Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Adventures in Book Signings

Today is a first for my little blog! I have my first ever guest post as a result of a few bloggy conversations, and it's from the author of Janeology - Karen Harrington, who also blogs at Scobberlotch. Now, I must admit that I have never read this book, so I can't comment on the book itself. But this guest post is great, and so without further ado....Adventures in Book Signings......

You are standing there, pushing a hair back in place, checking your sweater to make sure it looks right. You just ate a mint to make sure your breath was fresh. You look at your hands and nails once more to make sure they look neat. You remember that you should be smiling and so you instantly paint on a fake smile you hope conceals your nervousness. And then, you wonder if your deodorant is going to fail you. It seems imminent.

You continue to stand behind the small table, trying to keep the smile up, hoping you might catch the eye of someone friendly. You hope you don’t look too awkward standing there alone. The florescent light isn’t too flattering, you realize. Maybe it makes your make-up look greenish and this is the reason no one has stopped to say hello. You adjust the collar on your turtleneck, glad that it is covering the red heat on your neck. And then you pray you will at least find one soul to talk too. Maybe it’s time to move items around on the table again to busy your hands. Maybe putting the bowl of mints on the opposite side is best. You check your watch. You’ve only just been standing there for five minutes. Only two and half more hours to go.

If this situation sounds somewhat like someone waiting to get picked for a dance or in line at a speed-dating session, well, it’s probably not far from that kind of nervous experience. This is what it felt like at my first book-signing – a mix of excitement and angst about standing behind a table and making the best possible pitch about my debut book. It’s challenging for any writer to perform this role. Writers are naturally more comfortable at home in front of the keyboard in comfy pants with a giant cup of coffee nearby. It’s a solitary job and most of us like it that way. So when my publisher said I should line up a dozen book signings over the summer, perhaps even READ from my book in public, I approached the idea with more than a little bit of trepidation. Initially, I found it intimidating to get the attention of book shoppers who had never heard of me. Would they be interested in my book? Would they care what I had to say? Would they pause at my table and at least take a free mint? And what about describing my book? Of course, it took me five years to write so I know what it’s about? But how do I describe it in one coherent paragraph? Do I pitch it as a legal thriller the way my publisher did? Do I talk about the ideas of nature vs. nurture? Do I emphasize that it’s about one man’s quest to understand the wife he only thought he knew after she commits a murder?

All my fears were resolved after I survived my first signing without having to hide in shame beneath the signing table – mostly due to the support of my family and friends, who gave me the chance to practice my pitch. After this first signing, I could at least picture what it was like to stand there and chat with strangers. The next signing didn’t have a big turnout, but there were several teens who just wanted to talk about writing. And at the next one, the bookstore manager made enthusiastic announcements about my book that generated an actual line at my table. Each subsequent signing got a little easier and more relaxed. I even survived one where my ex-husband showed up – though that could be a blog of another subject.

I’ve come away from these experiences with a greater appreciation for ANY person in the sales realm, but especially for authors like myself who might feel as I did last summer. So if you are ever in a bookstore and an author is doing a signing, just remember that they are more nervous than you. Just having a friendly person to talk to for two minutes might be just what they need to survive the day – and it will also give them a chance to practice their talk.

Here are a few scraps of conversation I’ve collected from my various signings.

Of my books on the signing table.

“Are these complimentary?”

Of my pitch that it’s about a man trying to understand his wife by way of understanding the family secrets and ancestors in her family.

“Oh, we all have black sheep in our family. My brother’s wife just left him and he’s now realizing it had something to do with her mother.”

Of my description of the book to a kind old man.

“Sounds good. Let me go ask my wife.”

Of my offer to sign a book for a woman.

“Oh, are you the author?”

Of my introduction to the next person who approached my table, “Hi, I’m the author Karen Harrington.”

“Hello the author Karen Harrington.”

Of the mints on my signing table.

“What are these for?”

Of the puzzle on my signing table.

“Why did you cut up your cover like that?”

Of the woman who ran over to my table with her hubby and told me her name was Jane.

Hubby: “If I read this, will I understand my wife better?”

Me: Huh Huh. Maybe. Here’s a bookmark.” (She leaves. Returns 10 mintues later.)

“OMG! My husband’s name is Tom!” (See, the couple in my book are Jane and Tom.)

Of my accidental penning “Very best pictures” (Doh! Should have written WISHES)

Me: “Oh, I’m so sorry. We were talking about pictures, and, well, ha ha…well, if I become famous, one day this will be very valuable.”


Karen Harrington is the author of the psychological suspense debut Janeology. Visit her website to read an excerpt.


So, there you have it, my very first guest post, which I think has set the standard for any future guest posters that might like to write something for me and save my weary fingers!!


Bobbi said...

Great guest post! This is so relevant to me because my first book will be published in August 2009. I've been dreading doing book signings!

Now I'm off to check out Janeology!!

Scobberlotcher said...


Thanks so much for hosting me here on your blog today!


Karen H.

Anonymous said...

Karen is the best! I wish she'd have a signing around here.

Lisa said...

Great post! I love the comments from the book shoppers! Although I read Karen's blog daily, I have to admit I haven't read Janeology yet, but I intend to read it the first of the year. I've heard only positive things about it.

Serena said...

I love these little anecdotes. Karen is certainly making the rounds!