It would seem obvious…
Though I’ve posted many book signing tips here, there are a few things that seem so blatantly, searingly obvious that I haven’t bothered to write about them.
I suppose I should have.
We had an author in my bookstore last week for a signing and talk. When she and her husband arrived, we chatted for a few minutes about where we would set her up, and then I went in the back to grab some supplies for the talk. Gwen, the tea bar manager, had coincidentally gone back in the kitchen for a moment.
A bit later, when the author went out to her car for a moment, some customers that were seated in the tea bar pulled Gwen aside.
“Do you know what that author said when you were both out of the room?”
“No,” Gwen responded.
“She made some comment about being in the middle of nowhere and asked her husband why they even bothered to come to this place.”
I suppose it never occurred to her that in a small town indie bookstore, the customers sitting at the table might be friends of the owners.
Needless to say, this exchange made us feel rather uncomfortable when she came back in the store. Because I like her book and was looking forward to the talk, I didn’t say anything to her.
As it turned out, this was one of those rare events where nobody shows up. Where most authors would be setting up a table and engaging everyone who came in the store, she hung back and stood by the projector. When customers came in, I told them about the book and encouraged them to take a look. I had to specifically ask her to come over and engage.
After 15 minutes with nobody sitting down waiting for her talk, she told me she wanted to pack up and leave. I talked her into staying another 20 minutes or so, and then she signed a pre-sold book and left, even though the event was scheduled to go on for another hour.
As an author, I’ve done book signings where we didn’t sell anything, but I never packed up and left early. I never stopped trying to engage a customer. And I definitely never talked bad about the store or the town.
As a bookseller, I’ve had big-name authors in my store who didn’t get enough people to justify standing up and giving a talk. What did they do? Sit down and engage with people one-on-one. Offer to sign stock. Talk to the employees about their books. Anything but talk us down and leave early.
So, let me offer another book signing tip for authors: if you don’t get the turnout you expected, don’t bad-mouth the store and leave. Word spreads about this kind of thing.