regardless of what you decide to talk about at your book signing, it is always an excellent idea to include a Q&A session.
I’ve provided some tips on how to handle a Q&A in this post.
ACTION: Read the post about hosting a Q&A session and implement the tips!
Idea 3: A Conversation with the Author
If your audience is going to be small—up to 20 people tops—you don’t need to give a formal presentation, you can simply begin a conversation with the attendees. Think of it like a book club filled with people who may not have read your book yet.
How do you do this? Prepare in advance with some conversation starter questions. Here are examples:
These types of questions get your readers and potential readers thinking about the broader context of your book and you as an author.
ACTION: Come up with three to five engaging conversation starters based on your book.
Idea 4: Share how you came to write your book
Readers and potential readers love to hear the book’s backstory. What inspired you to write your book? Writers come up with their ideas from a wide variety of sources: Life experiences, random events, places, people, things—and your audience will love to hear about it!
Don’t judge your idea generation process. No matter how dull it may seem to you, your readers and potential readers will still find it interesting because it is outside their own experience.
For example, Public Speaking Super Powers was born out of a blog post I wrote once. Not an exciting beginning, but how it evolved from blog post to full-blown book can be engaging.
Another example, I’m working on a piece of fiction about a Troll named Og who is a master sculptor of wood. How did I get the idea? I saw a license plate that said, “WUD4OG.” Wood for Og. It captured my attention, and the rest is history! 🙂
ACTION: Jot down three to five talking points about how you came to write your book.
Idea 5: Talk about your writer’s journey
This one is related to the last but different. Whenever you’re struggling to come up with what to talk about at a book signing, you can always fall back on this one. Since you lived it, you know it well, so it can be an easy back-pocket presentation.
Readers often want to know how you came to be a writer. Did you dream of it since childhood? Was it thrust upon you by circumstance? What is your story?
For example, I wanted to be a writer since the age of four. Although I didn’t get my first piece published until I was in my 20s, I spent those formative years reading about, studying, and practicing the art of writing. I can talk about how I first saw my name in print, how my fourth-grade teacher encouraged my writing, and so forth leading up to my first published book, Bonkers for Bundt Cakes, in my 40s.
Trust me: Your writer’s journey story is interesting!
ACTION: Jot down three to five speaking points about your writer’s journey. Where did it start? What were the important milestones or stand out events?
Idea 6: Present your research
Many authors, both of fiction and nonfiction alike, conduct research for their books. Readers often find this fascinating, as well. Did you research the period your historical romance was set in? What did you learn? What made it into the book … and what didn’t?
Did you write a biography of a famous person? How did you find your information? What ended up in the book and what didn’t?
If I were to use this idea for my book, Public Speaking Super Powers, I would talk about interviewing 85+ speakers. I’d share how I used those interviews to create the book. I might talk about additional research I had to do. And I would mention what made it into the book and what didn’t.
Notice a trend there? People love to learn about not only the research you did that made it into your book but also what didn’t make it in … and why.
ACTION: Take a look at your research. What made it into your book? What didn’t? Why did you make those decisions? Write down your answers so you can refer back to them!
Idea 7: Give a workshop based on your book
At first blush, this idea may seem to only apply to nonfiction books, but that isn’t necessarily the case. It all depends on how much of your own knowledge and skill went into the book.
If your book is informational and educational, to begin with, this idea is easy to implement. However, there are ways to make this idea work for other types of books, as well. For example, Kary Oberbrunner wrote a young adult science fiction novel called Elixir Project. He turned concepts in that book into an online course that helped people become “unhackable.” That, in turn, evolved into his latest nonfiction book, Unhackable.
Most books have a theme, or meme, or underlying thread that you can teach. Is your main character a basket weaver because you love weaving baskets? Host a basket weaving class! Is your main character a gerbil because you’ve raised gerbils for years? Host a class on how to have a healthy happy gerbil as a pet! Did you write a memoir about someone who has an interesting hobby? Perhaps you can help your audience begin that hobby as well.
Still, struggling to come up with your workshop idea? Teach a writing workshop! Share your top three to five best practices that got your book out of your head and into readers’ hands.
ACTION: Come up with at least one idea for a workshop based on your book. You get Brownie Points if you can come up with more!
What will you talk about at your book signing event?
Did any of these seven ideas spark your creative juices? I hope so! Take them and run with them. And don’t sit around waiting for bookstores and other venues to open up to start speaking at author events. Get on podcasts or webinars. Host your own webinars. Now that you know what to say, go out and say it!