Why I’m Not Especially Crazy about Book Signings

When I published my first novel in 2009, my publisher set up several book signings for me at a chain of bookstores. At the first one, in my hometown, maybe 50 or 60 people showed up. All people I knew. And that my parents knew. Most all of them bought books, and I signed them. It was kind of fun. Well, sort of.

The whole evening, I kept having this nagging feeling that the folks who’d been kind enough to show up did so only because they felt obligated. “It’s Lois’s daughter; we have to go,” I could hear someone saying to a grumbling husband in the car. I ended up feeling almost guilty about the whole thing, even though, technically, the signing was a success and the bookseller was pleased.

When I went to some of the other stores on the list, in towns where I had no friends, it was pretty much an exercise in humility. Maybe one or two people would stop at my table, out of sheer pity, but to be honest, I hadn’t felt that shunned since I was in college and a department store hired me to spray perfume on people walking in. I learned quickly that most people do NOT want a stranger to spray them with perfume. Or sign a book for them. Unless you’re a “name” author, maybe it’s just not worth it.

The same night I sat at my signing table like the lonely Maytag repair man, the book store was giving out numbers for a signing the next day. Giving out NUMBERS. For the NEXT DAY. The authors of the book in question were a married couple who hosted a cooking show on network television. People felt like they knew them. They’d spent time with them in their living rooms, in a manner of speaking. They wanted to say hi in person to someone they felt was a friend.

I accepted the reality that there are TV people with cookbooks and there are obscure people with novels.

And probably only one of those two groups should worry about book signings.

What do you think?

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