How This Indie Author Landed a Barnes & Noble Book Signing

How This Indie Author Landed a Barnes & Noble Book Signing

If you’re a self-published author, the dream of holding an in-person book signing at a Barnes & Noble bookstore probably seems farfetched.

Yes, the giant retailer sells almost 200 million physical books a year and regularly conducts author events in its stores, but these book events seem to cater only to published authors.     

But guess what?

I’m an indie author with one self-published book. As unbelievable as it may seem, my first book signing five months after the book’s release was held inside a Barnes & Noble. I successfully sold a number of books and gained loyal readers.

How did I do it?

By not letting all the what-ifs hiding in my apprehensive author’s mind get in the way. In the end, my determination and patience paid off.

If you’re a self-published author looking for an opportunity to hold a book signing at a Barnes and Noble store, here are a few helpful tips to get your foot in the door.

1. Adopt a positive mindset

Novice writers tend to be scared of how people will react to their work and are not too keen on taking the possibility of being rejected.

As a result, they shy away from opportunities to be discovered and recognized for something that they’ve worked so hard to create. Let go of your negativity and explore every opportunity to showcase your work with enthusiasm and determination despite the outcome.

After all, if you have no confidence in your own work, how will you convince others to trust what you’ve written?

2. Find your store

First, you need to choose which Barnes & Noble store will work best for you and your invited guests.  

When you determine your location, contact the store to find out if it has upcoming author events on its calendar or if the store is willing to accommodate an event.

3. Contact the store’s Community Business Development Manager (CBDM)

Barnes and Noble has a section on their website for publishers and authors with specific instructions for how to be considered for an author event.

It’s important to note that as a self-published author, you may feel deterred because the page only refers to published authors. However, as you continue to read, the site gives authors an option to contact the individual store’s Community Business Development Manager (CBDM) or store manager.

In my case, I spoke to the store manager first, and then my inquiry was passed on to the CBDM.

When you get in touch with the CBDM, introduce yourself, let them know you’re interested in hosting an event and find out if the store is open to reviewing book signing proposals. If the store accommodates author events, you can offer to drop by the store and personally submit your proposal to the CBDM.

Be sure to ask the CBDM at your store how they’d prefer to receive proposals; following directions is key.

4. Prepare your book signing proposal

There are many ways to submit a proposal, and creativity has no limits.

If the CBDM does not have a preferred proposal format, you’re free to be as creative as you’d like. You could submit your book proposal in digital or printed format depending on how you want to present your ideas. If you’re lucky, the CBDM may invite you to come to the store so you can discuss your proposal in person.  

For my proposal, I chose to submit a media kit using a simple PowerPoint presentation in print format. I utilized the sales copywriter in me by creating a teaser for my book on the first page. I  included a blurb, a synopsis, customer reviews (since my book had been out for a few months already), colorful postcards, bookmarks and my book’s website, social media accounts and blogs the book had been featured on.

Don’t forget to include a copy of your book with the proposal and don’t expect itto be returned.

Sending a thank you card to the CBDM for giving you an opportunity to submit a proposal regardless of the outcome is a good way to express your gratitude and establish a positive relationship with a Barnes & Noble store in your area.

5. Be patient and proactive

Patience is key.

It took almost three months to hear from the CBDM at my local Barnes & Noble. When I finally heard back, I received an email with the date of the event and instructions on how the event would be handled.

I called the CBDM immediately and we discussed the process in more detail. In case you do not get feedback from your CBDM, you may follow up two weeks after you’ve submitted your proposal. That’s what I did! I followed up two weeks after submitting my proposal, and continued to follow up via email once a week for three weeks until I received a response.

At the same time, while you’re waiting to hear from the CBDM, you have the option to contact other B&N stores that may accommodate your proposal.

Hosting a book signing at a bookstore, especially with a giant retailer like Barnes & Noble, not only gives you a feeling of pride and self-fulfillment, but also adds credibility to your work as an author.

My book signing at Barnes & Noble has earned me a positive reputation as an indie author among my book’s established and new followers, as well as those who have developed an interest in my book after the event.

I met readers who shared their views about the plots and characters of my book as well as fun, interesting and valuable insights on storytelling that I can incorporate in my future work as an author. I also met other authors who shared their experiences, including their struggles and achievements, that have continuously encouraged me to work harder knowing I’m not alone in this journey.

On top of it all, I was able to share my experience with others, aspiring authors particularly, who may need a bit of inspiration so they are encouraged to take a chance on their writing.  

Have you ever considered contacting a local bookstore to host a book event? Let us know in the comments below.

Filed Under: Marketing
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21 comments

  • I regularly do signings at B&N as well as at indie booksellers and I do as much as I can beforehand to make it successful. I provide artwork and information they can use, and in some cases, send a book or two down for display to advertise the event. I post on social media, my own events page and send out press releases. Most importantly for future signings, when I get there, I engage with the store patrons, hand out giveaways and be as active in the store as I can.
    No one knows how a signing will go in terms of sales but being a professional author/marketer can definitely create a positive imporession with the store who hosted you!

  • Karen Walker says:

    Thank you for this wonderful information.
    I’m an aspiring writer with many ideas for creative writing as well as a Memoir that I am confident will help many people that I’m willing to share my experiences with.

  • Denise M. says:

    I have helped some friends get signings at our local B&N. The trade book manager orders the books in advance and asks the author to sign any that didn’t sell at the event. They put a special sticker on them that says Author Signed Copy. She says signed books sell better than unsigned copies.

  • Dr. Ron Rosenthal says:

    I am curious… How many print copies does one need thane available for a book signing?

  • I did a book signing at the Barnes and Noble bookstore in Berkeley, CA in the 1990s. Around that time I did several book signings in Canada. Lately, when I have been asked to do book signings by bookstores, I have turned them down. There are much better ways to market books. These words of wisdom have guided me over the years and have added to my success:

    “It’s better to do a sub-par job on the right project than an excellent job on the wrong project.”
    — Robert J. Ringer

    For the record, I have come up with 75 to 100 of my own unique marketing techniques that 99 percent of authors and book marketing experts are not creative or smart enough to come up with. I have used similar unique marketing techniques to get over 111 books deals with various foreign publishers around the world. These techniques involve what my competitors are NOT doing — instead of what my competitors are doing.

    Here is my best advice for self-published authors who want to sell a lot more copies of their books. Don’t do what the majority is doing. Instead, do the opposite of what the majority is doing.

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    International Best-Selling Author, Innovator, and Unconventional Career Coach
    Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
    (Over 325,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working”
    (Over 300,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

  • Cristina says:

    Our two B&N stores must have very mean-spirited CBDMs. I’ve met both face-to-face, sent them emails and got rejected quickly, despite being a physician in the valley for over 30 yrs! Not sure what more I could do, they simply blew me off.

    • Hi Cristina, I’m not sure what the problem could be but here are a few things to consider:
      1. How old is your book? If it is a year or two old and hasn’t sold well, they may prefer newer or better-selling authors?
      2) Is it returnable?
      3) Have you done signings at other bookstores that you can highlight or given talks that have generated sales?
      Sometimes, though, it can just be the store’s policy–I’ve had some in CA that require that authors guarantee a certain number of sales! (Wish I could!)
      Where are you based?

      • Cristina says:

        Hi Nancy, I live in Scottsdale, AZ. My books are published through CreateSpace and are available on IngramSpark.
        They are from 2015, so not “old”.
        I have done one book signing at an indie bookstore in Lomita,CA.
        Appreciate any words of wisdom, thx!

        • Hi Cristina,
          What I hear from bookstores is that anything over a year old is “old” and less likely to be slotted for a single event unless it has had great sales.
          But an alternative is to do combo author events.

    • Leann Garms says:

      Cristina, it’s not that they are mean spirited. They are just busy and must have materials presented in a professional way, with all details already in place.
      One thing that is not pointed out in this article is that 99.9 % maybe 100, of the B&N stores will NOT let an author have a book signing without the book being available in their system. They must be able to order it through their own B&N system. They don’t do consignment. If your book is published though Ingram, you are automatically in the system. If you are on Amazon/Createspace ONLY please don’t contact them. You are in competition with the bookstores.

      Also, a professional press kit with press release, a sell sheet, bios, reviews and plans for marketing the book signing go a long way. BBL is always able to book our authors at B&N and we are an indie publisher. Remember, it’s about what you can do for THEM not what they can do for you.

  • PJ says:

    Cristina: Maybe Ernie, comment before yours, will share with you a few of his 75-100 marketing ideas 😀.

  • I am a pathetically shy person. I’m working on that. I could use some advice. My writing is my means of communication. Once I gather the gumption of contacting a place like B&N, what do you talk about at a signing? Do you give a speech about your book? Do you sit and wait for customers to stumble over you? Basically, what is done at a book signing?

    Oh, if most of your books are Kindle, how would one even do a signing?

  • Thanks for all your comments. To Debra, I’ve attended some book signings where authors were given a chance to talk about their books before the actual book signing. It really depends on how the book signing is organized. On others, you are just given a space to set up and sign books for a certain number of hours and wait for guests to come by. I think we’re all shy in some ways but if you are an author, a self-published one especially where you have to do your own marketing, you have to overcome that shyness one baby step at a time. Don’t be intimidated or scared to interact. Your book is special and you should be proud of what you created. Your guests will ask you about your book during your book event and you can respond to their questions. It will draw more interest and will spark conversation. I described what happened at my book signing on my website and it’s in one of the links on this article. Good luck on your journey as an author.

  • Leann Garms says:

    One thing that is not pointed out in this article is that 99.9 % maybe 100, of the B&N stores will NOT let an author have a book signing without the book being available in their system. They must be able to order it through their own B&N system. They don’t do consignment. If your book is published though Ingram, you are automatically in the system. If you are on Amazon/Createspace ONLY please don’t contact them. You are in competition with the bookstores.

    Also, a professional press kit with press release, a sell sheet, bios, reviews and plans for marketing the book signing go a long way. BBL is always able to book our authors at B&N and we are an indie publisher. Remember, it’s about what you can do for THEM not what they can do for you.
    In our “10 Tips for a Successful B&N Booksigning” we always recommend that you do a short talk and show the CRM that their clients would be interested in the subject. Tie into current themes for the month, etc.
    Feel free to email me for the tip sheet.

  • Connie Osko says:

    I like to have my first book writing at Barnes & Nobles I have one in Boise I like to be there any other authors that would be really sweet and nice to do talk to them and maybe have other places I can do book signing and another thing do I have to come up with my own books to do a book signing or do they order it and then I do book signing there afterwards just want to know thank you Connie osko author awesome zombie books and I like everything you said and what to do thank you very much for the ideal I want to try it out someday when I can I don’t make much money I’m on SSI but I’m trying that’s how I get my money out there to my publishers thank you for all this

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