Book Signing Nightmares
By Teresa Slack
Book signings. Ugh. The mere thought is enough to send shudders down the spine of those of us who have sat behind a table of books, wearing an insipid grin while praying that someone, anyone, will come over and talk to us.
Book signings are a lot of legwork, networking, interviews, and basically debasing yourself to the free world for little or no apparent reward. Leading up to a recent author event, I did radio interviews and was featured in two local papers. The library where I was to sign and read from my book bought radio spots for the event. Even after all that, response was regrettably low.
In a depressed, dejected state, I prepared for another book signing event in another out of the way locale. A forty-five-minute drive with gas prices kissing three dollars a gallon to sell a couple of books.
I know what you're thinking. Book signings are for the reader, not the writer. It's all about networking. I realize that. But the cold hard facts are that since getting published, I'm having a hard time finding time to do what I'm paid (hmm) to do...write. Regardless, I put on a happy face, loaded up the minivan, and headed out.
A sixth grader met me at the door of the library. "Are you the writer?" he asked. He held the door open while my husband and I carried in our boxes--one containing books, in the other; flyers, a door prize, bookmarks, a sign-in notebook, and all my other writer paraphernalia. While I was setting up the table, preparing myself for a dismal turnout at this small off-the-beaten-path branch library, a young man entered. He turned out to be from the local paper, his presence requested by the librarian. He interviewed me before the signing and then exited. I went through my spiel for six people, one of whom was my mother.
"Why am I doing this?" I asked myself after selling five books, barely enough to replace the gas in my tank.
But it's all about networking.
And the boy who met me at the door? It turns out I have a fan besides my mother. He had been waiting to meet me all afternoon. He didn't have money for a book, but asked if I would autograph a picture and an author event flyer that he paid a quarter to print off of the library's computer.
So why do I do this? An entire evening where I ended up selling five books?
It turned out I got more than just treated nicely by a sixth grader that evening. The following week, my interview made the front page of three different newspapers in neighboring counties. My next reading/signing more than doubled in attendance and books sold.
Yes, readings and signings are never as exciting as they appear on television. It's a lot of driving, a lot of schmoozing, and little outward reward. But it's fun. I meet honest, helpful, friendly people. And my offer to autograph a copy of one of my books has yet to be refused.
Don't go to a reading/book signing expecting to sell a carload of books. Go prepared to speak to a few people, make some friends, and hopefully leave them happy for having left the comfort of their homes to listen to you speak for thirty minutes. They will appreciate it. Your local library will appreciate it. If nothing else, your significant other will enjoy the opportunity to show you off.
Relax. Have fun. Unless you are a professional athlete or ex-president, it will take a lot of time and more hard work than you bargained for. But your book is worth it. Your message will get out there, one reader at a time. Be patient. It may not get any easier, but someday a sixth grader may ask for your autograph, and it will be worth all the effort.
Teresa Slack is the author of five novels, including Streams of Mercy, the first in a series of Jenna's Creek Novels, and A Tender Reed, both published for the Christian fiction market. Marketing her books has been her biggest challenge so far. It is a job, she says, that never ends. Read more about her and her fiction on her website http://www.teresaslack.com.
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