Monday, April 28, 2014

Signings of the Times

Why I don't miss book signings

When your first few books come out, it's very exciting. Of course, the first one will never be topped. That first call from a New York editor or literary agent who tells you that the publishing house will publish your book and here's the advance they're offering . . . well, that particular numbing thrill can't be beat!

The first few autographings or book signing parties are burned into your memory. Relatives and good friends made up most of the crowd, sure, but there were also people you'd never met before. Very exciting and heady stuff.

If you're fortunate enough and energetic enough to continue selling your work, then the signings keep being set up, and after the fourth or fifth or sixth one, your relatives and friends begin making excuses for why they won't be able to attend or they simply stop coming to them without any excuse. The thrill is gone. Familiarity breeds contempt, as they say. Fewer and fewer well-wishers show up for your events and you start having "combined" signings with other authors to scare up a bigger crowd of readers and book buyers.

Naturally, I recall some wonderful moments during book signings. It was fun just to see my friends and fellow writers. However, just as I recall my bad book reviews more readily than I recall the glowing ones, I can vividly remember the insults and the agony of selling maybe three or four books in a three hour period. Talk about a humbling experience!

I recall people stopping by, picking up my books, reading the back cover blurbs, checking me out, and asking, "So, you wrote this?"

"I did!" I responded, proudly.

"Oh." Then setting it back down on the table and ambling away, totally unimpressed.

I can also remember having numerous people stop by the table sitting just outside the book store in a mall and asking me where the restrooms were located. That was the most action I got all day -- giving directions to people who needed "the facilities."

One lady asked a fellow author sitting beside me at one of these functions, "Is this better than your last book?"

"Better? Well, that's hard for me to say," the author responded, graciously. "I wouldn't say it was better."

"Oh." The lady dropped it back onto the table. "I'll pass then. I didn't like your last one all that much."

Gee, thanks, lady! Just what we all want to hear from our adoring public!

So, when people ask me if I'm signing my books anywhere, I'm so very glad to tell them that my new book is an e-book and there will be no autograph party. And no free bookmarks. Remember when we did that? Made up hundreds of bookmarks and sent them to anyone who asked? One time I placed an ad in Romantic Times magazine, instructing people to write me for a free bookmark. I was swamped with requests! I was thrilled. Then I realized from reading some of the accompanying letters that these people had no intention of buying or reading my book. They simply collected bookmarks! Who does that? Evidently, the readers of Romantic Times back then.

Book signings can be exciting. Especially when you're Nora Roberts, Stephen King, John Grisham, or Sylvia Day. For most of us, though, it becomes an exercise in humility. More often than not, instead of selling books, we end up listening to other people tell us about the books they want to write some day if they ever get around to it.

I've signed off on book signings for now. Doesn't mean I won't show up at someone else's. However, when I do attend a book signing, I actually purchase a book that I fully intend to read and enjoy! What's more, I will post a book review of it. It's a novel idea, I know.


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