The tao of booksignings

“Excuse me. Can you tell me where VC Andrews is?”
And so begins another adventure in the wonderful world of booksignings. Here I am at a major chain bookseller, sitting at the little table they’ve set up right in the pathway to not only the information booth but the bathroom–because people WANT you to interrupt their mad dash to pee for the chance to buy a suspense novel about New Orleans(they’re probably just sneakinging in from the arcade down the hall anyway). Even better, right in front of me is the package-wrapping booth, which means that a shopper doesn’t see me through the snaky line until she barks her knee against the aforementioned table. But me? I’m smiling.

“Hey,” I say, trying very hard not to sound like a carnival barker with a waxed mustache and a megaphone. “Do you know someone who likes suspense?(I assume you know somebody who likes books, because you are, after all, in a bookstore). This is a really cheap Christmas present. The autograph is free(if I could have figured out how to charge for it, I would have)(only because I’m supporting pagan babies in Africa).”

Rubbing at her sore knee, she checks out the geometric patterns of the ceiling lights rather than make eye contact. She might have the courage to shake her head as she scuttles past, obviously afraid I’m going to take her to the floor and force her name from her so I can personally inscribe a book she’ll then be forced to take home.

Me? I smile. First of all, because I know exactly how she feels. I’m not any happier than she is. I am TERRIBLE at promoting myself. Every time I even think of saying, “I highly recommend this book. I think you’ll love it and want to take it home,” I can feel Sr. Mary Alice, my gradeschool Dominican nun teacher standing over my shoulder all set to smack me for the sin of pride. Now, I can promote anybody else. Sit me at that table with another author and I’ll sell them til they don’t have a book left.

That’s actually the secret to any booksigning. Bring friends who are also selling books. It’s amazing how much more fun it is. There’s someone else you can talk to in the lag times, so you’re not just watching the crowd like a drowning woman hoping for a rope. You have someone else to play fashion police with(one of my favorite pasttimes at signings. For instance, today what I notice is that about a third of women over the age of 30 are wearing the wrong size jeans. And I’m praying that I don’t look like that from the back). And there’s somebody there in case you’re the one who desperately needs to pee, so you don’t miss even one customer.

Never forget. No matter how happy and relaxed we look, most of us would rather be dancing naked down Fifth Avenue than sit at that table(well, there are some of us who really would rather be dancing naked down Fifth Avenue. That’s another topic altogether). Not because we don’t want to meet you, the reader. Dear God yes, we want to meet you. We love book people. We positively yearn to talk to book people about books, about authors, about genres or LIT-rature, about anything. The problem is that not even Nora Roberts gets to spend all of a signing visiting with book people. Well, okay, maybe she does now. But I’ve actually been to a signing with her(my job was to clean off the clump of ink from the end of her pen), when not ONE person showed up.

It was my most important lesson in booksignings. Murphy rules. Just cause you’re there, just cause you’ve done everything to let other people know you’re there, maybe even unto radio shows and TV and newsletters, it doesn’t mean you’re going to have a good showing. That part really doesn’t bother me at all. I still get to talk to the booksellers who are, after all, book people. But there is still that part about sitting at a table right in everybody’s way waiting, hoping, PRAYING somebody just comes up to talk to you so you don’t look like such a big loser. And then, finally, somebody comes up to you, smiling. You smile back. Your heart flutters. Your palms sweat. You straighten and hope you don’t have any foam on your lip from the latte you’ve just scarfed down instead of lunch. And then, she opens her mouth. And she says,

“Excuse me. Can you tell me where VC Andrews is?”

And I say, “She’s dead. Buy my book instead.”

Okay, not really. But it would have made the time go faster.

One thought on “The tao of booksignings”

  1. orangehands says:

    “And I say, “She’s dead. Buy my book instead.””


    i find it amazing nobody shows up. geez.

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