Book Signings: The Prequel


Room of Empty Chairs by PinkMoose

Room of Empty Chairs by PinkMoose / CC BY 2.0

I know I’m getting ahead of myself, but I often read articles about marketing your work. Most advice is about pressing the flesh and popping into bookstores to sign copies just ’cause you’re in town.

And then there are the tips for book signings, which apparently you have to do a lot of, all on your own dime. There are suggestions for visiting every far flung relative and friend of a friend out there so you can do a tour of the bookstores in their town and sleep on these kind strangers’ couches (to help stretch your meager marketing dollar). There is advice about accosting poor customers in random aisles and impressing upon them that you, an honest-to-goodness-author-in-the-flesh, wants to talk to them…in the vain hope that they’ll buy your book. And this is what frightens me. I’m shy. I can barely say my elevator speech to my myself in the mirror let alone to some stranger that I stalk in the bass fishing section. So, it seems I have the choice of expending all my energy and swallowing all my pride to become the creepy stalker or I become the sad-sack writer who sits alone, staring at the a room of empty chairs well past the time my reading has started. The Outfit’s post about author mortification didn’t help matters.

At the Printer’s Row Book Fair in Chicago and the Oregon State Fair, I’ve ducked my head in shame and walked quickly past the author booths. Those authors scare me. They look so eager, sometimes desperate. And I know that I will be them one day. Desperate for anyone to look my way. But I can’t even offer them an encouraging smile and nod because I’m a coward.

I don’t know what to say and I know I can’t afford to buy their book. Maybe one, but they’re all seated together, so if I buy one, I’d have to buy them all. And I imagine that there is actually something worse than watching potential readers running away: hearing someone say “No, I’ve enjoyed talking to you, but I don’t deem your book worthy enough for me to buy.” Of course, those wouldn’t be my words, but that’s what I’d hear coming out of my mouth. And I can’t exactly talk to them about my aspirations, can I? I mean, “Hey, I don’t want to buy your book, but I’d love to pick your brain”  is just an asshole thing to do.

But my friend Beth seems to love her book signings. If I could borrow her personality or her dog Hanni, I might have a chance…once I finish editing and find an agent that is.


3 thoughts on “Book Signings: The Prequel

  1. bethfinke

    You are right, I do enjoy my book signings. You should know, though, that *many* of the people who come up and talk to me at a booth do not buy a book – they ask questions about writing, about publishing, and mostly they ask questions about…my dog!
    I don’t mind the questions at all, and I don’t mind if they don’t buy a book. I just like meting new people.
    It’d be a different story if I was trying to make a *living* by selling books, thankfully I have other income coming in and I haven’t had to accost poor customers in random bookstore aisles. Not yet, at least!
    Thanks for linking to my post from your blog, I am flattered by your attention.

  2. Jackie

    I think so! I think many authors are there to start a dialogue, not necessarily sell a book (though I’m sure they wouldn’t talk you out of it). Think of yourself as a potential reader, not a potential customer.

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