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Each of his book signing events has been met with readers camping out in line, lines going around the block outside the bookstores and bookstores issuing wristbands to guarantee readers a place in line. Ozzy's book entered the NY Times Best Sellers List at #12.
But, this isn't the experience of most authors and their book signing events. The average bookstore signing event results in about six books being sold. There usually is no line around the block, and customers at the store may be indifferent to the fact a book signing is being held at all.
The difference is Ozzy Osbourne has a platform from which to launch his book. He is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, pioneered the heavy metal rock sound with his former band, Black Sabbath, and has been performing since the late 1960's. He and his family also had a TV show you may have heard of, "The Osbournes." His book probably would have been a bestseller even if he had done no book signing events at all.
The reason he is doing book signings is simple. It's not for the book sales or the money. It's for the publicity. Each book signing event is another opportunity for him to talk about his book, connect with is fans, and get media attention, which does drive more book sales.
Chances are, you are not a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, or have legions of fans who have followed you for the past 40 years. That is even more reason to do book signing events, speaking engagements and any other event that will put you in front of readers. You may not sell 200 books at a book signing event (although I work with many authors who have), but the events are a way of introducing you, and your book, to new readers that you may not have reached otherwise.
I often have authors tell me "I'm not going to waste my time with book signing events. I'm just going to market my book online." The problem with this is they don't know who to market their book to online. They build a web site, join groups on Facebook and Tweet "buy my book!" to 100 or so followers on Twitter. Those activities are fine, and might result in a few sales, but they should be done in addition to, not instead of, book signing and author events.
We have a saying in my marketing department: "Events sell books." Over the past six years, I have seen it time and time again: the authors who do the most book signing and author events sell the most books. The authors who are not very active with events are the authors whose books are not selling well, and they are also the authors that tend to complain about their royalty statements the most.
Yes, you will run out of friends and family to invite to your events. That is why authors need to constantly be networking outside of their circle of acquaintances. This is where the "marketing online" comes in, but also getting out and meeting new people through signings, speaking engagement and other personal appearances. Use each appearance to generate additional events. Mention to the groups you are speaking to that you are available to speak to other groups with which the members might be affiliated. I have had more than one author tell me "I only sold two books at my event last weekend, but I got two speaking events lined up as a result of talking to customers." I have had authors tell me that it "costs too much money" for them to drive to book signing events, and then turn around and spend several hundred dollars on a newspaper ad (against my advice). Unfortunately, the ads rarely generate sales, whereas the book signing events probably would have.
If book signing events weren't worth doing, the celebrity authors like Ozzy Osbourne wouldn't bother doing them. Every new author has to start somewhere in terms of building their platform, and book signing and author events play a major part. Think of the events as your introduction to the book-buying public and a publicity activity...and yes, an opportunity to sell your book.