Monday, January 31, 2011

Book Signing Tips

You’ve got to tip an awful lot. It seems like we’re tipping everybody. – Eric Reed

When I stand near a table where my books are arranged in a nice stack, I hope to entice a buyer or two to take a chance on my book. No matter how well-prepared I am, the experience is challenging, intimidating, and exciting.

I try to make my table look neat and interesting. A large poster of the cover of The Ride draws attention to the area. I give away bookmarks and flyers. Sometimes, depending on where the signing is held, I might add a bowl of candy. But I have never thought to include a tip jar on my table.

I realize when someone is a best-selling author, book signings take on a whole different flavor. People know who you are, they recognize your work, and they line up to see you. Whatever the reason—to attract attention, boredom or research for a new book, did David Sedaris go over the top with his tip jar?

According to an article in Canada’s National Post:

“A couple of books ago, I put a tip jar on my signing table and I made over $4,000 on my tour,” Sedaris told the Post. “The problem was then I started hating people who didn’t tip me. I didn’t say anything to them, but I would just sit there thinking, ‘You cheap son of a bitch. I just signed four books and you can’t even give me a dollar?’ And why should they? But I just got so involved in it. I had to stop doing it.”

“I told people it was all for me to spend on candy. They were delighted because it’s funny to give money to someone who doesn’t need it. If there had been a beggar outside the bookstore, at the end of the evening, he might have had 75 cents where as at the end of my best evening in Dallas–[ I had] $530 in tips.”

In reading the article I can see the humor. Still I think I would have been bothered by the sight of the tip jar. It might concern me enough to step out of line or even change my mind about buying his book. After all, I know how to tip hairdressers, servers, taxi drivers, valets and so on. But how much do you tip an author?

Would you consider a tip jar? Have you ever tipped an author? Would you? What is the most interesting thing you’ve seen or done at a book signing to attract attention?

Thanks for stopping by today. I hope to see you again next week.

Tags: David Sedaris, Book Signings, tip jars, Eric Reed, The Ride


Teresa aka JW said...

I would be shocked to see a tip jar and unprepared to tip (didn't bring cash)a writer so I doubt if I would tip. But, that's a novel idea. :)


Old Kitty said...

I have never seen an author with a tip jar!! I can't imagine anyone tipping an author at a booksigning unless it's a stunt or some kind of statement art!

I would hope that the author with a tip jar would donate the monies to charity!

Take care

Joanne said...

That's too over the top for me. I'm with you, it might even change my mind about supporting the author's book. In a way, it almost belittles the whole author/writing process.

Jayne said...

Only David Sedaris could get away with that. I went to one of his readings not long ago, and he is so engaging and funny (as always) that I would have tipped him there had he a jar!

Mason Canyon said...

If the tip jar was for a charity the author was supporting I could see it, but otherwise no.

Thoughts in Progress

Carol Kilgore said...

I've never seen a tip jar at a signing. If I did, I don't think I'd leave a tip.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

A tip jar? Now that's a new twist! And ironic he made money with it. Don't think I could do it, though. Perhaps for a local charity, but certainly not to keep for myself.

Arlee Bird said...

It does seem tacky, but I guess it might depend on the nature of the book being promoted or who the author was. Seems like you're there to move books though, and the tip thing might be a bit of overkill.

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Paul C said...

Most interesting question. It reminds me of websites that provide a 'Donate' opportunity. Similar feelings and thoughts come up.

Linda Leszczuk said...

One thought that occurs - if I saw a tip jar and didn't have any cash on me, I might skip the signing rather than commit a faux pas or just feel "cheap".

Hart Johnson said...

I think Sedaris, being the funny guy he is, can totally get away with this. Everything he does is about the over-the-top absurdity that makes up real life, and this ies a great example, I think.

I actually love his moxy (and the subtext that we all ought to REALLY be paying attention to that poor homeless guy who needed the money)

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Teresa - me, too.

Old Kitty – he didn’t mention donating the money, but we can always hope he didn’t really use it to buy candy.

Joanne – I agree.

Jayne – he must be quite the showman. I hope I get to meet him sometime (when he doesn’t have a tip jar).

Mason – a tip jar for a charity almost seems like a good idea regardless of the occupation.

Carol - same here.

Diane – it must have something to do with his personality that made so many people leave him a tip.

Arlee – I am surprised that book stores (I assume he was in stores) allowed the jar. I’d like to know if they received any complaints.

Paul – good comparison.

Linda – I think others feel the same way. I know I do.

Hart – I know his books are funny and it does take a lot of moxy to do something like that. I like to think if a homeless man was outside the store, he’d hand him at least part of his tips.

Darcia Helle said...

Jane, you dig up the craziest things! I would never put a tip jar on a signing table. Heck, I have enough trouble charging people for my books, much less expecting a tip for me to sign one! That's just crazy.

If I saw a tip jar on an author's table, I would probably rethink having my books signed. (And perhaps rethink purchasing that book at all.) It's not that the extra dollar or two on top of the book cost is that big of a deal - it simply offends me.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You can do that? A whole new way to make money as a author...

DazyDayWriter said...

This is a new twist on book signings. If the book topic went w/the concept of tipping, I might be okay with it, but in general, I'd say it's a rather inappropriate gesture. Readers are buying the book after all and waiting in line and taking a risk on liking the book. Maybe the author should tip the people in line as ... thanks for stopping by (kidding, of course). Thanks for blogging about this; I hadn't heard about the author tip jar!

Christina Rodriguez said...

Buying the author's book is the greatest tip of all. If there is a jar present at a signing, I'd assume it was to donate to charity. I've done signings and advertised that a portion of book sales will be donated, so no jar necessary.

Glynis said...

No! Oh gosh, I could never do that. I would happily have a donation to a cause jar, but not a tip jar.

If I became published, to sign my book would be such an honour, I wouldn't dream of taking a tip.

PS: You have won a copy of Reena Jacobs book. Please go to my site and put your preference (see post), in the comment box. Congratulations!

Virginia S Grenier said...

Very bold and funny, but I would never do that. But doing something different isn't a bad idea. Just need to find the right 'different' that won't turn people off.

The Old Silly said...

I think if you did it with a humorous angle it could work, be kind of fun. Like the street corner beggars who have signs like, "Need $ for hookers, drugs and booze - hey, at least I'm Honest!" LOL - I once did a post on how much better those panhandlers do than the ones who put up the pretense of needing food and willing to work. Riiiiiight.

Then again, not sure if I'd have the balls to do something like that at a book signing ...

Dana Elmendorf said...

A author signing with a tip jar sounds pathetic. I couldn't support that author no matter how great the book might be. Tips jars fell like a gentle form of extortion. Don't care for them.

Helen Ginger said...

I have never heard of a tip jar at a signing. How strange. I doubt I would tip unless I knew the author and knew they really needed the money. Otherwise, they'd need a sign on the jar that indicates what the money was going for, like a charity or a cause that is mentioned in the book.

Monti said...

Wow, Jane. What an amazing story! I have never heard of an author putting out a tip jar. I would be embarrassed. Wonder if it actually helped him sell books?

Thanks for sharing,

Chelle said...

Hilarious. Yes, I would think unkind thoughts of a well-known author asking for tips. I mean, if I'm getting the book signed it means I already bought his book/gave him money. I got a guitar signed by a well known rockstar once. I did "tip" then but it all went to a charity. If it was a struggling artist/writer and they seriously needed gas money then I might tip. But Sedaris? Yeah right. haha.

Jan Morrison said...

I went to a David Sedaris reading this fall. He is the warmest, dearest and most generous of writers you can imagine. On every tour he chooses a writer to promote along with his books. This writer who's books he has come upon in his life and who he thinks is deserving of a push. In the reading that I went to he talked for ages and then signed books until midnight - actually he promised he would sign until everyone who wanted a book signed was done. He asked people to give him jokes so that they would have something to talk about and so they would have fun in the line-up. He gave my 15 year old step-daughter handcream from his hotel - a practice he has done for years. He had a whole bag of the things one's hotel gives you and gave them out freely. He is hilarious and I totally get the tip jar thing in light of his quirky mind and I love how he started to feel aggravated towards those who didn't tip him. Just thought I'd put this in because I LOVE David Sedaris (in case you couldn't tell - ha!)

Jen Chandler said...

I think a tip jar working for an author would depend on the author. For someone who was funny, sarcastic or just plain odd, it would be hilarious! I'd love to see a tip jar on the table of most of the authors I read. Who wouldn't tip Stephen King?

It's a funny thought to me, but like I said, it depends on the author's style.

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

Okay, my gut reaction is no way would I do that. I know we peddle our books, but adding a jar is over the top for me.

Ciara said...

A tip jar? At a book signing? I think I'd turn around and leave. I mean, I get irritated with Starbucks. LOL Okay, maybe I wouldn't leave, but I'd ask what the tip jar was for. I'd expect an explanation somewhere in the realm of charity. No, I'd NEVER have a tip jar. :)
Thanks for stopping by my blog. We'll have to chat one day about Alex's book, once we both read it. A virtual book club of sorts. :) Oh, I feel an idea coming on. Oh,no. LOL

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Darcia, I agree. It’s not the extra money to me either, it’s just the idea of tipping.

Alex, I guess that’s called thinking outside the box (or should I say, jar).

Daisy, I like your idea of tipping the people in line.

Christina, good point. Buying an author’s book is the best tip of all.

Glynis, I think it’s just certain personalities that could get by with the tip jar and David Sedaris fits the type. I’m excited about winning Reena’s book. I’m looking forward to reading it.

Virginia, if you come up with that right 'different,' be sure to let me know what it is.

The Old Silly, with your sense of humor, I can see you getting by doing something like this.

Dana, though no one’s forced to tip, there are times when it does feel like the pressure it on to do it.

Helen, with yours and the other comments about tipping for a charity makes me wonder about writing a cause into a story to have a marketing platform.

Monti, I have a feeling David Sedaris doesn’t really need help selling his books.

Chelle, funny that I think more people would be willing to tip a famous author than an unknown who actually might need the money.

Jan, thanks for sharing your experience. David does sound like a really nice guy with an interesting sense of humor.

Jen, I’d tip Stephen King just to be sure he didn’t make me a character in one of his books!

Kathi, me too!

Ciara, at least you would ask about the tip jar. I enjoyed your blog and will be back. A virtual book club of sorts sounds like another good idea: )

Anonymous said...

I would not tip an author. Why? I think if I'm buying their book, they should tip me. Give ma free T-shirt. At least a book marker.

Sandra said...

I read the entire post, but I kept going back to the first paragraph about the part where you are standing by your book...rockstar! You are what most (I wouldn't presume to say "all" but secretely I do think "all") bloggers aspire towards. A book. A book we have written.
As for the tip jar, well, I have to admit, that the little comment that it was to buy candy sort of had me. I'm all about the sugar.

The Words Crafter said...

I have to say, I don't think I'd leave a tip. And like some of the others, I'd likely reconsider supporting the author. Books aren't cheap, especially when you can download them for less money. A lot of people I know save for a book they want. Many others, because of the economy, have stopped buying them and wait for them at the library.

Jane's Ride - Novelist Jane Kennedy Sutton's journey through the ups and downs of the writing, publishing and marketing world