There are many reasons that authors agree to do a book signing–clearly they hope to sell their book. But they also see the signing as an avenue for meeting potential new readers–even if that reader doesn’t buy their book that day. It’s all about connections.
So you walk into your favorite bookstore and the store has a table set up with stacks of books by an author you don’t know–maybe never heard of. Said author is sitting or standing behind said table. Hopefully she/he smiles and greets you. Perhaps in addition to the books piled on the table there’s a bowl of candy treats or bookmarks or pens free for the taking. The table is on a direct path to the section of the store you need.
WHAT DO YOU DO???
Here are a few observations I’ve made:
- A lot of customers caught off-guard like this (meaning they didn’t expect any author to be there) shy away–maybe smile briefly and then hurry off to another part of the store, start talking on their phone, or just simply ignore the author as if he/she were invisible.
- Some react the way they might if they suddenly saw someone like a bell ringer for charity outside the grocery store or shopping center–the customer needs to go in but hesitates because he/she is not interested in making a donation that day. Awkward!
- At one signing I did a customer whose child wanted a pen I was offering as a promo for the book asked if she had to buy the book for her son to have the pen! At another a grown man edged over to the table with his body turned away from me while he reached into the candy dish and took several pieces before heading away without a word.
- Let’s face facts–unless the author is a NYTimes best-selling “name” the whole situation can be enormously uncomfortable for all parties concerned–especially the author!!
So here are a couple of suggestions (that might also work as well for encountering those stalwart bell ringers) that just might help make YOU more comfortable:
- No one likes being in a position where they appear to be (or actually are) trying to get someone to give $$$ or buy something. So understand that the author may well be as uncomfortable as you are–we tend to be an introverted and shy breed.
- Obviously the hope is that you will buy the book but more than for the author there’s the hope that maybe the exchange of greeting or conversation will make their name stick in your mind so that when you ARE in the market for something new to read and you see their book on the shelf you might give it a try.
- If you are interested in writing (or your kid tells the most amazing stories and you think he or she might one day write a book), the featured author would probably delight in hearing about that and sharing information that might help you or your kid take the next step.
- If you are in a hurry–the author gets that; no one–least of all the author–is going to try and strong-arm or guilt you into stopping to talk or buying the book. But even if you’re in a rush, how long does it take to register the author’s presence with a smile and perhaps a wish for good luck with the book?
I’ve been traveling a lot over the last several weeks–well, “a lot” is probably relative. I’ve been traveling a lot for me is more like it. I spent a week in Madison at a writer’s retreat and taking some time to wrap my head (and heart) around the fact that the man I shared my life with for so many years is no longer here, Then I went to NYC–another writer’s meet–I find that focusing on my work helps–it always has. But I did other things there as well–for one thing I invited my sister to join me for the few days I was there and for the first time in a very long time it was just the two of us–sharing a room as we did when we were kids, talking and talking and talking, seeing a couple of plays, walking (a lot!) and just generally reconnecting.
My most recent trip was to the annual gathering of romance writers held this year in Anaheim–yep, that’s Disneyland, folks, and believe me some of that fairy-tale world does indeed spill over into this conference. This time the bulk of the time was spent focusing on work–meetings with agent and editor, lunches with other writers, workshops, etc. It’s chaotic and loud with a lot of girlish squeals of delight and a LOT of talk, talk, talk. But I always return energized and ready to get back to work.
The message (or as my former boss used to call it “take-away”) from the conference was that this is a GREAT time to be a writer. But this was Lalaland and as with most fantasies that’s rarely the whole story. With all the new opportunities for e-publishing and print-on-demand and self-publishing and such, it is indeed a time brimming over with opportunity. BUT (and you knew there would be a “but”) technology waits for no man, woman or writer so the rest of the message is clearly: Get on board or get left standing at the station.
So what I learned from my summer vacation (at least this piece of it) is that I have a HUGE learning curve to conquer and whether or not I can manage that and make the train remains the question. To be continued…
I am in Madison WI this week attending a retreat for writers called WRITE BY THE LAKE–aptly named since the best place to write here is on the terrace of the Memorial Union that sits on Lake Mendota. The class I’m taking has to do with building character in story and starts tomorrow. Supposedly we have the afternoons and evenings mostly free to actually write–that’s the part I’m looking forward to.
I do have a dual purpose in coming here–my husband died five weeks ago (not that I’m counting!) and I am also using this as a kind of sabbatical from all the loving sympathy and care that has surrounded me since his death. With so much support it’s hard for me to wrap my head around the reality that he is gone–as in never coming back–and I am for the first time in decades on my own.
I am blogging about that part of my journey on my other blog–Journey Through Widowhood. Here I’ll write about the writing part of this retreat–stay tuned.