Marketing Your Book

How To Set Up a Book Signing – An Interview with Xulon Author Bob Bush

How to set up a book signing
What is one of the most effective way to find and meet new readers? Book signings! Xulon Press editor Blair Townley interviews author Robert Bush (Shortcut to Heaven, the Janitor Brigade and the Visitor), who has held 137 book signings, as he dispenses vital advice on how to set up a book signing—and why they’re so important to an author’s success.


Blair Townley: Thank you, Robert, for taking part in this interview. After the printing of your books, what was your plan to market them?

Robert Bush: My background is in sales and marketing, with a business degree in business marketing and an MBA in market strategy. You want to identify your market strategy and audience beforehand. Anybody who is going to launch a book needs to put together a business plan and really understand what it means to sell a book. You need to understand what you are selling the book for and what the store is picking up [with your book]. It is also important to have realistic expectations; a lot of people get discouraged because they are not moving the books like they want.

I really think it is also important for authors to convey a professional image. I have a website, press releases and videos from Xulon Press, while also being linked into e-book availability with You really want to differentiate yourself from other books and authors. Yet, I think the most important tool is face-to-face communication with others.

BT: Were book signings at the forefront of your market strategy plan? How did you go about making connections at bookstores?

RB: Books signings are where you move most of your books; there’s no doubt about it. You are going to see residual impact after the book signings because people will come back. When I was really active in book signings, I would see significant residual impact there.

Setting up a signing requires the author to meet with the manager of the store. He/she has to go to that manager and get the person excited to show that book in the store. Most of these managers are going to try to blow off the author, but you need to challenge them to give you the opportunity for one signing. That is how all I was able to get all my signings, just asking the store managers for one day.

The manager’s concern is whether you will be a distraction to the store, or extension of the store. It’s important for the author to convey that he/she is an extension of the store and will work the store, but won’t get in the way of normal business flow.

BT: What all did you do to prepare for the book signing on the actual day?

RB: I wear a suit and tie to book signings and I work the floor, never sitting. You can’t be an introvert and move books. I show up fifteen minutes before the appointed time to set up my signing. If the signing is at 9, I’m there at 8:45 so by 9, I’m ready to go. I meet with every member of the staff and have actually sold a lot of books to staff members at the stores. Every person gets a business card, and I’ll even be in the bookstores’ coffee shops talking to people. I have posters with my book covers for my signings.

I’ve also done a number of radio interviews and have a radio interview on my website. When you are going into a signing location that has a radio station, I would encourage authors to reach out to that radio station and get some advertising.

It’s a huge advantage to have multiple books at a book signing, too, so you can have a strategy for each book. You can get pretty good at leading people to certain books from first impressions, while also giving them an opportunity to pick. I gauge their reactions to see what they might be interested in, and some customers have bought all three books.

BT: How did you go about choosing places for book signings?

RB: If you are in a location where you know the stores, that’s good. Most of your stores are chains and most authors will run into problems with book signings there because of inaccessibility to managers. There are just not a lot of independent bookstores around anymore. Authors need to know their own geographies and go after the busy stores. Even if it is a chain account, it comes down to the manager deciding. I now know every store, and they have gotten to know me over the years. 

BT: How many people have attended your signings?

RB: I sell an average of twenty-five books at a store, but you are reaching out to a lot of people in the course of that time. Most of the sales that you make, more than ninety percent, are cold calls when people walking in the door have no idea who you are. I’ve invited people to buy the books as well, but to depend on friends and family to buy the books means you are going to run out of that list pretty quickly. You have to be genuine and open to coming up to people you don’t know.

I’m also a big believer in where you position yourself in the book signing. My choice location is to be in a high-traffic area but I don’t want to be five feet in front of the door. People don’t want to walk in the door and be hit with someone trying to sell something to them. You need to work with the manager to position yourself where you get traffic without catching people off-guard. I’ll walk the floor if no one is at my table and talk to people, giving them my card.

BT: After each book signing, have you re-evaluated the signing to see what needs to be changed?

RB: I see every signing as an opportunity to learn. If you tap into something that’s working, you will continue to move forward with it. You think about what worked and what didn’t, but you have to know how to close.

A lot of authors are pretty introverted, so what I would recommend is that they be willing to put in a long day [sometimes eight to ten hours], enjoy what they are doing, don’t get frustrated, prepare early, and have fun. The authors need to look at the signings as an opportunity to serve Jesus in many dark places. You peel back a layer at book signings of people that you never would have an opportunity anywhere else. Learning from your signings is pretty critical.

Book signings for me are a ministry, meeting people who really need to feel encouraged. I believe God puts people in front of me in the store for a reason and if I can make a difference in their lives, that’s why I’m there. The selling of the books will come, but you have to be really genuine and love people. The stories you hear from people are amazing and it is a humbling time to serve. I meet a lot of parents with kids at signings and they tell me their children love to write. I tell them my story; I was a kid who loved to write and then life took over. I went to college and was in the business world for many years, but the passion to write never leaves you and you never know when God will open that door again. So if you love to write, don’t give up on that.


Blair Townley joined the Xulon Press family as a Staff Editor in May 2013, helping first-time authors prepare their treasured manuscripts for publication. Prior to Xulon Press, she previously worked as a staff writer/editor for several Central Florida-based magazines over the past decade. What Blair enjoys most about writing and editing is getting to help others share their stories, helping others see themselves as the unique individuals God created them to be.

8 Comments on “How To Set Up a Book Signing – An Interview with Xulon Author Bob Bush

  1. Dear Ms. Townley:
    As a Xulon author, “What Refuge from Secular Tyranny ?” (Project #59590), I was very interested in your interview of author Robert Bush.
    The tips regarding book signings and pro-actively advertising your own book are very helpful.
    Thank you !

  2. Dear Ms. Townsley,

    I was really moved by your advice: “Book signings for me are a ministry,…” It has changed my entire perspective about book signing. If this event is ministry, then God owns it–and that makes me feel relieved, motivated, and humbled. Thanks for sharing!


    David Reid Brown

  3. I am in the process of sitting up a book signing for a book I published, “I Never Knew HIM” in September, could you give so guidance because my book signing will be at a church rather than a bookstore. Thanks

    1. Hello Marie. THank you for reading our blog about Robert Bush. His blog explains what he did to set up book signings, so maybe following his suggestion to meet with someone at the church to see about a book signing during service would be helpful. Thank you for reading and God Bless.

  4. Thank You Blair for publishing your interview with Mr. Bush. I really appreciate him sharing his experience in this interview with you for tose of us who are still trying to find our ‘way in the marketing wilderness’. My previous book ‘The Verdict: God Is NOT Dead. Hid Word, the Bible, Is Relevant Forever.’ is BX (before Xulon) and I could find little information regarding ‘book signing’. I did not realize that I did NOT have to take the spot 5 feet from the door. My current contribution to the world of books: ‘Fear Ye Not; Neither Be Thou Afraid!’ , is being readied to be printed by Xulon as soon as they get the final copy for me to ok.
    My idea of how/why to sell my book has evolved also from: making it to the bestsellers list to how will God use the books he has given me to write? Each sale is one more person who will be touched by Him. Its really a seed! Quite exciting to watch Him at work!
    Thanks again to filling in the holes still left in my approach to marketing my work.
    Ortrud (Oddy) Crist, PhD. Th.
    PS: I am still wondering how to apply this method with bookstore managers in other cities and states which would necessitate several trips.

    1. Thank you for your thoughts, Oddy, and we are happy to hear that you benefitted from this informative interview with Mr. Bush. Hopefully this will help move your book into the hands of those who need it most. Thanks again for reading and God bless.

  5. As a first time author, I have no idea what I’m doing. Thank you so much for this article. There were so many things I never thought of about book signings. It’s very encouraging. I’m sure its going to help me to get the word out on my first book.

    Many blessings.

    Roxanne Mullins

    1. Thank you for your comment, Roxanne. We hope the article does help you with your book signings and that you find much success in your writing career. Thank you again for taking the time to comment on our blog. Have a blessed day.

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