Today is October 13th, 2014.
Two days ago, I did something in which I had no clue whether it was going to be a success or not. I had a book signing party. At a local restaurant. And it turned out to be – in my opinion – a great success.
I thought you all might like to hear about my experiences, how I organized the event and what I might do differently if I do another book signing event.
First off, let me say that this idea originated about a year or so ago when I heard my good friend, Chris Otto, did something very similar in his home town of Richmond, Virginia. Chris told me that he has established a relationship with a local restaurant and approached them about hosting his book signing event. He reserved the outside patio for that restaurant and supplied a small amount of appetizers for everyone that showed up to his event. He held the event in the evening and many people stayed and had a full course meal – which, of course, made the restaurant owners very happy.
I always thought this was a great “outside the box” idea to promote a book. So, when I finally finished the most recent fourth edition of the Capes & babes collection (yes, it’s out now), I approached some family friends who own a restaurant in our area and pitched this idea to them. To be honest, I contacted Chris first and asked him what he did and how he went about making his pitch and pretty much used his model as a template. The place I decided to try and hold this book signing party was a place called Padrino’s II in Dumfries, Virginia.
About Padino’s II…
Nino Basile is the owner of Padrino’s II. His son plays in the same Challenger’s Little League division that my son does and we have eaten at his establishment many time. Padrino’s II is split in half – part of it is a restaurant and the other half is a beautiful bar. Padrino’s II is located at 18035 Dumfries Shopping Plaza in Dumfries, Virginia. It is typically opened from 11:00am – 10:pm during the week.
When I approached Nino about what I wanted to do and to see if he thought it might be a good idea, I made sure to emphasize the fact that my goal was also to help promote his place as well as to promote my book. Since I had never done anything like this before, I actually relied on him for some advice. here are some of things I said I wanted to do and some of the questions I asked him:
- I wanted to try and promote my book and get many of my friends to find out about his place
- I was going to record video of the event and advertise the event through social media
- I didn’t want to affect his normal flow of business
- I asked him what were his slowest days or times
- I used Chris’ suggestions of buying a couple of appetizers for everyone and hopefully, they would stay and eat a bigger meal
- I was going to set up a Facebook event to see how many people might come to the event and then we would plan accordingly
I was thinking that an evening slot of 7-10pm might be a good time slot for the event but Nino said his slowest day was on Saturdays from 11:00am – 5:00pm. He suggested an 11-3pm time slot for the event. Since he knew his place much better than I did, I decided to go along with his decision. It was going to be held on October 11, 2014 from 11:00am – 3:00pm.
I immediately went home that evening and set up a Facebook event and sent Facebook invites out to all of my Facebook friends that I thought would be able to show up – that meant limiting my invites to people in my area. I did send the occasional invite to a friend that I knew wouldn’t be able to make it due to distance but that wouldn’t have problems helping to spread the word about my event. That was two weeks before the event.
Sometimes, you have to ignore the advice you get…
I mention this only because, before I did ANY of this initial leg work, I did ask for some suggestions and advice from various Facebook groups that I am a part of to see if I could get any additional advice before meeting with Nino. Many of the people responded that they thought this was a bad idea having a book signing in a restaurant. They made some valid points about the fact that greasy food and comic books don’t mix well. The idea of having a book signing in a restaurant just seemed so foreign to them,. They made suggestions that I should do this in a comic book store or maybe a library instead. Those were great suggestions but my whole point was to also try and help my friend bring in more business to his restaurant – or to at least help my friends and other Capes & babes fans find out about his restaurant.
Still though, there was enough doubt posted in those Facebook discussions that it actually made me a little nervous and slightly hesitant to even approach Nino about doing this in his establishment. When I first heard about this idea from Chris Otto, he said it went off terrifically well so I had enthusiasm that this could work. Until I started reading some of the replies I started to get in Facebook. Suddenly, I had reservations. And self-doubt.
But I decided to throw caution to the wind and meet with Nino anyway, to pitch my idea and to see what he thought. Once I did and saw immediately that he got excited about the opportunity, all of that self-doubt vanished. And, as my wife pointed out later, the event was going to be a cost-free way to help advertise his place. It should have always been a win-win for both of us. And, as it turns out, it was.
So, that just goes to show you… sometimes when you ask for opinions about an idea that’s a little outside the norm, you have to create a filter almost about which advice you’ll listen to and which ones you’ll ignore. Much of the advice I got about doing a signing in a comic book store or library were good one but they were also more on the “normal” or “typical side and may not have been nearly as successful as the restaurant turned out to be. For one, comic book shops are great but usually, if you’re “no-name”, people will simply ignore you. Plus, you;re completely surrounded by your competition – meaning OTHER comic books. You’ve already shot yourself in the foot from the very beginning. And libraries might not be the best place to conduct a “party”. Many facilities won’t let you bring in outside refreshments – an incentive to get people to come. And, if they do, they might put you in a back room where no one will find you.
At a restaurant – especially one with a bar – the focus is on you and you alone. People can mingle a lot freer without having to disturb any one else plus, they can always go to the bar and get a drink or two.
How many people did I get?
Because I had never done anything like this before, I purposely tried to keep it more on the intimate side of things. As I mentioned, My Facebook invite started off as a private affair. I ended up inviting over 130 people from my Facebook friends list. Those 130 people were a combination of co-workers, family and personal friends or people who were big fans of Capes & Babes that lived within 2 hours of the restaurant. I knew many people weren’t going to be able to make it so I wasn’t worried about that. I was hoping to get anywhere from 15 – 25 people to come to the event.
After the first week of being in a private event list, I got 7 confirms and 10 maybes. I then made the event open to the public – just to see if I could get more responses. I actually had quite a few verbal or e-mail confirmations so that told me, if I do this again, I’m not going to strictly rely on Facebook to spread the word about the event.
In the end, I had 20 people show up for the event – which turned out to be an almost perfect number. I could socialize with everybody. I could easily mingle. And it wasn’t too loud – you could easily carry a conversation and sign books. My wife also helped to play host and to check on everyone as well.
How did the food and comic book thing go?
Before anyone showed up, Nino and I worked out where i was going to set up. We decided that the Karaoke corner of his bar area would be a great place to set up. He has a very large bar area so the Karaoke corner is way off to the side. It wouldn’t disrupt any of his regular restaurant customers, there were plenty of tables for people to sit and eat if they wanted to and there was easy access for people to get to if they were curious about the event that was going on “in the corner”. It was semi-private but still open enough where anyone and everyone could join in if they were curious what was going on.
I had gotten to Nino’s place early and knew the wait staff so I had a chance to tell them what I wanted to do. I originally wanted to have a pitcher of ice tea for everybody but they don;t serve pitchers but they do serve over sized glasses for all of their beverages. So, I agreed that all the non-alcoholic drinks would be on me as well as the appetizers. I didn’t know how many people would show up so we had to play the appetizer thing by ear. As it turns out, two appetizers were enough for everybody.
The wait staff served everyone their drinks at the small tables we set up for everyone but we ket the appetizers off to the side so people could get up and get them if they chose to do so.
I kept things pretty simple…
In terms of where and how I set things up, again, because I had never done anything like this before, I wanted to keep things as simplified as possible. We set up two adjoining tables in the Karaoke section. One table had all of my books displayed along with my promotional postcards and I signed all the books on the other table. I didn’t bring any other convention stuff – including table drapery. It was just the books and postcards and my pens for signing – as you’ll see from the pictures at the end of this article.
I did bring copies of all my books as I figured there might be people who were there to support the fourth book but might be interested in also purchasing volumes 1, 2 or 3. Sure enough, that is exactly what happened. Book four was featured the most, of course, but I found out it was a great idea to also bring all of your other books “just in case”.
In the end…
Here are some interesting things that happened:
- Everyone who came to the event purchased at least one book.
- As mentioned above, some people purchased the entire set (vol 1-4) and some purchased multiple copies of the fourth book.
- Almost everyone who came, ordered an additional meal – usually that was a pizza but some ordered other stuff from the Padrino’s II menu
- A few people visited the bar and bought a couple of drinks while they were there
- They all individually tipped the wait staff
So, if you’re thinking about doing this at a local restaurant in your area, you can also pitch the fact that such an event not only will usually bring more money in by meals but that their wait staff can also earn a little extra as well. I know our waitress had a great time meeting everyone and mentioned how great of an event it turned out to be for her as well!
The total drink and appetizer tab for me was $34 (plus an extra big tip for our waitress too). But, the total book purchases exceeded $250. I far out-earned whatever amount I paid for food and drinks, easily!
Overall, it was, without a doubt, a huge success in my book and gave me some real valuable experience for the book signing party I decide to do.
So, what would I do differently?
One of the things I would do differently is plan much farther in advance.
I did this in a very short time span due to my upcoming fall and winter convention schedule so I only had a short window of an opportunity here. But I proved it can be done.
I would contact my local newspaper and see if someone might be willing to cover the event.
This would be especially true if I held the event at a library or some kind of convention hall.
Although I would absolutely do this again at Padrino’s II, I might look at a convention or conference hall of some kind.
Just to see if I could get more people to show up. A local fire department bingo hall might be another great place as well.
I’d see if I couldn’t get my local cosplaying community involved some how.
This would obviously work much better at a comic book store though.
I would create advertisement about the event and display it in the restaurant.
This is actually something Nino suggested for the next time as well.
I would make a budget and purchase $5 gift cards or free appetizers for everyone that showed up to the event.
This might get expensive but maybe you could set a limit to the first 10 – 15 people who show up for the event.
Do you have any other ideas or incentives you might offer for your book signing party? Add them to the comments below so other people can share in your ideas as well. Who knows, I might even adopt those ideas as well!
Here is a video and the photos I took of the event…
While I was waiting for Nino to arrive and open his restaurant on Saturday morning, I made a little video about the event. Here it is:
Here is a link to my Facebook album that has all the pictures from the book signing party:
Chris Flick just figured out how to put his photo and bio information at the end of these Webcomic Alliance articles. When he’s not wracking his brain on how to do that, he’s busy being a full time web and graphic designer working in the Washington DC area. When he’s not doing that, he’s working on his Capes & Babes webcomic which he created back in 2007. When he’s not doing ANY of those things, he’s usually at a convention on the east coast of the United States.
Chris just recently published his 1,000th Capes & Babes strips. You can read them all by going to his website, Capes & Babes. You can also visit his woefully outdated portfolio web site at CSF Graphics. And if you’re interested in seeing some of the wild Minion Mash-ups Chris has become known for, you should visit his Pinterest Minion Mash-Up Board. You can also find Chris on Facebook and Twitter by doing a search for “Capesnbabes”.