I’ve had two book signings in my life as a writer. It’s what authors dream of, isn’t it?
Clamoring fans lining up to get your autograph–which is probably more of a fantasy than a reality for most writers.
Still, it’s not a bad thing to wish for.
My first signing was at the dearly departed Borders book store in Princeton, NJ. Located at within a huge mall that was broken into 4-5 individual sections.
Since there was so much traffic for the stores in the various sections, I was sure this would be a good place to connect with a lot of shoppers.
Unfortunately, the bookstore was between two empty storefronts, so there wasn’t much foot traffic (or car traffic either).
No matter, I was primed to go and happy to get the opportunity. It was my first book, Think Like an Entrepreneur: Transforming Your Career and Taking Charge of Your Life, and indie published at that.
But the store manager was eager to feature local writers (and, as it turned out, get more traffic into a failing store).
She set me up with a small table, a banner, pens and some candy (to attract shoppers). For about 2 hours I sat there and smiled whenever someone came over to check my book. Some people just grabbed candy and kept it moving, others stopped to chat.
All in all, I sold 5 books (one to the store manager who was probably looking for a new job ahead of Borders’ demise) and headed off to a friend’s apartment in Princeton for dinner and a much-needed glass of wine.
It hadn’t bothered me that I didn’t have readers lined up. Or that most people who walked in didn’t even look in my direction. None of that mattered. I had a book signing at Borders, and that (and my published book) was the culmination of a lot of work.
My next signing was at the Liberty States Writers Conference in NJ. Not only was I signing, but I was also presenting a workshop with two other authors. I’ve done workshops before, so standing in front of people wasn’t so unnerving for me. But sitting at a table signing copies of my novels was a scary prospect.
Suppose no one wanted to buy one? Would I feel bad when the other authors around me were greeting their long lines of fans? Was I really ready for this?
As it turns out, I had a fantastic time. The other writers I met were supportive and encouraging. One of them explained how to set up a merchant software on my phone to accept credit card payments. Another lent me one of her stands so I could display my books.
When a few of my friends showed up to buy books–and a couple of people I’d met at the conference stopped by to do the same–my anxieties melted away.
It was fun; it was exhilarating and I soaked up the creative atmosphere with everything I had.
Authors are prone to fears and doubts. Anxieties wake us up in the middle of the night. Blank pages unnerve us. When it’s time to begin a new book, it comes with its own fears as we figure out how to navigate this new territory and hope that at the end of it, our story won’t suck.
No matter how much we’ve written, there’s always resistance whispering in our ears telling us what we can’t do. That’s probably the best benefit of being around other writers and meeting readers. It doesn’t matter if you have 1 reader or 1001. The experience can give you the fuel you need to keep going.
So yes, even though there are times I’d rather be home writing (or I’m reluctant to put myself out there in crowded settings) I can say that getting out there really is worth it.
If you get the opportunity, just do it. Soak it up. And when you get home, open up your notebook and get to work.