I haven't done many book signings, just a handful really, so I'm far from being an expert, but in saying that, there are few things I've learned, and wished I would've learned sooner.
Tip #1) Get a (Square Reader)
By far, this made the biggest impact in my book signing success.
Before I found out about this little beauty, I limited my book sales by only being able to handle each transaction in cash. How many people do you know carry cash on them now days? Not many. Being able to accept credit cards is a must.
The Square Reader is free. Yes, FREE! Doesn't get much better than that. Download the Square App on your phone (works for both iphones and Androids), order and sign up for a Square Reader (they do offer credit card chip readers as well, but those will cost you) on their website. The only cost you is the 2.75% per transaction, which isn't bad at all. You will receive daily reports that breaks down your sales, best sale times during the day, and which item (book) sold the best. Deposits into your bank account happens as quickly as the next day. The Square App can be personalized--I created an items list and uploaded the book covers for each item.
Tip #2) Don't Sit
Unless you're a big-name author, sitting on your butt, behind a table of books is a sure way to not sale a thing. People WILL walk by. You have to stand (yes, lots of hours on your feet) and getting out of your comfort zone and initiating conversations with potential customers.
I didn't realize it until I saw it in play, but as an author you're mostly selling yourself. Again, until you're a big-name author, well recognized (we can dream can't we?) you are the product. This is so true, it's almost painful, especially for us introverts (raises hand).
Stand up, hand out bookmarks (see Tip #3), and simply ask them, "Do you like to read?" That's what we started our conversations with. Then we would follow up with, "What kind of books do you like to read?" Then, depending on what their answer is, we'd direct them to the right author that sold that genre. If they say, "No, I don't read" or if they look like they're trying to get away from you, LET THEM GO.
Be friendly, be smiley, and if you can make them laugh, all the better. Your personality will draw them in and they will be more open to hearing about your books. It's surprising how just smiling and asking them to come over and check out your books how many people actually will.
Tip #3) Have Bookmarks or Business Cards to Hand Out
If you can put something into someone's hand, even if they're walking away, DO IT. Have your website and buying options on your cards. There is always that possibility of them buying your books later or picking them up in eBook format.
Not sure where to start to get business cards or bookmarks? Try Vistaprint. They usually have great options and prices.
It's nice to place bookmarks inside signed books as well.
Tip #4) Find a Network of Authors (Make Author Friends)
If you can find other local authors to join you, all the better. Fortunately for me, Utah has several writing communities to connect with other authors. The League of Utah Writers is a big one. Look around, see what your community offers, and get involved. Check Facebook groups in your area as well. Making local contacts and getting involved with other authors is a great way to make book signings less stressful for yourself and cuts the initial cost of setting up a booth at different events. The more variety of books on the table, the more likely someone will stop and look.
Make sure to find authors who are willing to sell you and your books as well. You need to work together. Keep in mind, some of the authors will have better sales. That's just part of the game, but that's okay. Learn from them. This will help you in the future. But setting up a booth with an overbearing author, who cuts in on your conversation with a customer, and is only concerned with selling their books can make the event down right awful. Talk about this upfront with the other authors and be frank in how you expect everyone to behave.
Also, limit the number of authors you do an event with. Booth sizes tend to run on the small side and tossing in ten authors in an 8x8 area is asking for trouble.
Tip #5) Cut Custmers a Deal
When I went to the event, I only brought with me what books I had on stock. I really wanted to push ZIA, The Teenage Zombie & The Undead Diaries as it is my newest release (Yes, trying to sell zombies at a Christmas Craft show is a tad rough...but doable). I also wanted to push ANYONE? since book two ANYONE ELSE? will be released this coming year. I had a lot of those books on hand, but not so much my other books, which hurt me when it came to people wanting to buy the full ZOMBIE WEST series (I only had three DEAD PLAINS on hand so for a two day event, could only sell three full sets...bummer).
What I noticed from the other authors was that they made "deals" when it came to their series books. Most books, they charged $10 a book, but if they bought the series or bought any three books from the same author, they would knock off a dollar a book. $27 for three author signed books...not too shabby, and most customers went for the deal.
Let the customers know that should they decide to wait and buy your books through retailers such as Amazon or Barnes and Noble, the cost is usually higher and it wouldn't be a signed copy. Customers like deals. Make sure you have a couple to offer them (and hook them, too).
Bonus Tip #6) Success is Relative (also, be realistic).
How do you measure success? Well, that will vary by author. You will need to define that for yourself. Be realistic when you do so, too. To go to any event and expect to sell out of all your books and makes thousands upon thousands of dollars will leave you disapointed. Seriously, unless you're JK Rowling or Dan Brown it ain't gonna happen.
I set my expectations low because that's how I roll. This particular event cost me $80 (my part of the booth fees...$80 x 4 = $320. See Tip #4 again), but I had to drive over an hour to get to the event. My hope was to sell enough books to cover my $80 cost plus some to cover my gas. That was the bar I set. Low. Keeping it real. This was a two day event, and I was pleasantly surprised after day one to have not only met that goal, but exceeded it to cover my lunch as well :) Day two, at that point, was all profit. Let's just say, I ended the event happy and with extra $$ in my pocket.
But even if I hadn't made a profit, there were a couple of customers that made standing on my feet for two days straight and smiling at strangers who completely ignored me completely worth it. I will never forget those young faces, so excited to read my zombie and apocalyptic books--Ethan, Clay, Allison, and Maddi. Those four kids and those four connections were amazing.
That right there was my definition of success.