In reality, a new author's first few book signings may be held in a small, local independent bookstore, or maybe even a coffee shop. They'll bring their own books to resell. They have to hang their own posters to promote the event, and if they don't promote the event ahead of time they may sell only a handful of books, or none at all.
Every author has to start somewhere, and that is not always in a major chain bookstore. With the current state of the economy, many bookstores are only doing events for well-known authors with a track record of sales, reducing the number of book signing events they host, or not hosting book signings at all. The number of bookstores is also declining, most notably with Borders going out of business last year.
Successful, celebrity authors have also taken note, and you are just as likely to see them doing a book signing at a library as you are to see them in a large bookstore. Here is a sampling of events featuring some well-known authors:
Mary Higgins Clark makes it a point of directly reaching her readers by doing book signing events at Wegmans grocery stores.
Basketball superstar Kareem Abdul Jabbar is conducting a book signing during an event at All Saints Church in Pasadena, CA (pictured above).
Olympic skating star Kristi Yamaguchi is reaching her book's niche audience by doing a book signing event at an ice skating center.
Olympic bicyclist Lance Armstrong signed 750 books in one hour during an event at a bicycle shop.
Former TV talk show host Regis Philbin did a book signing event at the Coral Gables Congregational Church.
Frank Calabrese Jr, author of the New York Times Bestseller "Operation: Family Secrets How a Mobster’s Son & The FBI Brought Down the Murderous Chicago Family" did a book signing event at Bella Luna Cafe, an Italian restaurant in Chicago.
Kristiana Gregory, bestselling author of the popular "Cabin Creek Mysteries" did a book signing event at Rembrandt's Coffee House in Eagle, ID. In that neck of the woods she's also a local author.
Of course, celebrity authors also do plenty of book signing events at bookstores, but the point is they aren't limiting themselves only to bookstores. They are identifying the niche market for their books and doing book signing events at places where they are likely to find that audience.
I have worked with authors who have sold hundreds of books at a single event, and the events were not held in bookstores. Bookstores should be a part of every author's promotional plan, but they shouldn't be the only part of their promotional plan. Think outside the bookstore now and then, and you may be surprised with the results!