Book Signings from Hell. (Part 2)

Author’s note: You don’t have to read these two posts in sequence to feel my pain.  But the prior post kicked off this little reminiscent rant, and I recommend you read both to feel the whole experience.  If you plan to publish, this is a little preview of your life.

Book Signings from Hell – Part 2.

Book signings.  They’re like childbirth.  A beautiful thing.  But you don’t know how much it hurts unless it’s you in the stirrups.

Like one of my signings for my first novel, DARKNESS BOUND — the one with the lady in bondage on the cover —  on a lonely night in Peoria AZ.  After two hours I hadn’t sold a single book — this turning out to be a common thread at my signings — though I did get a forty minute synopsis of one guy’s novel-in-progress, after which he asked if I’d write it for him and split the money 50-50.  Just before closing I noticed a guy thumbing through a copy.  I finally said, “hey, I’ll buy it for you if you like it.”  He turned around… he was a priest.  Collar and all.  Blushing.  I began an improvised litany of explanation about how the book, with it’s bound woman on the cover, was about the quest to understand the human spirit and therefore find God.  He just smiled, held up his hand and told me to calm down, and that he loves books like this.  He bought the only copy of the night.  We stayed in touch over the course of my next three books, and he assured me I’m a big hit with the fellas at the monastery.

My favorite book signing story took place in Phoenix.  The publisher had arranged signings in four Borders stores there, which means the staff puts more energy into the event than when the author sets it up (which also means they put virtually zero effort into those set up by the author personally).  So they arranged 90 chairs and had a stack of about 150 of my books near the podium, next to a large poster of my smug mug.  I arrived a few minutes early and hid out in the music section, with a good line of sight on the arena where I would thrill the crowd.  Two minutes to seven, not a soul.  Seven o’clock, still 90 empty chairs.  At 7:02 three people arrived and took a seat in the front row: a mother of about about 30, her ten year old, and the infant she held in her arms.  Bear in mind, the cover of my first book had a gorgeous woman with her hands tied in front of her, with the title of DARKNESS BOUND.  I wasn’t thinking this was about the 10-year old.

But I was wrong.  As booksellers like to do, a staff member appeared to give a long-winded introduction to the author and his work — awkward — after which I didn’t know where to begin.  This little family couldn’t see the 88 empty chairs behind them, but I could.  So I took one, turned it around and straddled the back of it as I sat , cowboy style, thanked them for coming and asked them what they’d like to talk about.  Here’s what the woman said to me:  “Oh, we don’t really care about your book… my son’s teacher told the class to go out and meet a real writer, and we saw the ad and figured we’d come.”

She bought a book.

I have a million book signing stories, these are only a sampling. Some of my signings were very successful, but they weren’t funny.

My point today: I wish this on you all.  I wish you Harlan Coben’s experience (for both of us, actually) even more.  May you publish, and may you live the dream.  At the end of the day, it’s far more bliss than pain.

2 Comments

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2 Responses to Book Signings from Hell. (Part 2)

  1. Oh, the joys I have to look forward to now that my novels A Spark of Heavenly Fire and More Deaths Than One have been published! So far, I’ve been concentrating my promotional efforts on the internet, but one of these days I will try my hand at a booksigning. At least now I know what to expect — anything or nothing.

  2. Ruth

    Ouch. My Grandmother-in-law is an author and she has similar stories of book signings where only her husband came, or one person for some random reason. One thing that impresses me is her outgoing personality bounces right back and the next day she’s strong-arming people at a local arts festival into buying the whole series (and it works!). As someone working on my first novel, I’ve found talking to her both encouraging and sobering. Hope you have even more Harlan Coban signings than hellish ones–even if they’re not as funny.