What if there was a booksigning and nobody came?

It’s probably happened to you, if you’re an author, yeah? You gave a booksigning and no one was there?

Happened to Sherry Jones, author of The Jewel of Medina, too. Not even multi-national controversy and the threat of terrorism can get readers to a bookstore in the rain.

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  1. 1
    Suze says:

    Ouch.  I feel bad for her.  Everybody’s first novel should appear quietly, to live or founder with relative anonymity, and only be exposed to the bright light of notoriety as a sought-after backlist item from a skilled and seasoned author.

    I don’t know that I’ve ever read a first novel that would survive close scrutiny.  The whole terrorism furor thrust a first-time novellist into way too much public attention, and her writing wasn’t strong enough to carry it.  The pain and embarrassment of this may prevent her from writing again, and that would be a shame.

  2. 2
    DS says:

    I once bought a book I had no interest in and had it signed because I felt sorry for the poor author.  Then I stayed and chatted until someone else became curious enough to come over and ask some questions.  If you have the time and money it doesn’t hurt to be kind in those circumstances.  At least stop and chat with the author a bit.

  3. 3
    Marta Acosta says:

    Ten people showed up, not “nobody.”

    Before my first novel was released, a NYT bestselling author, a guy who routinely gets hundreds of people to his signings, warned me not to take it personally if no one showed up for readings.  He’d been through it himself.

    I was the only one (besides the agent, bookstore manager and a crazy lady) at a reading by a writer who spends most of her time on the NYT bestseller list.  Her readers love her.  They don’t show up, but they buy her books.

    It happens all the time.  Sometimes it’s the weather, sometimes it’s a lack of publicity, sometimes there’s something good on t.v.

  4. 4
    SonomaLass says:

    Here was Laurel Maury writing a book review for the Los Angeles Times, calling Jones’ book “a second-rate bodice ripper or, rather, a second-rate bodice ripper-style romance (it doesn’t really have sex scenes).”

    Five-yard penalty (maybe ten), for perpetuating a nasty stereotype.  Did women’s clothing in the time of the prophet even HAVE bodices?

    I’ve been to book signings where I wished there were fewer people (Terry Prachett’s last local appearance was mobbed!), but it’s probably more awkward when it is sparsely attended.  I read a novel that had a book-signing in it, where the big fear was if enough people would show up and buy books to make the event worth having. Upon reflection, that was in Nora Roberts’ Three Sisters Island trilogy.  I remember wondering if any of the details in that part of the novel were based on La Nora’s own experience.

  5. 5

    I once drove almost two-hundred miles for a book signing that one person showed up for.  I was apparently not as large a draw as the tractor pull that was going on in town.

    It’s good for authors to have that kind of thing happen to them.  Keeps us from taking ourselves too seriously.

  6. 6
    Silver James says:

    *note to self – take books to the tractor pull and sign them there*

    Since my first will be out as an ebook and print sometime late winter/early spring, I’ll remember to bring the laptop to work while waiting.

    Like DS and Marta, I tend to stop and chat and buy books when there’s an author at the local Borders or B&N;when I’m there. And Jennifer, I would have definitely stopped and bought you coffee. Tractor pulls aren’t really that fun. *wink*

  7. 7
    ev says:

    Sometimes it’s the weather, sometimes it’s a lack of publicity, sometimes there’s something good on t.v.

    1- I live in Upstate NY- there isn’t much in the way of weather that would keep me from meeting an author I like except
    2- The publicity here always sucks. I never hear about them until AFTER the event. I wish Border’s & b&n;would send out email to those on the mailing list with a calendar. (Until one of the 2 local Border’s closed, the one I worked at never got the signings.) and
    3- That’s why I have a DVR.

  8. 8
    Miri says:

    The local newspaper reporter has written several books, all of which i’ve bought. I would have loved to know when he was signing stuff I would have shown up! B&N;and Borders need to advertise A LOT better!

  9. 9
    Emmy says:

    I’d go to a book signing, if anyone actually came here.

    Unfortunately, us Hawaii peepo gets no love from authors. It’s fun out here…really. Come do a signing. Promise to buy your books.

  10. 10

    It happens…it sucks…but most authors come to expect such things happening from time to time.

    I very much appreciate it when people stop to chat, but sometimes that doesn’t happen either.

  11. 11
    Leeann Burke says:

    I’ll be releasing and signing my first book next month. I have lined up 3 signings. Do I expect everyone to show up to all the signings? I ‘d love to say yes but it probably won’t happen. I have attended enough of other local author signings to know better.

    I’ll be happy to sell a handfull of books. Why so low? You never know who those readers are. I had an author friend who wrote erotic romances and sold just one book at one signing. She was thrilled. Why? The one reader happened to owned a “tupperware” type company for sex toys and they were looking to carry her type of books. I’ve also seen another author sell a few more books at a signing, but she heard back from one reader who happened to belong to a bookclub and they wanted to read their book and have her attend their meeting. So selling to few might be well worth.

    So for me if I sell to one or fifty at my signings I’ll be happy.

  12. 12
    Joanna Waugh says:

    Book signings are notoriously iffy propositions.  My RWA chapter used to hold a group signing every Saturday before Mother’s Day and we always had at least half a dozen regional romance authors there.  Non-participating chapter members worked the store, snagging buyers to the tables and talking about their books.  Still it was like pulling teeth.  The bookseller did ample advertising and our chapter sent out flyers, posted announcements in the newspapers etc… 

    Book signings are tough gigs.  One thing I’ve learned from watching other authors is—you can’t be shy.  And unless you’re a big name, you can’t just sit there and wait for buyers to come to you.  You have to lure them in with a free giveaway or snazzy set-up.  Once at the table, you can engage them in conversation but the hardest part is getting them there.

  13. 13
    amy lane says:

    I recently attended a group book signing—I sat between the (wonderful, fun, talented) woman who designed the Little Vampires and the (charming, amazing, blindingly gifted) man who DRAWS BUGS BUNNY for a living (and does the voices.)  I sold a couple of books.  The Little Vampire lady sold some merchandise.  Eric Goldberg (the Bugs Bunny guy) sold maybe ten books.  I sat between these two amazingly talented people and thought “Okay—if all of Sacramento can’t turn out for Bugs Bunny, I really can’t take this personally.  I mean, to quote the Producers, “Whodya gotta F—- to get a break in this town?” 

    Apparently that’s ANY town.  Good to know—like Jennifer Armintrout said, it keeps you humble.

  14. 14
    Sandy D. says:

    There’s a great story in Greg Mortensen’s “Three Cups of Tea” about him setting up umpteen folding chairs for a slide show and talk at a sports store. One person showed up (along with a couple employees) but he went ahead with his spiel. And found a check for $20,000 for his org. left on the chair when he was cleaning up.

    Not exactly the same as a book signing (though he now has the book, and I’ll bet gets tons of buyers), but what if that one buyer was a Smart Bitch or some other enormously influential blogger?

  15. 15
    Claudia says:

    Ha! If you think bookstores are tough, try Costco.  I still can’t believe it wheve I see them at my local store.

  16. 16
    LIlinda says:

    My favorite signing story goes back a few years. I found out through her web site that Mary Jo Putney was going to be at a Wall-mart opening in MD. I was in the area, found the store, and rushed in, hoping the line wasn’t crazy…….and there was no line. She, MARY JO PUTNEY, goddess author, was parked in front of a rack of Dritos, near back to school supplies. With nobody around her. My sister and I approached, got all our stuff signed, and chatted. And chatted, and chatted.  Finally another girl came, and we were all chatting- and it turned out it was Susan King, another fav, come to support her friend, and she signed stuff for us. As far as I know, no one else ever showed up. One of my best memories,  probably one of MJP worst.

  17. 17
    Kimberly B. says:

    I worked at bookstores for six years, and one of the independent stores I worked at had a lot of readings and signings.  Attendance numbers ranged from over two hundred for Gloria Steinem and also large numbers for Dick Francis (harder to count because his was only a signing, not a reading, but the lines looped around and around) to less than five.  When the crowds were particularly small, staff that was working that night would often get roped into sitting in the audience, maybe not so much to fool the author as a “crowds attract crowds” kind of thing.  I remember one poor author who had three or four old ladies attend his reading, that’s all—and they were all his aunts!  Too bad; his book was a time travel romance, as I recall, and sounded pretty good.
    On the other hand, if an author signs some stock for the store, particularly if the store has stickers or a sign to draw attention to it, it’s been my experience that people will buy it.  Maybe they were busy that night but are happy to have a chance to get a signed copy anyway, or maybe they think signed books make lovely gifts (they do!).

  18. 18
    Jules Jones says:

    Oh boy. I’ve been a part of the “bring your own audience” for more than one friend at a reading at an sf con—and that’s at a venue with a heavy concentration of people who might be expected to be fans. I’ve heard the stories from other writers I know about readings and signings where there wasn’t a single person who wasn’t already a friend of the author. And these are reasonably well known NY-published authors in their genre, people you’d expect to be a draw. A few authors will always draw huge crowds, but signings can be an ego-denting experience for even the bestseller list.

  19. 19
    Teresa says:

    Well, 10 people isn’t bad. Not great, but certainly better than none. When I lived in Ottawa, I used to go to the signings for my chapter friends – they’d be stuck at a table near the entrance to the store and many times people would be quite rude, but they soldiered on.

    Have to admit, I’m still agog that no-one showed up to MJP’s book signing!!! Can’t even imagine that.

  20. 20
    Jana Oliver says:

    I’m thrilled if anyone shows up for my book signings, especially the out-of-town ones. Every now and then you get a surprise and it makes your day. So mostly I consider signings another opportunity to intrigue readers and bookstore staff (they always like the cookies or chocolate I bring them) and it gets me OUT from behind the computer (always a plus).

    In the back of my mind I visualize Sherrilyn Kenyon’s lines and mutter to myself “Someday!” Of course, by then my handwriting will be so bad a cocker spaniel could sign my name and it would be more readable.

  21. 21
    ehren says:

    too bad it wasn’t in Austin. Wild horses wouldn’t keep me from coming to the Barnes and Noble in south Austin. >.> that and I have an excuse to browse for more books.

  22. 22
    Randi says:

    I wholeheartedly agree that Borders and B&N;need to advertise their author signings. I mean, this is a pretty simple thing to do, and if B&N;is complaining that the market downturn is affecting their sales, then they should be thinking up easy, simple, low cost measures to get ppl in the stores. Anyway, I posted elsewhere about that.

    This topic made me check the local B&N;/Borders/ and Library. Good thing I did too, as IGreg Maguire is at Philly’s downtown B&N;tonight. So, I’m going. I’m also willing to drive 4 hours to see Katherine Neville on Nov 22nd. *squee*

    race37: yes, sometimes it feels like you race 37 times before you find an author signing.

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