Saturday, March 17, 2007

Book Signings and Tiddlywinks

I have a signing today at our local Borders. I hate signings. It’s a personal angst with me. Stick me in front of a guaranteed audience, and I can talk the horns off a rhino. I give seminars on a regular basis and love playing the part of pathetic ham. However, the notion of “If You Write It, They Will Come” only plays well in Field of Dreams.

There are too many “What Ifs” in a book signing.

What if it’s too gorgeous a day (which it is today, dammit), and everyone would rather flood to the beach than go inside a bookstore?

What if no one is interested in my genre?

What if they simply aren’t interested?

What if they find my face so repugnant that they walk away in fear? Okay, I’m getting silly now.

I’ve seen well-known authors suffer dismal signings, so I know that it’s not just the unknowns who can suffer from Avoid Eye Contact-itis. Conversely, I’ve seen complete unknowns have incredible signings and sell out of every book. Oh, how I’d love to be those people. It all depends on the genre, the subject matter, and the ultimate whims of the public on any given day. I sell out at seminars. I sit on my ass at signings and play Tiddlywinks with the bookmarks and fling empty candy wrappers at patrons’ children when they’re not looking.

Sure, I meet some very interesting people who share an interest in the topic of my book. I’ve also met some gruff codgers who tell me they’re retired surgeons, and I’m full of beans. God, I love those guys. I tell them that mine isn’t an agenda book (I really hate those), but one of inviting perspective. “If I want perspective, I’ll go to church.” Best to just back away from those types and let them buy their guides to better interpersonal communication skills.

Okay, what this invariably comes down to is, “Am I Good Enough?” Of course, a crap signing isn’t really the proper litmus test in which to answer this question. The real test comes from sustainability. Are you reaching your audience? Local signings are good exposure, regardless of whether people show up or not. It’s about planting seeds. Just because someone didn’t buy the book when I was there doesn’t mean they won’t come back later and buy it. Or maybe the very relevant topic will come up in conversation, and someone will remember my face. Who knows?

But, if you happen to walk into your local bookstore and see some poor author sitting alone at a table playing Tiddlywinks with bookmarks and spitting empty candy wrappers at unsuspecting children, go up to them and give them a hug. Buy their book. Make their day.

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