I’ve been very blessed with some encouraging numbers at book signings, but when the lovely people at Summertime Publishing asked me to write about how I go about approaching customers, I was a little nervous. The way in which you relate to people is very personal, so how can you possibly provide a blueprint for that?

The answer is that you can’t – but what I can do is just tell you straight how it works for me…

The best tip anyone ever gave me about the sort of situation when you want folks to talk to you is to have something to offer them – so, in my case, I have sweeties! Maybe you have a bookmark or other PR-related product but for me, sweeties do it every time.

Wear a smile – it warms people’s hearts – and in my case I really mean that smile as I am so grateful to be invited to sign.

I also use humour and joke that folks don’t have to buy the novel to have a sweetie, but it gives me a great entrée and it’s a relaxed way of starting up a conversation about why you are there.

Often, a customer will be wearing something striking or different – that’s another way to begin a dialogue – “love your sweater…”

In my experience, people are very willing to listen, especially in a book shop – they are probably curious to know what’s new on the market anyway. That said, I sold the largest amount of books in a signing in a clothes store – just the fact of you being there is food for chat.

Engage people in conversation and offer a few details about your book that you think might appeal, aiming what you say at what you think they might enjoy – or need. So many guys pop into bookshops looking for that last little gift. ‘The lady in your life would love this…’ Ladies out with their daughters are interested in the fact that The Thinking Tank centres on a mother/ daughter relationship, and local people love to see that my novel is set in their area. Those going on holiday would like the fact that it’s partly set in Spain and most folks love a good page turner!

I suppose the loudest message is make it personal and don’t be afraid to come forward. Don’t underestimate how intimidating it might be for a customer to approach you – for all they know you could be dead famous and snooty! Make the first move – the worst that can happen is that they don’t buy your book – the best that can happen is that they buy the book, love it, pass it on – and you’ve made new friends.

And enjoy yourself. This is a huge opportunity and a blessing and even if you sell little, you’ll have met some lovely people – and you never know where that will lead.

Jae de Wylde

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