Monday, November 3, 2008

Author Book Signings - Not for the faint of heart By Michele Ashman Bell

Recently I was asked to do a booksigning at a Barnes and Noble in Davis County. The store was located in a nice, busy shopping area. I arrived a few minutes early so I could get set up and be ready for the lovely crowd of shoppers who, I'm sure, couldn't wait to talk to me and find out about my books.

I walked into the store and found a table set up with my books on display, located nice and close to the entrance of the store. With enthusiasm and optimism I plopped down the bag containing all my booksigning goodies and began to unload it, then, I looked up. Right behind the table, was an end cap display loaded with a book entitled, "How to Write a Novel."

I laughed, "Ha ha! What a coincidence." Little did I know that it was a foreshadowing of my evening. I sat in my chair for a while, smiling at customers as they walked by, or rather, as they came through the door, then quickly dodged my table, as though I had some sort of communicable disease and they'd been handed a ten-foot pole upon entering, with which they were told not to touch me.

Since sitting didn't work, I got up and stood, with bookmarks in one hand, and a bowl of Reeses Peanut Butter Cups in the other. Yes, clever me, I would lure customers to my table.

Apparently, people hate Reeses Peanut Butter Cups. And bookmarks. And me!

I browsed around the area, where my table was located. If you'd like to know what New Releases are available right now, I would be happy to tell you. I read the backs of every one of them.

Occasionally one of the employees would walk by, smile at me with sympathy, then go on with their jobs. Some of the brave ones even took one of my candies, risking their health and safety in the process. The manager, a real sweetheart, came and talked to me, thanking me for coming. And then, after two very long hours, fifteen of those minutes being spent signing the books on my table, (I had fun practicing different ways to sign my name. I decided against putting a little curlecue in the "B" at the beginning of Bell. A little too 6th grade.) it was time to leave. Short of begging, I had tried to do everything I could to sell books.

Of course, the question is, was it worth giving three hours of my time to go and sit and not sell any books and feel like a leper? Actually, yes, it was. Why? Because I have learned after all these years that being out in the public is important for an author. Even more importantly, I need to meet the wonderful employees at the bookstores. I have found that if they like me, they will promote my books and no one, NO ONE, can make a bigger difference in the success of a book, than a bookstore employee. And finally, maybe the one or two people who took one of my bookmarks will give one of my books a try, and if they end up liking it, they will read more, and tell their friends. So yes, as lonely and discouraging as book signings can be, they are worth it. (Of course, this is my opinion. And, it just occurred to me, maybe I am the only author who has experiences like this.)

The manager, bless her heart, bought one of my books for her sister. She apologized for not having more people in her store, after all it was the weekend before Halloween and a lot of people were either going to parties, or watching football games. We had a wonderful visit and I could tell she was very interested in building the LDS section of her store. I told her how much authors appreciated what she was doing and that I was happy to help.

Then, I picked up a copy of "How to Write a Novel," and went home.

Booksignings. Definitely not for the faint of heart. I wonder if the author of the book I bought is writing the sequel, "How to Sell a Novel." If so, I'll be the first in line at his/her booksigning to get my copy autographed.

Oh, one last thing, for all of you non-authors reading this, next time you're in a store and there's an author sitting there, take pity. Even if you don't buy a book, stop and say hi.


Nancy Campbell Allen said...

Michele, I'm laughing because my experience at the same location was similar. Wonderful, wonderful store people, but customers with a mission and not quite sure they want to talk to the lady behind the table. Or next to the table. Or wandering around with bookmarks.

And you're so right, it is a worthwhile experience. And while I was at that signing I was able to talk to a couple of people who were so, so nice. Sometimes it's nice to come out of the house and away from the computer for a bit just to connect with real living, breathing humans.

Great post! Let me know how How to Write a Novel turns out. Probably I should get a copy of my own. ;-)

Stephanie Black said...

Michele, I can so relate to this! I feel better knowing I'm not alone :) Booksignings . . . erk! So fun when you have people to talk to, and when you don't--so awkward.

Jennie said...

I think we all had a less than flattering experiences at signings there that weekend. Fortunately most signings are not like that. And speaking of signings, there's a new bookstore opening in Pleasant Grove next weekend and scads of authors will be there Saturday throughout the day. The store is called Provident Book/Humdinger Toys. Michele and I will be there from three to four and Nancy will follow us at 4.

Cheri J. Crane said...

Michele, I think we've all experienced signings just like the one you described. ;) True character building moments. During a slow signing at a store in Roy, Utah, my sister fell down a flight of stairs and caused a bit of excitement. =D I believe Jennie remembers that one.

Jeri Gilchrist said...

You mean this isn't how all book signings are?!? Just kidding. How about the one when I showed up and the girl at the counter went on and on about how wonderful this new book was and the author was just so incredible. She was thrilled the author would be at the store to sign her books.
I stood there with my arms full of flowers to give away, brownies for the staff, a bowl of candy for the customers, and people all around staring at me wondering who in the world I was. I was beaming that this girl would be so kind and flattering. The way she was gushing over the new book almost became embarrassing, I mean I was standing right there and she even glanced at me but kept going on for sometime about the wonderful book and author! Then one of the customers asked who the author was and what was the name of the book. It was all for Betsy Brannon Green.
Me? They had forgotten I was even coming... it was truly a humbling experience. I had to stand and wait there while they hurried and found me a table to sit at. Betsy was coming into town the following Tuesday.
The highlight of that day was that my sister came and bought a book so not all was lost. Good thing I love Betsy A LOT!!! I can at least look back at the experience and laugh. And let's be honest, she deserves that kind of recognition. It's pretty funny what we experience at signings. But I have to say, as much as I have had some pretty akward situations, (this is just one of MANY) but it has been such a great journey for me. Isn't it so cool that we get to do this? I mean for me, who would have ever thought?
Terrific blog, Michele. Loved it!

Heather B. Moore said...

I was there that weekend too. Sounds suspiciously familiar. So just know that you weren't alone (even though you FELT alone).