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Mrs. M saw a post from a fellow author the other day on Facebook. Her first book signing. That brought all kinds of scary, icy memories to Mrs. M’s belly. Book signings are one of the things an author usually gets roped into doing as part of spreading the word (marketing) about their new book. May I never have to do this again.
My first book signing was the scariest thing I ever did. My small hometown hosted it at the local bookstore. They bought 50 books and sold 47. That is considered quite successful, but I barely remember it because I was so nervously sick. My friends showed up and bought Andrea Carter and the Long Ride Home. Nice. But that many sales is the exception and not the rule for book signings. Book signings (unless you are blessed enough to have another author along) is a lonely, boring, and long two hours. You feel excited if even one person that you don’t know already talks to you.
I have no pictures from spring 2005, the date of my first signing. But this terrifying event was repeated a few months later in Lewiston, Idaho, where my outgoing daughter-in-law arranged it. You might read the bookstore’s sign and say, “Wow, that author is ME.” I thought, “Oh, no, that author is me. I have to go through with this.” Lots of time for pictures because no one was flocking to see this author.
In 2006, my daughter and her family moved to North Carolina. Of course, there is a bookstore in Salisbury, and of course I feel I should do what I can to spread the word. I put on a mini-workshop for a handful of kids. That’s not quite as scary as sitting behind a table waiting for readers to come to you. At least it went a little faster. How many books did I have in print back then? One. How many did the bookstore sell? Mercifully, I can’t remember. It was all a blur.
A year later, about 2007, when Andrea Carter and the Dangerous Decision came out, I had to “enter the fray” once again in my hometown of Enumclaw, WA (Is there no end to this business?) Bookstores like authors to come. This author doesn’t like book signings, but in a small town, what can I do but go forward? It worked a little better. It was the annual Street Fair, so lots of people were hanging around. It also helps to be sitting next to a well-known children’s book author like Peg Kehret >> At least my table looked like I was busy (but they’re buying Peg’s books). I am SO fine with that. I just want to go home. And oh, yeah. Guess what I had to sit in front of? Yep, Harry Potter ads. How do I compete with a newly released Harry Potter book?
No End in Sight
It’s still 2007. It’s like this year will never end. Our second home is in the Okanogan Highlands in north-central WA. I met another kids’ author, so we had a double book signing in a library in a teensy town called Oroville (less than 1,000). Am I getting used to this? No. Then it gets even worse! Heather and I trooped down to Omak, a larger town in the valley (7,000) which boasts a radio station. A radio station? Are you kidding me? As in . . . talking on the radio? I nearly died of fear. I have done a few radio interviews and I have never ever listened to them since.
Then a Christian bookstore opened in Enumclaw. Yep, you know what happened next. Bookstore. Author. In 2009, The Salt Shaker was a big player in the that year’s annual Street Fair. If this sounds redundant (another street fair), it should. The town throws a street fair every year, and The Salt Shaker goes all out. This year they offered folks pony rides to promote my books (how cool is that?) Actually, it would be cool if I wasn’t just so scared. They decorate my booth under a tent and put out a big sign. I feel very special but as stomach sick as always. But these folks are my friends, so I smile and try to have a good time. One of the employees children, Kylie, is helpful in this. The day was not so scary because of her.
Do I look *cool* with my cup of coffee? Maybe. But I’m hoping to simply get through this day and go home. It did end up being much more fun than I thought it would be, and now . . . slowly . . . I am starting to get used to this whole bookstore thing. But is it my favorite thing to do? No way!
Call me crazy, but I’m not one of those authors who can’t wait to have book signings and talk to readers and (the hardest part of all) tell them what my books are about. I laugh about it now. I think I could go into a bookstore and manage a book signing with much more grace and maturity than I did over 15 years ago. The lesson in all this? God has things He wants to do to mold you into the person He wants you to become for eternity. I guess if a book signing is what it takes, I’ll step out on faith. But boy oh boy! It’s still scary!