by Diane Fanning
It sounds odd to some but I’ve been doing book signings at HEB, a regional grocery chain, for more than three years.  This diversion from normal venues is a lot of fun since it is so unexpected.  No one blinks an eye when an author sits by a table of books in a book store.  Where else would you find a writer?  At a grocery store, however, you are a big surprise–people gawk, gush and sometimes collide with the carts of other shoppers.


During my last three-store HEB mini-tour, though, the tables were turned–the surprise was on me.  A young woman approached my table in Austin to buy a book and introduce herself.  I didn’t know her–but I did know her mother.  We’d graduated from the same class at Perry Hall High School in Baltimore County, Maryland–half a continent away.


At a store in San Antonio, the arrival of  Texas Ranger Captain Shawn Palmer  topped that unexpected encounter.  He came bearing a gift for me–a copy of my book, A POISONED PASSION, signed by every Texas Ranger in the state.  It was one of those rare occasions when I was genuinely at a loss for words.  At home, every time I pick up the book and glance through the pages, I am overwhelmed once again with gratitude.


Fun and surprises aren’t the best reason to do a grocery signing, though.  This unlikely locale offers new modes of access to  your readers and expands your reader base.  When planning this event , remember it will have a different dynamic than the traditional one at a book store.

It might seem logical, at first, that your signing table should be by the book display or book section in the supermarket.  However, that spot does not give you the maximum results.  Most of the people who walk into that area know where the book section is and go there specifically to find a book.  When you are situated in another part of the store, it is beneficial to you and to the retailer.  You’ll get great exposure because you’ll encounter people who did not know they wanted to buy a book, until they saw you; and the store makes gains in their customers’ awareness of the store’s book selection.


The best location is one with visibility and high traffic.  But all the spots that offer those assets are not equal.  If you are situated at a table near where lines are forming for the cash registers, you are readily seen, but many who pass your table are anxious to pay for the purchases and get out of the store–a state of mind that makes them more reluctant to stop and look at what you have to offer.


My favorite table position was a short distance from the entrance beside the produce department.  The psychology of that spot was perfect.  Most of the people there were in a more thoughtful frame of mind, selecting fresh produce one apple at a time.  In this slowed-down mode, stopping by your table to look over your books and chat seemed easier to do.

With your next book release,consider supplementing your book store efforts with a grocery store signing.  Regardless of your opinion of the outcome, you’ll appreciate one clear benefit you won’t find anywhere else: if you need dozen eggs, a bottle of wine or a loaf of bread, you won’t need to make an extra stop on your way home.