There’s nothing like sitting behind a table of your books watching people go by to remind you how important humility is. There’s also nothing like total strangers who have never heard of you or your book getting excited about meeting you to remind you the world’s still a pretty great place.
I didn’t mean to set up a book signing. I just happened to be in a Barnes & Noble in the area and, for kicks, checked to see if they had my book. They did. SEVENTEEN copies. Holy cow, there are major cities where seventeen copies have yet to sell much less a single store. I saw a manager and asked, “How can I help you sell these books?”
Next thing I know, I’m doing a book signing on a Sunday afternoon with, shall we say, not a whole lot of promotion. I personally put up some flyers and invited friends, but I think the store just posted it on their website and hoped for the best.
So there I was with thirty or so books arranged on a table in front of me and people smiling distractedly as they whizzed by. But I had a secret weapon. I had a plate of candy peach slices. And when you ask someone, “Would you like a peach slice?” they’ll often stop and take one. And then, to be polite, they say something like–“Is this your book?” or “Are you the author?”
Why, yes. Yes it is and yes I am. And then I’d say it was my debut novel and they’d feel sorry for me and buy a book or at least take one of my postcards and talk to me a minute. Which was good enough for me!
Over two hours I sold seventeen books. And only seven were to people I knew. A record sales day? Hardly. But I did find homes for those original books I saw on the shelf. And I also learned that people are mostly nice.
The staff at Barnes & Noble was nice. The lady who teaches creative writing and bought my book because she wanted to support a local author regardless of the subject was nice. The couple with a son who’s a WV state trooper was extra nice–we talked a long time. The gentleman who told me tales of WWII while his wife bought my book was nice. My friends and neighbors who waited to buy my book in person at full price rather than order it on-line at a discount were so nice I could have cried.
I’d heard that book signings are iffy propositions these days unless you’re really well-known. Which I am not. And while I don’t see it as a hugely effective way to sell lots of books, I wouldn’t trade those two hours spent experiencing humanity for anything.
People are the best.