Guest Blogger: Julie Cantrell

How to Plan a Successful Book Signing

As a first-time author of two children’s books, God is with Me through the Day and God is with Me through the Night, I was surprised to discover that the most challenging part of the journey has been marketing. I have worked as a marketing writer for ten years; but marketing my own work has been…well…icky. As a friend put it: “It’s a bit like standing in front of the mirror with a stranger and asking them to say nice things about you.”

Despite my reluctance, I’ve been grateful to have experienced many successful book signings since the launch of my books. When I sold more than 100 books at several signings, the bookstore managers were amazed. They couldn’t believe I was having such strong turnouts as a first-time author.

One Barnes & Noble community resource manager hit the nail on the head when he said he’d never had an author market the event as much as I had. That behind-the-scenes work was responsible for my delivering him the second-largest signing of his career.

When planning your next author event, keep these tips in mind:

1. Your biggest ally is word-of-mouth. Reach out to anyone you know in a community and ask them to invite friends, family, neighbors, church members, school peers, etc. You’d be surprised how interested folks become when they have a personal connection to the author.

2. Send out press releases to local media outlets. Look for television news programs and radio shows that routinely support local events. Contact regional magazines, and reach out to the newspapers for a book review and/or author interview.

3. Post the event on all community calendars, since many media outlets will share the event both online and in print.

4. Contact local churches to invite their church community to join you. You can also offer to visit the church for a personal author event. Some churches have been extremely kind and generous to me by promoting the event in their Sunday Bulletin or weekly newsletter.

5. Use the Internet to locate your target audience and reach out to them via email, direct mail, phone calls, or – of course – word of mouth. Depending on your book, you may want to contact veterans groups, healthcare workers, mothers’ groups, or schools.

6. Use key social networking tools such as Facebook, Twitter, and a personal blog to boost interest in your books.

7. Don’t be shy. When you’re at the event, engage attendees in conversation. Remember, humor is key. Get people laughing and they’ll want to hear more.

Marketing does take time, but the extra hours pay off in most cases. Happy booksigning!


As a freelance writer, Julie Cantrell has written countless articles on the topics of parenting, child development, faith, education, family, and health. She also served as contributing editor for MOMSense magazine, published by Christianity Today. She is a certified speech-language pathologist and mother of two.Visit her website and blog, Julie’s Journal.

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


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  5. Kathryn Magendie on August 2, 2009 at 11:31 AM

    >All great advice, thank you….and congrats on those successful signings!

  6. Patricia Raybon on July 31, 2009 at 10:12 AM

    >Love this post. Work hard and do our part. Great reminder. Really smart tips, too. Thank you, Julie and Rachelle.

  7. Reesha on July 31, 2009 at 9:06 AM

    >I think the only thing worse that being compared to J.K. Rowling as an author is being compared to Gilderoy Lockhart as a book signer. Thanks again for the tips!

    Word verification: jayeppi = what ensues from a blue jay drinking my coffee in the morning.

  8. Shigune Matsui on July 31, 2009 at 2:06 AM

    >Awesome! I barely have those much. I am also looking for follwers of my blog. Could you please visit and comment on some of my posts at ? Thanks. I'm a writer too, so I'm trying to get my voice heard. Please follow if you like!

  9. Heather Sunseri on July 30, 2009 at 8:46 PM

    >What a great post, Julie and Rachelle. I look forward to the day I can put many of these points to good use.

  10. Chris Pedersen on July 30, 2009 at 2:09 PM

    >Thanks, Julie. I love your books. And thanks Rachelle for posting Julie's marketing tips. I'll be sure to follow them when my first book comes out. I've starred this post.

  11. Arabella on July 30, 2009 at 1:18 PM

    >What's a shy writer, who lives in the backwoods–or middle of the desert, actually, to do? Not make excuses, that's for sure! But marketing makes me groan. I have serious stage fright (when I'm playing only myself, rather than a character in a play). Hey, there's an idea, I could pretend to be somebody else when I go about marketing! Should I go for glamorous or eccentric?

  12. Heart2Heart on July 30, 2009 at 12:21 PM

    >I will definitely keep these in my writers journal for one day when I am half as lucky as you and get to use them.

    Love and Hugs ~ Kat

  13. Lisa Jordan on July 30, 2009 at 12:11 PM

    >Great ideas! Thanks for sharing, Julie.

  14. Enjoying the journey, Karla on July 30, 2009 at 10:35 AM

    >Those are great tips. I love posts like this to help know the realities ahead and that it does not have to be intimidating, I just need to get my plan to together and not give up.

    Great post!

  15. Dara on July 30, 2009 at 10:31 AM


    I must admit, #7 will be difficult for me, especially in front of so many people! I always get tongue tied and it's always pretty evident 😛 Oh well; perhaps that will be something that marks me as unique and approachable!

  16. Teri D. Smith on July 30, 2009 at 10:17 AM

    >Thanks, Rachelle, for inviting Julie.

    I've saved all of your tips,Julie, for the big day…someday.

  17. Cheryl Barker on July 30, 2009 at 9:59 AM

    >Thanks, Julie, for such a helpful post. Most of what I've heard about book signings has been discouraging so it's refreshing to hear that they can actually work if handled well. Continued blessings to you!

  18. JStantonChandler on July 30, 2009 at 9:46 AM

    >Thank you for the wonderful marketing tips. I must admit, marketing is the one thing that really makes me nervous. I know it's something I'll have to face eventually so it's nice to have a plan of action.


  19. Lynnda - Passionate for the Glory of God on July 30, 2009 at 9:06 AM

    >Thank you, Julie.

    As a novice author,I need all the help I can get in understanding the complexities of the publishing world. The way you gave such specific advice leads me to say "I can do that!" and gives me confidence. The more I learn, the more I can see myself becoming a successful member of this world.

    Be blessed!


  20. Marla Taviano on July 30, 2009 at 8:58 AM

    >Wow. I am so, so, so impressed. A couple years ago I swore I'd never do another book signing. You have given me hope.

  21. Deborah Vogts on July 30, 2009 at 8:48 AM

    >Thanks for the tips, Julie. You have some great ideas here!

  22. CKHB on July 30, 2009 at 8:48 AM

    >Thanks for this!

    For those of us with no church community, I think it's important to think about what other communities might be interested in our novels.

    My novel includes themes of identity, specifically addressing many character names and their meanings… so I hope to eventually advertise on websites like, to tap into the "naming community." I hope that I can find that group of people who adore thinking about and finding out about the meanings of names (and how that might impact the owner of the name), and get them excited about a novel that incorporates those ideas (and hopefully tells a good story as well).

  23. Reesha on July 30, 2009 at 8:42 AM

    >I especially like what you said about getting local churches involved. That excites me more than the actual book signing! Seeing a church in action is a beautiful thing.

  24. Jody Hedlund on July 30, 2009 at 8:13 AM

    >Wonderful marketing tips! Thank you! Like you said, the harder we work at promoting our books, the better the pay off.

  25. Tisha Morris on July 30, 2009 at 8:02 AM

    >Great tips… Thanks!

  26. Margot on July 30, 2009 at 7:57 AM

    >I think you're right on about the personal connections.

  27. Sharon A. Lavy on July 30, 2009 at 6:58 AM

    >Thank you for this information. Writers need to write the book, yet, but we do need to have in the back of our minds that the marketing will come, and prepare for it.

  28. Krista Phillips on July 30, 2009 at 6:52 AM

    >Loved reading your story Julie, and some GREAT ideas for marketing. I'll tuck them inside my brain (aka a folder in my computer) for later!