Note to Readers
Feature Article: BOOKSIGNING BLUES
Best Book(s) I’ve Read This Month
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I’m further along with the next book, no further along with selling it, although there’s still room for optimism! Just recently, I learned Doubleday, Rhapsody, and Literary Guild bookclubs purchased the rights to my upcoming release, TAKE ME HOME, for a featured alternate in their catalogs this fall. (For those who have asked me about large print—Doubleday will issue a large print edition.)
I hope you’re now coasting through summer. I’ve already enjoyed a weekend in the Ozarks, a trip to the gulf of Texas (humid? whoa!), and tours of a few colleges with my soon-to-graduate son. Now it’s time to settle back into work!
FEATURE ARTICLE: BOOKSIGNING BLUES
How many times have you entered a bookstore (or a Wal-Mart, or a Costco, or a grocery store) and seen some solitary figure sitting spiffed up behind a stack of books and a sign proclaiming, “Author Hope Spryngzeternal Signing Today!” Author Hope smiles at you, well, hopefully.
And you hurry past as though she’s carrying an infectious disease, unaware poor Hope’s only interaction with readers today was a half hour ago (feels like twelve) when someone asked her directions to the bathroom.
Pre-authordom, I used to be that person scurrying past Hope, gaze averted as though in deep thought over a deep issue, pace quickening as though I had a meeting with Queen Elizabeth in just a mo’ and really had to dash, so sorry!
In reality, though, I was curious. And I might have even wanted to get a closer look at whatever book Hope was touting. But I was afraid of Hope on several levels.
I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to think of anything erudite to say. Because everyone knows that writers only think Important Thoughts and have erudite conversations that use words like erudite. I didn’t want Hope to think I was stupid.
But more than that, I was afraid she’d clutch my arm and refuse to let go until I promised to buy her book.
Or more than that, I was afraid of Hope because I’m a Nice Person. So even if Hope never uttered the word “buy,” I’d buy it anyway, even if it was about growing beets. I hate beets.
Booksignings have been on my mind as it’s now the time pre-publication where I’m ratcheting up my promotional efforts on behalf of TAKE ME HOME, out in September. I’ve been in contact with some bookstores about holding signings the month the book is released. I’m not a big enough deal for my publisher’s publicity department to organize book tours around me; I’m hardly a big enough deal for my publisher’s publicity department to remember I exist, if you want to know the sad truth of the matter...
But I digress.
Authors debate the effectiveness of booksignings. Unless you’re Nora or Stephen or James or Nicholas, you’ll be lucky if you attract even a handful of customers that don’t share your last name. (And if you’re Nora or Stephen or James or Nicholas, why would you need to bother with that handful of people?)
Booksellers are thinking along the same lines, of course. But more so. You may have made an investment in time, maybe in money if you’ve made up a poster or issued your own announcements or traveled any distance to get to the store. But theirs has been bigger: They’ve advertised, they’ve ordered stock, and they’ve bought the coffee and cookies. They need to think it over before making a commitment.
And some stores really have to think it over. Barnes & Noble and Borders and the like won’t hold a signing for Just Anybody, even if you are a Nice Person. In fact, to get a signing at big box stores, Hope’s publicist (if she’s lucky enough to have one assigned by her publisher or lucky enough to be able to afford to hire her own) needs to contact such stores through their corporate office and then the corporate office will contact the local store and then the local manager gets to decide if its worth his or her time and money.
Most of the time, Hope and authors like her (not Nora not Stephen not... you’ve gotten the drift) just mosey in, sign their stock so it can be reshelved with an “autographed by author” sticker, and wander on their way.
(To do even this, Hope may have to present ID or, as I have done, hold up the photo at the back of the book and hope the store clerk can recognize me in shades of what I used to be when I first started in this business. It’s a system designed to keep Hope and me humble.)
But even though the rewards of booksignings may be minimal, and their effectiveness dubious, authors and bookstores generally hold a few anyway. It makes those of us who can’t afford full-page ads in Oprah magazine—booksellers and authors alike—feel like we’re at least doing what we can to drive sales of our books. And it also scores points with our publishers... who like to be able to tell their sales force we’ve lined up promotional opportunities even if they haven’t.
So, we go spend a few hours on a pretty Saturday inside a store where we smile at the people hurrying by. And wish someone would stop and say howdy. Someone like you...
Because Hope and I really aren’t any different from you. We don’t know anymore than you do—and probably a whole helluva lot less on a number of topics—and we don’t think deeper thoughts than you do—in fact, I can’t speak for Hope, but you’d be amazed at how shallow I can be. Or maybe not.
Our only difference from you is—perhaps—we’re a tad crazier than you are: witness what we (try to) do for a living. And that what we (try to) do for a living entails sitting for long hours (feels like years) watching people avoid our gazes.
So, Hope and I will be ever so grateful if you’ll just stop by and chat for a few minutes about reading or writing or, well, beets. We won’t accost you. We won’t coerce you. We know people have different tastes in reading material. We don’t expect you to always share ours. We don’t expect everyone to buy our books. We don’t even care if you buy our books...
Okay, that’s a lie. We do. But by the time you get to us, we’ll just be happy if you just have something more to say than “Where’s the bathroom?” Although, if that’s a pressing issue for you, we’ll be happy to oblige with directions.
BOOK(s)I'VE ALMOST READ SINCE THE LAST NEWSLETTER:
Do you ever have times when you have the attention span of a hummingbird? That’s me lately. Too short for anything much except magazines. But here’s a selection of things I’ve started and still have bookmarked:
BITSY’S BAIT AND BARBEQUE, Pamela Morsi
LEAP!, Sarah Davidson
SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS, Renni Browne & Dave King
ON WRITING WELL, William Zinnser
SIMPLY LOVE, Mary Balogh
Hyatt Regency Dallas
Wednesday evening, July 11
5:30 to 8:30
Romance Writers of America “Readers for Life” Literacy Signing
Over 500 authors (many of them household names) gather to sign their books; all profits go to ProLiteracy Worldwide. Last year, over $64,000 was raised. Over the years, the total in donations from RWA (including its local chapters’ efforts) to promote literacy exceeds $500,000. The event is open to the general public and is free.
Great Bend, KS
Saturday, September 15
Fiction for and about women rediscovering themselves