Wednesday, July 30, 2014

How to Make an Author's Day

Last night, I had my first bookstore signing in over a decade. Prior to yesterday, all of my signings for Casting the First Stone had been at Starbucks locations near my home. Each of them had been fun -- and completely different from the others.

But last night, I was stationed at a table at Bethany Beach Books on a beautiful summer evening. My husband took an evening out of his vacation to join me as I set out to say hello to everyone who entered the store, and to follow SuzyQ's advice to stand, not sit, and bring my own Sharpie.

After my second signing at Starbucks last May, I wrote a post about being the person behind the table at a book signing, and last night, as I moved from T minus 1 hour ("Why did I think this was a good idea? What on earth was I thinking??") to the end of the event ("Hey, that was fun!"), I had lots of time to think about what I wished the people on the other side of the table would do (besides buy books, of course).

So, here, inspired by my latest foray into book appearances, I present "Lisa's Suggested Etiquette at a Book Signing," a.k.a. "How to Win an Author Over (Even if you don't Buy her Book)."

Option #1 (for the faint of heart): Overcome the urge to avoid eye contact lest the author leap over the table, knock you unconscious and put a carton of books on your credit card without your knowledge. Seriously, just say hello -- or respond to the author when she does.

Option #2 (for those who are a little braver): Smile and say hello before the author does. And then keep walking, if you must.

Option #3 (for those who feel self-confident): Exercise option #2 and congratulate the author on her accomplishment. And then keep walking, if you must.

Option #4 (for those who are courageous and/or potentially interested): Greet the author (or respond to her greeting) and ask about the book. Asking does not obligate you to purchase anything, and shame on any author who makes you feel as though it does. Give the author a chance to participate in an actual conversation with an actual human and she will be grateful. Even if you don't buy a book. Your genuine interest in her book will make her night -- yes, even if you don't buy a book.

Option #5 (for those who are writers, but have no intention of buying the book) Greet the author (or respond to her greeting) and engage in a conversation about writing. Give the author a chance to participate in an actual conversation with an actual human and she will be grateful. Even if you don't buy a book. Your genuine interest in her book will make her night -- yes, even if you don't buy a book. (Yes, I know I said that already. It bears repeating).

Option #6 (for fairy godmothers, publishers with unlimited budgets and other fictional creatures): Greet the author warmly (or respond to her greeting) and shower her with lavish gifts and offers of a lifetime of publishing contracts that carry six figure advances, frequent, excessive royalty checks and a marketing team that frees her up to write more than she promotes.

I can't speak for all authors everywhere, but I'm realistic. I know that you may not want to buy my book for a variety of reasons. It's not in your budget. You don't like the genre. The storyline doesn't grab you.  Trust me when I tell you that I feel the same way about other people's books. And no sales pitch (which I hate as much as you do, by the way) is going to change your mind.

So, that's not what book events are about for me. Sure, I'd love to sell a few (dozen) copies of my novel, but if I'm going to spend a couple of hours at a bookstore doing something besides browsing and sampling the inventory, I'd like it to include pleasant conversation.

I'm happy to say that last night offered just that. Those who did not respond to my greeting and/or avoided all eye contact entirely were few and far between. Most people returned my greeting, and many appeared to visibly relax when they realized I wasn't going to launch into a high-pressure speech. Some said hello first, and a few others -- complete strangers -- congratulated me. That's always nice to hear.

But the best parts of the evening were the people who stopped to chat. The teacher from Delaware. The  man from Virginia whose wife just scored a book deal with a big NYC publisher. And, of course, my dear friend of nearly thirty years who lives in the area. Neither of the first two people bought a book, but they were fun to talk to. And now they know a little bit about a book they never heard of twenty four hours ago.

The real highlight of the evening, though, was the kids. First, two boys and a girl who looked to be about middle school age (the girl might have been younger) who decided to "go talk to the author," sharing favorite subjects (PE and gym from the boys, reading from the girl), authors (John Green) and titles (Paper Towns) with me. Then, the two thirteen-year-old girls who examined the book and asked me questions, but apologetically declared they had no money, then later returned to ask me questions about writing and to ask for my autograph. Both love to write and want to be authors.

And though it makes my husband shake his head in disbelief, that almost trumps making a sale.

Word Count Wednesday: 5044 :-)


  1. These are some fantastic tips, Lisa! And I'm so glad you had fun. :)

  2. Thanks, Cerella! I think it's hard on both sides of the table. No one wants to be pressured into buying something they don't want, especially when the person trying to sell the item is personally attached to it. And, it's no fun to be ignored and bypassed for a couple of hours either! :-)

    The signing in Rehoboth at Browseabout Books a few days later was even more fun -- lots of friendly people who were "book people" and made for a great morning.

    Thanks for reading and commenting! See you soon :-)