Thursday, September 18, 2008

Book Signings

You've contacted your favorite book store and set up a date to sign copies of your new novel. You dress neatly and check to be sure there's no lettuce stuck between your teeth. You stick a breath mint in your mouth and you collect your favorite pen, your camera, and put a couple of tissues in your pocket. You arrive at the store where they greet you warmly and usher you to a table loaded with your books. They've put a bottle of water out for you and tell you they will check on you every so often. You sit down and plaster a smile on your face.

The first customer who enters the store doesn't make eye contact, but goes in the opposite direction of your table and circles around until they find their way back to the shelf behind you. The next one who comes in walks up to the table, handles the book and ask if you wrote it. When you say yes, they say they don't much like mysteries or romance or whatever your book happens to be. They collect a bookmark and move on. A couple of kids run by and knock your stack of books over. Mom runs after them and mumbles "sorry" as she goes by you.

Soon you've occupied the seat behind the table and sold zero books for almost an hour. You're beginning to wonder why in the world you ever thought having a book signing in this store was a good idea. To top off the unproductive day, two people have asked you for directions to the bathroom, one man, who could hardly speak English, fusses at you because you can't tell him where to find books concerning the sicentific study of space satellites on the solar system. You can't help wondering if he is a a college professor or a terroist.

Finally the signing is about over. An employee of the store buys a book and gets you to sign it to her grandmother. That's it. You've sat there two hours, signed one book and now it's time to go home. This signing happened to me and I'm sure any writer out there can tell you a similar experience.

I was disappointed, yes, but I wasn't upset. It could happen to anyone and when it happens to me, I remember a few other signings of big-name writers I've attended.

Admittedly, some of these signings were so crowded it took a long time to reach the author, but others haven't been. A few years ago I went to a signing for Sue Grafton and had to wait in line almost an hour. Then I went to one for Jeffery Dever, a best selling author and very few people showed up. We had a nice one on one chat for over twenty minutes.

Shortly after Maya Angelou moved to Winston-Salem, I went to a signing for her and it was poorly attended. She invited me to sit down with her and we talked for a long time. Later I went to see her again and couldn't get near the table.

So you never know what will happen at a book signing. When I have a one and sell a few books, I'm grateful. When I don't, I remember these other people and realize a bad signing can happen to anyone. Either way, I'll keep writing and keep going to book signings.

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