Things people say at book signings

If you sit long enough at a book signing table, you hear all kinds of interesting questions. During my signing tour in Yellowstone National Park this week, signing Who Pooped in the Park? books, quite a few groups of people came by, looked at the poster and/or the books, said something to each other in a foreign language, and left. I have to wonder how many different languages people used this week to say, “Crazy Americans! They write books about poop!”

Many of the questions were very logical, and some were pretty silly. As an example:

Did you write this book, or are you just here signing it?

Really? I’m sitting here under a big sign that says “Meet the Author.” My picture is on the sign. And who signs other people’s books, anyway?

Do we have to pay for the book?

I forgive the little kids who ask this question. I’m sure they haven’t been trained in the ways of capitalism yet. But adults? Oh, my.

Another favorite of mine came from a boy about nine years old. He said,

My parents bought me this book when I was a kid. I really liked it.

I chuckled and thanked him. Our perspectives do change as we age, don’t they?

Some of the serious and logical questions have quick and easy answers, others more complex:

How long did it take you to write this book?

Actually writing the book? Not that long. On each Who Pooped? book, I spent 2-3 months of research, building animal lists, writing, planning out the page layouts, drafting instructions for the illustrator, and so forth. Then the illustrator (Eli or Rob) sketches out each page and sends them in to the editor, who goes through everything and makes changes and suggestions. When she’s happy, it comes back to me. I go through the sketches and check everything for accuracy and to make sure it fits what I was trying to accomplish. At that stage, we’ll often have someone from the park check it over as well. Then it goes back to the illustrator, who does final color illustrations and page layouts. After the editor and I sign off on those, the book gets the final details, like an ISBN, and goes off to the printer. Final books appear in my hand about a year after the contract was signed.

What gave you the idea for Who Pooped in the Park?

My kids. Up until then, I had been writing mostly specialized technical stuff (like The Closed Captioning Handbook). A stack of our hay was torn up one day, and I was showing the kids how to identify the culprits (deer poop and footprints). They told me I needed to do a book about animal poop for kids. We came up with the Who Pooped? title, and proposed it to a publisher who turned it down. Then a sales rep for Farcountry Press suggested talking to their acquisition editor, and the rest is history!

Did you do the drawings?

I wish I had the talent that Eli Clark and Rob Rath have. They are the ones that have illustrated my Who Pooped? series: Eli did the first six, and Rob has done the others. They are both very skilled, and they are a big part of the reason the books have succeeded.

Since most of my signings in the park were in gift shops and hotel lobbies, the most common question I heard wasn’t even related to the book:

Where’s the bathroom?

To be fair, one of the first things I do at a book signing is make sure I know where the bathroom is…

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