Book signings. For most people they conjure up a scene from Castle – famous author sitting behind a table, lines stretching around the block, eager readers clutching the latest dust-covered release to their chests giddy with anticipation at meeting their favorite author, and getting their autograph.
Hum. Guess what? That’s Hollywood. Unless of course you’re waiting to see James Patterson or John Grisham or someone equally famous. But for most authors it’s not like that. As authors, we have numerous resources to find helpful hints on how to hold a successful book signing, but there’s another side to the book signings. The readers.
This year I was blessed to have two books out during the holidays and several book signings. Some were great some not so much. One thing has remained consistent over the years. The customers glance sideways, curious about what I’m doing. but hesitant and uncertain how to proceed. The last thing an author wants to do is make people feel uncomfortable.
Author’s spend a lot of time writing in isolation so when we emerge from our caves to sign books, we get nervous at having to greet the public. Sitting alone behind that table can make you feel like a specimen at the zoo. You paste on a smile and try to make eye contact, but many times people give you a frown or a puzzled glance and keep on walking, no doubt fearing you’re there to pitch a new cell phone service. Eek!
I met a woman a few days after a book signing, who when learning I was an author, asked if I was the one she saw at Walmart recently. When I said yes, she chuckled and replied: “I thought you were selling something. I didn’t know it was your book.”
Unfortunately, I think customers aren’t expecting to see an author at their local bookstore or Walmart so when they do they assume we’re trying to push some kind of product on them. – (well, we are but it’s a nice product, not the latest security system or life insurance. J)
I’ve been told that speaking to an author at a signing is intimidating to readers because they don’t know what to say. After all, if we’ve had a book published we must be really important. Nope. We aren’t any different from anyone else. We’re your next door neighbor, your church member and the teacher at your school. All we want to do is share our story with you.
So, to make things easier for both the reader and the author, here are a few Do’s and Don’ts to keep in mind the next time you see an author sitting behind a table with a tired smile on their face.
– Smile and say hello. Don’t be afraid to talk to us. We welcome it. Even if you don’t read the genre we are promoting, ask us about it. We understand that not everyone reads romance, or sci-fi or suspense.
– If there is a business card or bookmark on the table take one with you. Even if you aren’t interested you might know someone who is and you can share it with them.
– Ask questions. About us, about our book, how we got started. Authors love to talk about our work and our writing process.
– Even if the author is a NY Times bestseller don’t hesitate to smile and stop and chat. I’ve met many of them at conferences and they are all warm, friendly and easy to talk to. Don’t be shy.
– Assume we will press you to purchase our book. We won’t. We simply appreciate your acknowledgement.
– Ask how much we make. :) Tsk Tsk
– Don’t belittle our genre. If you don’t read what we write just simply say, “I prefer to read…” Believe it or not I’ve had people say horrible things about romance to my face. One man asked me when I was going to write a real book. Another commented rudely that romance books were trash and I should be ashamed of myself.
Authors love our readers and we don’t want you to feel uneasy or awkward when you see us sitting there. Remember, we’re on display, and that’s a very awkward place to be for two hours. We’re eager to meet new friends. So step up and say hello. You’ll make an author happy.
I’d like to wish y’all a Happy New Year. Remember to hold onto your dreams, don’t give up hope, and step into the New Year with courage.
P.S. I’m giving away the first four books in the Home to Dover series from Love Inspired. (Rekindled Romance, Restoring His Heart, Protecting the Widow’s Heart, His Small-Town Family) Leave a comment to be entered into the drawing. US shipping only.