Building an Author’s Signing Survival Kit

Let me begin by saying, the ideas that follow are not wholly mine. The idea of the survival kit was given to me during the “When Words Collide” writing conference. A very nice lady came to talk to me while I was manning the publisher booth and she asked me if I had a kit put together. She then explained what it was and some of the items that should go in it.

Essentially, the purpose of the Signing Survival Kit (SSK) is to give the author the best flexibility and preparedness for any possible signing opportunity. It should be constructed in such a way that it is easy to carry, and store.

So, here is the SSK in its component pieces:

  1. Backpack. Get one that is bigger than the “My little Pony” kindergarden variety and smaller than the “Seven weeks in the wilderness” camping version. It should not have broken zippers or holes and must be comfortable to wear. Several zippable sections is a useful feature. The sections allow you to store books (by title) in each section, tablets (like iPads), and snacks (more about that later). Waterproof would be ideal.
  2. Large, freezer sized ziplock bags. These bags are for storing your books. The idea of this is to prevent your valuable books from being damaged because, books will wear by simply rubbing together. The bags also ensure that your books remain dry. Kind of important should you get stuck in a rain/snow/Starbuck’s coffee storm. This is where a waterproof backpack is useful.
  3. Small ziplock bags. Yes, that’s right, you need the smaller ones too. “Why?” you ask. Well, if books can get wet, so can other things, like business cards, eBook cards…wait, I’m spoiling the next few items. The smaller bags are also good for those fancy smancy pens you might like to use to sign your masterworks. You know, just in case you suffer catastrophic pen failure, you don’t have a backpack (and contents) full of ink.
  4. Business Cards. Yes, I know I mentioned them above, but it could stand repeating. Leave a card that provides the recipient with information about you and your books. That way, if you only have a few moments of their attention, they can come back and check you out properly later.
  5. eBook cards. These are awesome and if you are fortunate enough to have some, definitely carry them. You can sell (or give away at your discretion) these cards which allow the recipient to download a copy of your book. You can even sign the card if you haven’t invested in some cool application that lets you sign your eBook.
  6. Pens. Yup, gotta have those to sign your masterworks with.
  7. Posters. It wouldn’t hurt to have some event posters put together. Basically, the poster can have a title like “Author Signing” and include your name, book information, a place to write a time and date and so on. Make it letter-sized so it can easily fit any bulletin board. You can leave a copy with any place that is interested in having you come by. Keep the posters between stiff card-stock or something similar to keep them wrinkle-free and put that into something waterproof. (I know, I’m really preaching that, aren’t I?)
  8. Notebook, Day-timer, Schedule book, diary, etc. Keep some kind of book to allow you to record the information of any interested party. It would really be awful if you ran into someone willing to bring you in only to lose their information.
  9. Tablet (if you’ve got one). Why? Well, you might need to get onto the Internet to show off your website, google something or just play a game when time is slow. You can also use it to write down ideas AND, if you sell out of your books, you can have a copy handy for a reading.
  10. Snacks and water. You might find that your signing/reading/speech/whatever is last minute or really long and you need some quick nourishment to keep sharp. Granola bars, dried fruit, antacids and anything else portable (and food) and not meltable (can you say chocolate bars) is helpful. The water will keep you hydrated and happy.
  11. Book-related supplemental material. Okay, I will confess, this is a bit of a catch-all (only because this list is getting REALLY long). It can include items like, book postcards, T-shirts, promotional materials or anything else that isn’t already on the list that is directly related to your book.
  12. Aspirin/Tylenol/Advil/Legal pain relief drug of your choice. Do I need to explain this one?

This may seem like a pretty daunting list, but, once assembled, it is actually pretty portable. It was suggested that this pack should always be in the trunk of your car. I would agree unless you don’t drive much. In that case, you might want to carry it around with you. Wherever you put it, make sure it is easily available. You never know when the opportunity to sell yourself (and your books) will come up.


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