Edith answered MaryK’s question about booksignings, and I thought I’d follow up with a few thoughts of my own – which means MaryK gets another free book (please contact me through my Sarah Gabriel website so that we can arrange that)!
Booksignings can seem glamorous, as Edith pointed out, and while they’re never that…trust me…they are often delightful, a fun couple of hours to meet readers and spend some time with author friends. OK, so delightful doesn’t always happen either. As a result, now I try never to do booksignings by myself. Been there…done that.
Sometimes they can be very odd experiences, too, straight from the Twilight Zone (who was that weirdo, kind of thing) — and other times, they’re just a hoot.
Take my very first booksigning, for instance.
I was an innocent and wet-behind-the ears little newbie author, and my first signing for my very first novel, THE BLACK THORNE’S ROSE, was scheduled with a friend who’s a well-known author. The bookstore was one at my local mall. Of course I invited everyone I knew–family, friends, even our pediatrician (one kid had an ear infection that week, so we saw the doc). It was a Sunday morning, and the bookstore opened at eleven that day. I showed up early, very excited, not quite sure what to expect–would I sign until the pen ran out of ink (haha–OK, I wasn’t that wet behind the ears!!), or would I even sell one copy?
I arrived to discover my well-known author friend already there, along with the bookstore manager and a few employees, waiting for me. They were holding roses, and looking frantic.
We were locked out of the store.
The security gates were down, not only securely locked, but jammed shut. Neither keycode nor key, or any amount of rattling those iron bars, was going to open that bookstore.
Just inside the gates, on a strategically placed table, sat my first historical romance, neatly stacked, and my friend’s new books as well. The manager had arranged the table the night before with piles of books, posters, an empty flower vase, empty candy dish–and all of it sat tantalizingly out of reach.
The bookstore manager called the mall manager, who sent security, who called a locksmith. We waited.
Customers began to show up at the bookstore to shop, and others came to support the two authors signing that day–the other author had told her friends, family, and colleagues too. A crowd gathered outside the store. My parents and sisters were there, my husband and sons, some close friends, even our pediatrician came by with his wife. Some of them, bless their hearts, had made the trip just to get autographed copies of my book. Some of them didn’t know either author, but thought the whole situation was pretty funny, so they stuck around.
We took pictures in front of the gates. We posed with family, friends, and readers. We waited further for the locksmith (apparently a busy Sunday, lock-wise), and we took more pictures–clowning around, clinging to the gates, posing with roses in our teeth.
Finally some people went downstairs to the other bookstore in the mall, bought copies of both authors’ books, and brought them upstairs to be signed. The bookstore manager had a great sense of humor about all this, and finally the locksmith showed up to open the store.
By the time we got inside, two hours had passed, but we stuck around longer to sign books. And we had a great time– a booksigning never to be forgotten!
Certainly that was better than sitting at a table giving directions to the bathroom, as Edith pointed out too –- this happens at nearly every mall or chain store signing I’ve ever been to. And being locked out of the store was better than watching the bowl of chocolates I brought dwindle down as people walk by and snatch candy without so much as saying hello, let alone picking up a bookmark or, gasp, even asking about your book. And being locked out by security gates was better than being a sitting duck for people who have their own stories to tell–often long-winded, often odd, and often I’m assured it’s a better story than any one I could think up on my own (NOT).
But posing with roses in my teeth outside the gates of a locked bookstore isn’t nearly as much fun as a booksigning where a reader arrives having already read my other books, and eager to buy the new one, or another reader tells me how much one of my stories meant to her personally, or brings her friends to recommend my books to them. That positive connection with readers, even one or two people, is worth all of it–worth sitting there conspicuous and ignored, worth any number of directions to the bathroom.
Booksignings are not the easiest aspect of an author’s career, and even though most people may ignore you, and snatch chocolates, or feel even more embarrassed to approach you than you are to be sitting there -– at nearly every signing there are angels sent to comfort the conspicuous author, in the form of wonderful readers.
That’s why we sit there–not to sell the books, but to meet you all. So if you see an author sitting at a table, please go up and talk to her or him! Don’t be shy, and don’t worry about whether or not you can afford to buy that book that day. We know you may buy that book another day–and hopefully buy our other books in the future. That connection with readers is why we sit there waiting.
So come on by!
What sorts of experiences have you had at booksignings yourselves, either as authors, or as readers? What’s it like on the other side of the table, as you approach the author (Or walk past her)?