Honesty comes hard today, but when I started this series, I committed to telling my indie publishing experience like it is—even if I wind up feeling like a dork in the process. Which I often do. Take this post, for example. Dork factor of at least 10. Is that going to stop me? Heck, no. Because I have a mantra: There are no mistakes; this is a learning experience. There are no mistakes; this is a learning experience. (Breathe deeply and repeat until you get past the urge to devour massive quantities of Dove chocolate.)
Yes, today’s topic is book signings. As an indie author with no agent, I arrange my own. Two under my belt so far. And, as much as it pains me to fess up, I’m going to tell you about them and the lessons they taught me.
My first rodeo (this is Texas, after all) kicked off at the local library. “It’s NaNoWriMo night,” they said. “The group says they really want to talk to you,” they said. “You should get a good response,” they said. And, librarians being some of the nicest people I know, I believed them.
I arrived 15 minutes early to set up my table. Covered it with a fashionable tablecloth, made sure my book was stylishly (and prominently) displayed on an elegant stand. Heck, I even offered a door prize! Also the above-mentioned Dove chocolate. (All of which I did wind up eating, by the way, albeit not in one sitting.) Then I sat me down, smiled me sweetest author smile—a smile darned near as delectable as the Dove—and waited. In my defense, let me say I never expected droves of admiring fans. I did expect (or at least, hope for) a few. In the end, I got one. The rest of the evening?
Yes, that’s a cricket. ‘Nuff said? God, I hope so.
Still, I told myself the evening wasn’t a total loss. For one thing, I learned librarians are optimists. I also figured out your basic, small-town library isn’t the most happening place on a Wednesday evening. I got a copy of my book onto their shelves. Finally, and possibly most important, I found out Killin’ Jim Miller really did assassinate 51 men.
Book signing #2, scheduled at a wildly popular local coffee house, looked a lot more promising. “The place will be packed,” they said. “You should get a great response,” they said. And, because the fellow I talked to sounded so enthusiastic, I believed him.
BUT, for added insurance, I came up with this absolutely brilliant marketing idea: Purchase a book, get a free gift bag. Brightly colored tissue paper included. Could Christmas shopping get any easier? I ask you.
So last night, I lugged my traps up to the house of Java. And, brother, it was packed! Granted, my table was about the size of a deck of playing cards, but I am nothing, if not resourceful. Got set up, smiled my smile, and mentally rubbed my hands together. Avast, maties! Author’s ship off the port bow!
Unfortunately, my ship stayed off the port bow. Waaaaay off the port bow. Besides two pity visits—”Oh, did you write this book? What’s it about? Gee, that’s swell.”—nobody shopped … or even made eye contact. Well, except for that one lady, who stopped in to buy two books. Because, you know, she happens to be a friend of mine.
I sat there from 4-6 last night. Longest. Two. Hours. Of. My. Life. (Not counting childbirth.) But I stuck it out on principle. I will admit, though, by the time six o’clock crawled around, my smile was somewhat worse for wear.
Again, I learned. Librarians aren’t the only ones with rosy expectations, coffee hours guys have them, too. And college students studying for finals (in between hookups) don’t stop to buy books. I got to donate a book to the coffee house library. Finally, I now know where to get possibly the best and biggest cup of hot chocolate in the known universe.
Today, as I munch leftover Reece’s Peanut Butter Bells, I ponder the signing scheduled for next week. I remember how they promised me a big crowd and snort, “Yeah, I’ve heard that line before.” I anticipate another two hours wearing that clothespin smile. I wonder if I can come down with a convenient case of beriberi and save my hips from the blowout caused by a third leftover candy stache.
Mostly I wonder if I should be doing signings at all. Are book signings only worth it for authors with established names? Or are they a necessary, painful paying of dues on the way to establishing a name?
I love meeting readers, even if they don’t read my books. I love talking to fellow authors, especially if they, like me, are aspiring. I love introducing them to resources like World Literary Cafe that will help them on their way.
But who wants to sit at a table, feeling (and smiling) like a dork?
All I can say at this point is, the jury is still out on book signings. I’ll let you know the verdict, right after I recover from my acute beriberi.
Meanwhile …. Candy, anyone?