Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Choose Your Own Bookselling Adventure: Signings

You hover near entrance of the store trying to make up your mind. Should you just go in? Say hello? Leave? Run away and hide in your parents’ basement never to emerge again? You know she’s just going to laugh at you because look at you, you're standing there like an idiot, probably with your mouth open, blocking the entrance, and really, what were you thinking? She doesn’t want you. Nobody wants you. This is all a big joke. They should have drown you at birth, or left you to the elements, or whatever it was that Vikings did with weak babies, so that you wouldn’t be torturing everyone by standing here and—

Oh shit, someone just bumped you into the store. INTO the actual store.

Commence hyperventilating.

Shitshitshitshitshitshit. Look at something. Anything. Focus and get control and—No! Not her. Don’t make eye contact.

Damn it, you made eye contact.

She’s coming over. Get control of yourself. Take a deep breath. Wipe those sweaty palms on your pants. Use those Jedi mind powers to make the floor open up and swallow you whole because she’s standing right beside you. Smiling and standing right beside you. But that smile isn’t going to last long. Oh no. Soon she’ll be pointing and calling you a fraud, or laughing at your inadequacies and that time—in the third grade—when you had to give that speech and you wet yourself just a little because she’ll know.

She can tell.

They have that power.

“Hi, can I help you find anything?”



There. You said it. That wasn’t so hard right? Take a deep breath, hold it in, and also firm those stomach muscles in case she decides to go for a one-two abdominal punch. You’re tough. You can take it.

Oh, and don’t forget to smile.

“Excuse me?”

Or maybe you can’t. She didn’t understand? You said it. You actually SAID IT and she didn’t understand? Why? Were you suddenly channeling your sophomore French teacher or something? It would explain the sweaty palms, but he spoke more English than French, so it was more frenglish or maybe englench or whatever it was when Miss Piggy threw in a lot of Mois into her speech, but totally decipherable any way you look at it especially with a thorough training in basic muppet.

“I’m sorry I think my hearings a little off today. Did you say were an author?”

You promptly forgive her. Bad hearing can happen to anyone. It’s an epidemic. Damn loud radios and cell phones! Smile. And make an effort to talk more slowly…for her hearing, of course. “Yes, I’m Terry Kent, the author of Renlow’s Acre. I was wondering if you had any of my books in stock.”

“Let me check my computer.”

Success. She didn’t tell you to get out. She didn’t threaten to call the cops.

You follow her into the store. Even if she doesn’t have your book, that’s one bookstore down, 55 gazillion to go, but they say the first is always the hardest.

And at least she didn’t laugh.


This was supposed to illustrate a point in what I hope was an amusing manner. I have no idea what it would be like to walk into a bookstore and ask someone if you could sign your book (or if they even have your books), but I imagine it’s a lot like going on a blind date. If this is the case, then any and all bad blind date experiences you have can only serve to make the whole process easier.

On another thread, Eileen asked:

Question for you- how do you like "drop bys" to be handled. Do you prefer the author to call first? Anything they do that either a) wins you over b) makes you mock them openly once they leave?

Personally, I prefer the author to call first because then I have some warning and I can dig their books out of the back if a shipment just came in. If you call though, please show up. Nothing makes me mad like having to dig/round up stock only to have it sit on my back counter taking up space. If you don’t call and just drop in, don’t be surprised if I don’t have your book in stock or can’t find it right away. I’ve got so much inventory right now that I’m about to go out of my mind.

If you decide to call, I would suggest calling a few weeks ahead of time and letting the bookseller know about your book and your publisher. The publisher is important, I’m sorry. Hearing you are with Bloomsbury or Random House is going to make it easier to get your book in the store. Offer to send some information if the bookstore is interested (don’t send it if they are not), and tell them you’ll do a follow up call when you are in town to see if they got any stock in. Then call again the day before you plan to show up. If they don’t have any stock, thank them for taking the time to consider your book. If they do, come in and sign it. I don’t care if they only have three copies. Get in there.

As I told Kate in that old column (which I can’t find the link to right now but I’ll put in later when I get home from work), candy is always welcome, but unnecessary if you just take the time to smile and be personable.

If that is hard for you I would suggest taking a speech or theatre class before your book comes out and learning how to fake it. Or perhaps try speed dating.

The concept is the same.

Personality wins us over every time.

As for things that will make us mock you, I’ll apologize now. We mock everything, including ourselves. Nothing is sacred, and that’s okay. The reality of it all is that it’s a rite of passage you won’t have to be there for. But you won’t get mocked if you’re straight-forward and smile. In fact you’ll probably be remembered rather fondly.

And your books might get to go up front.


Eileen said...

Ah BSC- you are too kind. Thanks for the words of wisdom. Luckily I am comfortable talking anyone about just about anything so the fear factor isn't there. (perhaps at times it should be- thus my familarity with mocking) I just want to ensure I'm doing what I can to come across as a professional, non annoying, author worthy of up front display and hopefully the best shot I can at marketing my book. Thanks for your time- candy to follow as soon as I figure out how to shove it in the slot in my computer.

Crafty Chica said...

thanks for the input! i just went into my local stores, looked for my book on the shelves and then asked a clerk if they would like me to sign the copies. every time they were very happy about it and even pulled out some "autographed copy" stickers. i figure no one else can do it for me, so i may as well. i go in expecting to get turned away and luckily, i've experienced quite the opposite!!

Shanna Swendson said...

Yeah, you pretty much nailed exactly how it feels.

But the way I tend to do it is sneak incognito through the store, looking for my book on the shelves. If I don't find it, I generally sneak out again unless I'm approached by a friendly employee, and then I play the, "I'm such a dork, if I pass a store I have to check to see if they have my book," game instead of making a big deal out of the fact that they're shunning my baby. If I do find my book there, I'll take a copy off the shelf and approach the customer service desk with it as a visual aid and do the routine about me being the author, and would they like me to autograph their stock?

I've only had two store managers ask me for ID. It would be frighteningly easy to pose as any non-famous author and go around signing books. If you were into that sort of thing, of course.

christine fletcher said...

What was that old therapy technique -- if something frightens you, visualize your way through it first? Now I don't need to visualize, I only need to re-read your description! You may not be an author, but for this author you hit it spot-on -- with hilarity. And as usual, dispensed excellent common-sense advice. It's also nice reading the comments above and realizing that this has been a positive experience all around. (Takes deep breath, tries not to hyperventilate.)

Doug Hoffman said...

FYI, I'd do anything to get my books up front. Of course, I'd do anything to get published in the first place. Is there a publisher's couch?

Diana Peterfreund said...

Oh, this is so me! Thanks for showing it from the otehr side...

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