Sunday, October 28, 2012

Author Authorly and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Book Signing (that turned out all right)

I had my debut book signing yesterday. I learned few things. Here's the obligatory blog post :P

My book officially "came out" on Sept 1st, 2012 and a book signing was scheduled for October 27th. I was excited and ready to barrel ahead and take over the world. I ordered postcards and author copies and rack cards and other such Authorly Behavior. I figured I would get a story in the paper and hand out all my postcards plenty early. I thought maybe I would even take a day or two off work the week before and do nothing but write on my current project, just to celebrate. But when the time finally rolled around, it was clear the master plan was straying from my carefully drawn lines.

About two weeks before, a library co-worker asked what I had to set up on my tables and how long I would need before. I stopped. I thought. Set up? I had books. Books and pens. Surely that's all I would need for a book signing. They were going to have food. I just needed the books, right? Well, it was suggested that maybe I get some antiques to put around or some reenacting gear, since it is an historical fiction. A table cloth might be nice too. All right.

I haven't reenacted in over 5 years and I gave away everything antiquey when I moved, so I was sure I was out of luck. Still, I went home and rummaged through the closets thinking perhaps I'd left a victrola or something somewhere and forgotten about it. Nope. But I still had time. I'd figure it out later.

Awhile before this I asked the newspaper for a story. They said no because I was self-published. (Even though I know of other self-published authors and bands that had independently recorded their albums having had stories in the paper. Maybe they were just as stubborn as I was.) At any rate, since it was a community event, sponsored by the library, I got an interview. I hoped the story would be out at least a week before the signing.

The week of my book signing arrived and when I went to sign a day off I was offered more hours. Being the starving artist I am I couldn't say no, so I just figured I'd work a lot and have my book signing as a reward. No problem.

Yes, problem.

Monday night I woke up ill. Not just ill. Beloved coming back from the dead crawling up out of the river ill. I had 8 hours scheduled Tuesday and I almost cried when I called in sick since I had taken Saturday off for my book signing. So I wallowed in despair under the covers and dragged myself out Wednesday.

It was then I checked around and found that no story had been published yet in the paper. I would have to wait until Friday, the day before the event. I also realized I only had two days to find display pieces for my table. Panic set in.

Thursday night I was emailed a proof of the story that would run in the paper. Sure it would be a day before, but at least it was in. No problem.

Yes… Problem.

There was some incorrect information about my freelance work, my protagonists name was spelled wrong and I was quoted as having used "Creative Space" to publish my book. I immediately called the editor and asked if changes could be made. No, it had already gone to print. But a correction could be put in at a later date.

I was upset but even I knew I was being somewhat petty. I mean, what would the headline read? Author Angry that Name of Person She Made Up Spelled Wrong. No, no correction. At least the date and time of the signing was correct.

So, I was still sick the day before and at work someone at the grocery asked if I was excited about the big book signing. "Oh," I said, "Honestly I'll be happy when it's over."

He then told me that was a sad attitude to have and I couldn't possibly expect people to pay money for something I wasn't even proud of.

Well, I wanted to go on a longwinded explanation that I was high as a kite on meds, had been misquoted in the only press about the book, and still didn't even have a table cloth. Not to mention I had gone from typing 700 words a day on my current project to 0 words a day in a stagnant pool of literary doom. But I was losing my voice so I shortened it to something like, "Here are your bananas, have a nice day."

I went on break and took more pills and stewed over the comment. Then I decided he was right. There was nothing I could do about the newspaper article, but I should definitely take some action to show pride in the book and the signing. I began picking every crevice of my brain for interesting, fall or history themed items to spice up my table. In a fit of medicinal desperation I bought the only thing I could think of at the grocery: a basketful of decorative gourds.

When I got them home I laid out the bumpy alien monstrosities over the coffee table and had a nervous breakdown. GOURDS? What was I thinking? I went to take a nap and recollect my thoughts, but the best I got was gluing googly eyes on one and setting it on my table in front of my books. Then I would sneak off into a corner with cookies and a bottle of peach schnapps and have an enjoyable time. Then maybe if Author Gourd said anything, people would listen close enough to get its quotes right.

Upset that I was actually wanting to send a googly-eyed gourd in my place to my first ever book signing I placed a text to fellow local author Laurie Hartman who I have worked with at events and always has a spectacular table. I asked to borrow some book stands. She texted back that indeed I could and she'd bring some antiquey things to set around. Hallelujah! I collapsed in a heap of neurosis for the night.

I got up on Saturday and didn't have to take medicine. Good sign. And then my husband surprised me with an electric blanket that I've been wanting for awhile. (Best husband ever, I would like readers to know).

I luckily had the foresight to make a list and unlike every other big event in my life (graduations, wedding) I didn't forget anything! And Laurie swooped in with her gear and she and my family set up a beautiful display while I was helping/pacing around like a maniac/playing with gourds.

The signing itself went well. I sold 11 books off the table and several people that came in had already bought books. In all I'd say I signed between 25-30 books. My voice held out for a reading and some people pleasantly surprised me by having had already read the book! One or two also commented on the newspaper article, so all was not lost on that.
Most of my RSVP's didn't show up, which wasn't much of a surprise since A) they were mostly on Facebook and B) 1/3 of the RSVP's to my wedding a few years ago didn't show so I was prepared. People get sick, things come up, and some people may have just not planned to come anyway. So my best advice is to plan for the RSVP'd people but don't be too sad if they don't show up.
Also, after some postings on Facebook I got some requests from both friends and through my email to order a book after the signing, so don't think that you won't sell after the signing's over.

I will definitely want to promote more beforehand for my next book, in more creative ways and at more places. I was happy with the turnout especially as busy as I have been and that I did not promote as much as I could.

The experience cemented the fact that I will have to build on events and get creative with promotions. Also that it takes more than gourds and I'm lucky to have a great support system of family, friends and readers.

I am starting out small but mighty, and I can't wait for the next step.

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