Thursday, August 13, 2009

Book Signing Reflections

“To establish oneself in the world, one does all one can to seem established there already.” - François de La Rochefoucauld

Last Saturday, Waldenbooks in Edison Mall in Fort Myers hosted a book signing for me. My sincere thanks to staff members Allison, the two Shannons, and Chris for helping the event run so smoothly and successfully.

This signing was held on my stomping grounds so I had a good show of support from family and friends (my sincere thanks to all of you, too) living in the area. While talking to familiar faces, the question came up as to whether having people around my table engaging me in conversation acted as a draw or a hindrance.

For example when people walk by see an author busily talking or signing books do they think:
(a) Hmm, maybe that’s ‘somebody famous.’ I think I’ll stop and check it out.
(b) I wonder who that is, but I don’t want to go over and interrupt.
(c) Whew, whoever she is, she’s busy so I don’t have to try to look like I’m unintentionally ignoring her.

I don’t know the answer, but I think Rochefoucauld made a good point with his quote. Maybe the only way to become a “newly established” author is to act as though you are already established. Is “newly established” actually an attainable goal or simply an impossible oxymoron?

At what point can one honestly say, “I’m established?” Is it when you top a best seller list, someone recognizes you on the street, or Oprah invites you on her show? Maybe it’s simply the point when you actually feel like a “for real” author for the first time. Again, I don't know the answer.

Another reason for the success may have been because I held a drawing for a $25.00 Waldenbooks/Borders gift card. No purchase was necessary, but if the person bought my book, they were given 5 extra entries. The drawing may not have added to the number of people making purchases, but it did increase the amount of traffic visiting my table. The winner, by the way, was Shari Fischl of Cape Coral. Congratulations, Shari!

The only disappointment I had that day was when a family with a young boy, I’m guessing his age around 10 or 11, passed by the bookstore. The child asked his parents if he could go inside. They responded in unison with a loud “No.” I had to suppress my urge to scream, “Are you people nuts? Your son asked to go into a bookstore and you refused. How could you?” I also wanted to detain them and call child services, but all I could do was sadly shake my head.

For those in the area who missed the event, signed copies of The Ride are still available for purchase from Waldenbooks. I hope you’ll stop by and pick up one.

I’m curious about your views. Does a busy author’s table and/or the opportunity to win a prize help, hurt or make no difference at book signings? At what point is one established?


Be sure to plan a stop back here on Monday. Radio personality, Joseph Dobzynski, host of the “Innovation Bistro” radio show heard on the Radio Ear Network will be my guest. Joseph will be offering advice on interviews and how to prevent them from becoming a disaster. You won’t want to miss - Interviews: Nightmare or Positive Result.

Thanks for stopping by.

Tags: Rochefoucauld , book signing, Waldenbooks, RadioEarNetwork, Joseph Dobzynsi, Innovation Bistron, Oprah, The Ride, Edison Mall, Fort Myers,


L. Diane Wolfe said...

As you stated, it can work both ways, Jane. I think it depends on who is around your table as to whether it attracts or repels. My experience is that friends gathered tends to repel, but get a couple strangers at your table, and more stop by to see what's up. I think in part that's because with strangers, we're discussing our book, and that discussion brings more, whereas with friends, we're talking about other things.

L. Diane Wolfe “Spunk On A Stick”

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Jane, I usually like to have a couple of friends or family with me if I'm doing a solo signing gig--otherwise I'm with a small group of authors doing a signing. So we do have talking going on, but it makes me feel so much more relaxed.

I hear the best way to deal with this is to have one of your friends or family hand out bookmarks with your info on them to people as they walk by: "Would you like a free bookmark?" This can help draw people to your table and there's someone who acts as a greeter.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Karen Walker said...

I've only done one book signing and that was at my book launch, so it was all family and friends. I rarely attend book signings of authors I don't know. I don't know if it would deter me if a group was around an author while I was in a bookstore. I'd probably want to check things out anyway.
I'm told by writers who have done a lot of this that having chocolate on the table helps a lot.

Galen Kindley--Author said...

Gee, seeing you sitting at that table looked sooo familiar…been there, done that—a bunch.

I found that more people is better than fewer people. One exception: It’s hard to talk to or engage more than one person at a time. If that one person is a wanna be author who is picking your brain about how you did it so he or she can replicate the same path, and has NO earthly intention of buying your book…that’s a problem. It seems like one of two of these types shows up at every signing. They’re hard to disengage from and out of the corner of my eye, I see other likely buyers walking on by. Very frustrating.

Best Regards, Galen
Imagineering Fiction Blog

Marvin D Wilson said...

I think the appearance of being busy, popular, etc., is a good impression - overall at least. Sounds like you had a wonderful experience! And I would've been put off by the parents who said "NO" to their kid wanting to go into a book store too ;)

The Old Silly

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Good point, Diane.

I might try recruiting a greeter next time, Elizabeth. That seems like a good idea.

Karen, I used to have chocolate in a candy dish at my signings but it's August in Florida and impossibe to keep it from melting. Also, I read in someone's blog that they didn't recommend candy at Mall signings because it only attracts kids. I liked having it there for me, though. If there were no buyers, I could always eat!

Galen, I've had those people too. At one signing, some guy stood and talked for like twenty minutes or more and then walked off without buying a book. I wanted to throw one at the back of his head but I refrained!

I think you're right, Marvin. If you look busy, people will assume you are popular and that's a definite draw.

Helen Ginger said...

I think it's okay if one or two people are there and it looks like you're talking "book." But if it's more than that or if it's clearly friends laughing and talking, it's a deterrent for anyone else to join in. The friend handing out bookmarks is good - and it wouldn't hurt if that person occasionally came over and did a pretend interest in your books to draw others in. I know authors who will, if no one is stopping by the table, get up and walk the aisles handing out bookmarks and inviting people over (let's them see how friendly you are and that you don't bite).

Straight From Hel

Patricia Stoltey said...

Having friends or relatives stop by is great. Talky strangers not so much. Just keep one eye on the customers walking past and if they seem interested or make eye contact, wave and motion them to join the conversation. Then quickly transition into the book pitch.

When I go to book signings for people I know, I watch for potential customers and I back away and encourage the customer to step forward. If I've already read the author's book and liked it, I say so. I'd make an awesome shill.

Nancy J. Parra said...

Congrats on your signing!

I've found it's just as intimidating for people to walk up to you of no one is around as it is if there are five people busy chatting you up. :)

So a good mix of one or two standing nearby does help. I like the contest idea. Thanks for sharing!

Connie Arnold said...

It's good to have people around your table but only if you can easily respond to someone else coming up and interested in your book. A well meaning friend that's too chatty can distract from others coming by sometimes. At one of my signings, a friend tried to steer people towards my table, but she was a bit pushy and I think scared them away!

Jane's Ride - Novelist Jane Kennedy Sutton's journey through the ups and downs of the writing, publishing and marketing world