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RC&D #8: Never Do a Book Signing (Part 2)

March 26, 2009

The same foundational principle that makes a book signing successful operates in this crash-the-party event strategypeople who read need to know that humans write the books.  Names need to go with faces.  Black text must be viscerally associated with whiskers and voice inflections and personal taste in clothing-all things fleshly-not the product of a printing press.

Only one other principle need undergird this idea--topical relevance to the event (And the book should probably be good.)  Here’s #2.



John Grisham doesn’t need to do book signings.  He might do them, but he doesn’t need to.  He sells over 100,000 units a week of whatever his current book is, and two or three more usually reside in the Top 100 besides.  So he gets 500 fans to a bookstore for his autograph?  Did he actually sell more books?  If he did, did it really make a dent in sales?  Did he add to his fan base?   All he did was tie up traffic and make autographed books more valuable in a resale market that no publisher cares about (by the way, all Laura’s Grisham books are signed first editions, not to brag or anything).

Only in the home of Garrison Keillor can an historia sell a theater

Only in the home of Garrison Keillor can an historian sell a theater


If Grisham really wants to sell more books, he has to create more fans.  WAY more people watch his movies than read his books.  I’d venture to say that more than a few Grisham movie fans don’t even know Grisham wrote the book that provided source material for the movie they are in line to see, or that he has many other good books never been made into movies…yet.  Or care.

Grisham should go to movie theaters where his movies play.  He should walk around with his publicist shaking hands, handing out paperbacks, and signing anything people want signed-ticket stubs, baseball hats, popcorn tubs (now that I could sell on eBay!). 

“Hi, I’m John Grisham, did you know I wrote the book for the movie you are about to see?  Oh, and here’s a copy for you.” 

“Did you know this book here is the next book they will likely be made into a movie?” 

“You know what, the book is better than the movie.  But tell you what, here’s my email address, when you’ve finished the book, send me a note and tell me if you agree.” 

book-theclient-lgIn Grisham’s case, he wins double because a) he increases the size of his fan base and b) his old fans who come to the theatre to meet him have to buy a ticket for the movie, too–which they were probably avoiding because, in their minds, his books are always way better than the movie.  Now we’re talking event!

But that’s Grisham.  What’s more important is that all authors of movie source material hang out in theaters to press the flesh.  (Do you know how many of 2008’s Best Movie Nominees had book source material?)  Raising the level of awareness of how books shape our culture–on pop culture’s front lines no less–cannot help but increase readership-for all publishers, authors, and books.

Oh, for the theaters, in addition to bringing book fans to the movies, they could sell the book.  And since the theater’s net profit on the sale of a typical hardcover would be a few dollars more than the movie tickets themselves, it might be worth their while to sell books there, too.

Read Part 3

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