1. Purchase 2-3 helium balloons (enough to get the word around, but not too many to keep track of)
2. Request that the balloon fillers use “hi-float.” It’s a goop they put in the balloon just before pumping it up that keeps the helium from leaking out slowly–yes this step is necessary. If you use a mylar balloon, it’s not necessary. Be aware it usually adds 50 cents or so to the price.
3. Write on the balloon with a sharpie, something like, “Book Signing, taking place right now near the candy section,” with your name and the name of your book.
4. Cut the ribbon off so that you only have about six inches left hanging from the balloon.
5. Tie your business card or bookmark (relating to the book you’re signing, of course) to the 6 inches of string.
6. Find something to add additional weight to the string, such as paperclips or aluminum foil. I used half of a chocolate kiss, still in the wrapper. The idea here is to add just enough weight to keep your balloon in stasis, so it doesn’t float up or fall down. Obviously it won’t stay put, and will drift up and down some, but you want to get it as close as possible to balanced.
7. Walk your blimp balloon to a decent traffic area of the store and let it go.
8. Go back to your table, and enjoy the signing! You can now ignore your balloon.
What will happen is the balloon will slowly drift toward any moving air. If someone walks by, it will follow them. If there’s a fan, it will do laps around the store.
If you have a quiet moment with no one around, you can check on your traveling marketers. If they’ve fallen asleep in an obscure corner of the store somewhere, bump them back out. But for the most part, you can totally forget about them and they’ll wander and advertise for you.
Don’t try to adjust the balance to make them higher flyers, unless the ceiling is within reach. Don’t weigh them down enough to get stuck on the floor. You want them to wander within an adult’s line of vision.
If kids get them, let them play with them. Most parents will eventually tell them to let it go, and may even come by to see you and your book.
If nothing else, it will certainly invoke smiles, both from you and passersby.