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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Is There a Virtual Book Signing in Your Future?

Virtual book signings offer a way to sell books, visit fans, and spread the word about your work from the comfort of your home.

What is a virtual book signing? It can be as elaborate or simple as you wish. You will “visit” a venue through the magic of your phone or the Internet. You can handle the signing portion one of two ways: 1.) sign the physical books and send the signed copies to recipients 2.) or sign bookplates, have someone affix them, and distribute the books with your bookplates to recipients.

The concept was pioneered by Daniel Weinberg, owner of the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop in Chicago, Illinois. The first virtual book signing took place in November 2005 and featured historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. The webcast can be viewed at

I chose a much simpler format for my Paper, Scissors, Death Virtual Book Signing. My goal was to partner with the Mid-Atlantic Great Dane Rescue League (MAGDRL) to raise money for homeless dogs. With foreclosures on the rise and the economy the way it is, more and more big dogs are being abandoned.

Since Paper, Scissors, Death features a rescued uncropped Harlequin Great Dane, there was a natural fit.

“I was interested because I know there are a lot of readers in MAGDRL, and this seemed like a different, unusual and fun fund-raising event. We are always looking for new things to try, and this was a big hit with our members,” said Joan Schramm, MAGDRL’s publicity coordinator.

First, we sent out mailings to the members telling them about the fundraiser. Then MAGDRL chose a date for our “book signing” and told members and friends I’d be available online during a certain time period. MAGDRL purchased the books from my publisher.

I added a chat room to my website. You can get a free chat room that’s easy to install at Bravenet
Members of MAGDRL were encouraged to order the book and to share the information with friends. Joan sent out media releases about the event, and forms were shared at various meetings of rescue dog organizations. On the form was a place for people to specify how they wanted their books personalized. Buyers could either choose to pick up their books or have them mailed out at an extra charge.

On the appointed signing day and time, we had a lively discussion in my chat room. It helped that I am a dog lover who has owned Great Danes! After the chat, Joan sent me a list of personalized bookplate requests. I created a special bookplate. I signed and returned the bookplates to Joan. She affixed them and distributed the books.

For an example of the form, Joan’s media release, and the bookplate, visit my website and click the Resources section.

Is a Virtual Book Signing right for you? I was fortunate to find an organized and willing partner to work with. Joan’s public relations expertise was extremely helpful. Certainly, you need a publisher willing to sell to non-traditional book sellers as well as a partnering organization willing to help publicize and organize the event. Were the results worthwhile? We sold 51 books and raised $382.50 for MAGDRL – a nice amount for something that was a lot of fun and not too labor-intensive.

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Joanna Campbell Slan is the author of Paper, Scissors, Death the first book in the Kiki Lowenstein Scrap-N-Craft Mystery series. Visit her at

For permission to reprint this article, contact Joanna at


Holly Y said...

Hi Joanna,
I've wondered about partnering with nonprofits, but hadn't really imagined what it would look like.

This sounds like a great idea for everyone. And I'm guessing the partnership could work for real life signings as well.

Great idea! Thanks!

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Holly, you are welcome. It was win-win, which is the ONLY way to market in my opinion. I was delighted to work with MAGRDL.