Book Signing Blues

Maybe you’ve seen this video by mystery author Parnell Hall, but if not, check it out. It’s fun.

And not far from the truth. Crowds of fans — and book purchasers — might be the norm at book signings by the rich and famous, but my guess is Mr. Hall’s video captures the more typical scenario.

Yesterday I was among thirty authors at the Gospel Book Store in Berlin, Ohio, participating in that town’s kick-off to the Christmas season.

I wish I’d have brought a camera, because it was a fun event. The majority of the authors were Amish (you might be able to tell that from the names on the list of participants), or wrote about the Amish, like Dr. Elton Lehman. We were all spread throughout the lobby of the German Village Shopping Center. I was situated outside the entrance to Mast Pharmacy, right beside the ATM machine. (Don’t worry, I was careful to avert my gaze whenever a customer used it.)

From the perspective of Eli Hostetler, the bookstore’s owner, the event was a success. I saw a lot of people not only browsing, but buying books. Several of them had big armloads, and one lady commented she should have grabbed a cart from the nearby grocery store. The crowd flowed through steadily all morning and well into the afternoon — the official hours were 9 am to 2 pm, but I left at 2:15 and several customers were still there, visiting with the authors.

The OTHER authors. The Amish ones.

As an Englisher and a science fiction writer, I was not exactly the most popular kid on the block. The ATM got more business than I did.

But it was a fun day, I enjoyed sharing a table with Lil Duncan, and I’m happy to report that I sold twice as many books as I did at my past two book signings combined. That’s right, I sold two yesterday.

Oh, and this is interesting. One of the other authors there had a familiar name: Trevor Littleton, author of Shadows. His name was familiar because he grew up a few houses down the road from me and is the same age as my second daughter. He’s now a pastor in Millersburg, Ohio, is married and a father, and in his spare time, a fiction writer.  Nice guy. I don’t know how many he sold, since I couldn’t see from where I was sitting.

I’m grateful to Mr. Hostetler for extending the invitation for me to participate in the event. His primary goal, other than offering good books to his customers, is to support local Amish authors in their efforts to memorialize a unique culture so it won’t fade away and be forgotten. His attempt to promote The Story in the Stars along with the rest was an act of generosity, and I appreciate it.

However, this was my second visit to his store, and neither was profitable. He’s invited me to come back next year, but I’m not sure I’ll accept — and I doubt he’ll be disappointed if I don’t.

I should have made a video.

 


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3 thoughts on “Book Signing Blues

  1. Yeah, I hear you. So far I’ve been to a signing where the store forgot to open and only at the last minute did they unlock the doors so I could read because one of the staff was randomly driving by and saw us. I’ve done readings/signings for 10 people and sold one book but by contract had to donate three, and I’ve talked to author friends who’ve sat for two hours at a conference, in the exhibition hall ready to sign books, and sold one or two in all of that time. There’s this grand idea of the book signing as a romanticized vision of the author in all of their glory, but often the local coordinators don’t have a lot of experience running such events, or the publicity isn’t done far enough in advance, or some guy declares the end of the world is coming and everyone stays away.
    And still, I continue to do them. Because one time a high school student told me how much my book meant to them, and with shaking hands asked if I’d sign their copy. That was pretty amazing.

    1. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts/experiences, Everett. I appreciate it!
      Since writing this post in November, I’ve done a number of other book signings, none of which was a notable success, sales-wise. In fact, I’d say they were notable for their LACK of sales. And yet, like you, I still do it. I guess I keep thinking, “Maybe next time…” And, I feel like I should keep getting my name and face out there, even though it doesn’t seem to be accomplishing something, because you’re not going to accomplish anything sitting home moping, either. If nothing else, these events enable you to meet people and make contacts. Your experience with the shaky-handed high school student IS amazing. That should fuel your efforts for quite some time!

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