Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Book Signings

Recently I came across a subject of discussion on one of the writers lines I belong to. While I didn’t participate in the subject but was merely a lurker, It was interesting to me to read all the comments being said on this particular subject.

Apparently what started the discussion was a new author was about to embark on their first book signing and was asking for any helpful hints and suggestions to make their first book signing a success.

Many people wrote in with ideas – some of which I will share—but the topic of discussion got me thinking a bit.

It doesn’t seem like all that long ago I was asking the very same question of my friend Kerry Blair. I was about to do my first book signing and I had no idea what I was up against.

As always, Kerry gave me some helpful hints that have stuck with me and with time I have learned a few things along the way.

I know that if I were to ask each author on this blog, I believe that each of us would agree that with our book signings, we have all had those signings that gave us experiences that we will never forget, that we have met people along the way that have changed our lives in one way or another, and that there are times that we would look back at now and just plain laugh at or cherish the memory.

It’s a few of those that I want to share.

For starters… I remember at one particular book signing I walked into the store. They were obviously unprepared for me to arrive as there was no table set up for me, no poster to announce I’d be there, etc.

I walked to the desk where the girl at the counter was helping a long line of customers. I had my hands full. I had brought a basket of flowers, (my main character was into landscaping- a small flower was given to each person who had me sign a book and to each sales clerk upon my leaving) I also had a jar of candy to help decorate my table, and a book of mint brownies for the store staff with a saying “I mint to tell you thank you for allowing me to come to your store today!”

As I stood there ready to drop everything, I overheard the girl at the counter going on and on about the wonderful author coming to the store to do a signing. She was EXTREMELY complimentary about the incredible writing talent of this mystery writer, how she can never figure out who the bad guy is, etc.

In the meantime, I was thrilled with the way she was gushing on and on about me. The customers kept looking over at me as they waited in line and my heart soared with this girl’s admiration of my talent.

Finally, one customer asked the author’s name. I was puffed up in pride by this time. The clerk looked up and said, “Betsy Brannon Green—she’ll be here next week and you just have to come back and meet her!” she squealed with excitement.

Lesson learned- Stay humble. I look back at that time and it certainly keeps me grounded. They had forgotten I was even coming that day.

Book signing hint- It’s the staff that sells your book. You want to leave them with a good impression. I have always tried to remember that. You are only there for a short time, but they are there every day. Letting them know you appreciate what they do in your behalf is beneficial to you. It’s them that gets your book into the hands of the readers. That being said, of course there are those that have made a name for themselves because of their talent alone. Me? I need all the help I can get!

At another book signing I had a gentleman come up and ask me all about my book. He acted genuinely interested in the plot and the background of how I came up with the storyline. I also noticed he went through the entire jar of candy as we talked, leaving all the wrappers from the candy crumbled all over the table. At the end of the candy he said, “Yeah well, I don’t read that kind of stuff anyway.” He acted disgusted by my book. I know he liked the candy though—

As for meeting people along the way—there are those signings that we get to meet people who want to meet us. Those are the ones who will buy the book and then write to you and tell you to keep at it. They keep you going. They keep you from getting discouraged and keep you from giving up.

Lesson learned—as writers we are our own worst critic. Life gets in our way and takes up our time. We write for the love of it, for the challenges it brings. There are those who lift you up and encourage you to never give up. They make it all worth it.

Book signing hint—I always try to give some sort of give away at my book signings that go with the plot of the book as a thank you for buying the book. While this certainly isn’t necessary, It’s just a fun thing that I like to do. I didn’t do it with my first book, my second book was the flowers, the third, Kerry Blair helped me come up with the idea and we gave away troll dolls—which had to do with the storyline.

I have seen other authors do this as well. I loved Kerry’s book party when she gave party bags away with her Samantha Shade series – they had puzzles and pencils and treats in them.

Michele bell gave away butterfly boxes when she began her Butterfly series. I loove my little box from Michele.

While doing things is a personal choice, I do think it’s nice to have a little candy dish out or something to decorate your table with. Sometimes the candy only brings people over to meet you, but hey, it’s a nice way to meet people too. :)

Other hints that authors suggested was checking to spell names correctly—even common names can be spelled differently.

Some use a matching pen that matches the cover art.

Some authors will sign with clever saying that have to do with the plot or series, while others will sign a personal message to family and friends.

I could go on and on about this topic. Not because of my vast knowledge—I’m afraid I lack there—but more because I have had some really fun experiences and I have some very choice memories of book signings—like the Clinton signing when I was in awe while doing a signing with so many of my favorite authors. It was such a wonderful experience for me to be among them.

The last experience I want to touch on is the signing that changes your life in one way or another. For me that would be when I went to a book signing. Not of my own, but to have one of my favorite authors sign one of my favorite books.

It was a Saturday morning I had gone to the Seagull store on 5400 So. And Redwood Road I had gone there to buy the next book in the Heart series by Kerry Blair. I had read them out of order but loved them so much I wanted them all. A saleslady told me Kerry would be in later that day to sign if I wanted to come back. I debated it back and forth but finally decided, as scared as I was to meet her, I wanted to tell her I loved her books and had always wanted to be a writer.

Long story short, I went back and from that book signing, Kerry Blair has changed my life for the good.

Not only has she taught me most of what I know about the world of writing, for without her I would have never gotten a book on the shelves, but my life is so much better because she is in it.

She has introduced me to some of my very best friends that I now have—each of whom I consider a blessing in my life—and has opened a whole new world for me.

Lesson learned—There are angels in this world that come and touch our lives for good and no matter how you try, no matter what you say, there are just no words to express your love and gratitude for what they mean to you.

Book signing hint-I decided a long time ago that it doesn’t matter how many books I sell at a book signing. I need to be in it for the experience. There are times that I have done a signing where people refuse to make eye contact. They’ll walk past me as if they can’t move away from me fast enough. Then there are times where I have signed one book right after another. Either way, I have met some wonderful people that I’ll never forget, I have some choice memories, but most of all, I have enjoyed the journey.


Anna Buttimore said...

I've never done a book signing, and would so love to!

I agree that Kerry is the most fantastic author, and person, I have ever had the priviledge to meet. I owe her a great deal too.

Jennie said...

There are a lot of us who learned a good deal from Kerry. She is truly a generous and giving person. But Jeri you're pretty special yourself and I feel I have benefitted a great deal from our friendship which began on a flight to Phoenix for an ANWA conference.

Gale Sears said...

This post certainly touched my heart and my funny bone. Thank you for sharing your book signing joys and frustrations. Meeting Kerry was one of the great things in my life too. Thanks, Jeri!

Cheri J. Crane said...

Great post, Jeri. One of my favorite memories of a book signing snafu took place years ago shortly before Christmas. I was scheduled to sign at an LDS bookstore in Pocatello. I arrived about five minutes early and approached the counter where two clerks were waiting.
"I'm here for the signing," I said.
"Oh, good. Our author should be here any minute," one clerk replied, looking hopefully over my head.
Truly a humbling experience. My boys laughed over that one for quite some time. (They were with me when it happened.)