Flap your gums

I went to a book signing a few weeks ago. It wasn’t for the usual reasons; hearing that Antonio Banderas would be there, and this would be the perfect opportunity to pledge my undying love lust admiration for his not hunky body acting. It was the promise of a free lunch and drinks. So, ok, the secret is out; I can be had.

The author was an unknown name but was well-pubbed by a major house. We walked into the bookstore, and there she sat. In all her glory. Behind the desk. With a stack of books. Alone. Obviously bored or pissed. The candy jar was empty, and I’m willing to bet she ate them all.

“Hey,” sez me, trying to boost her spirits, “what’s your book about?”

“Faeries who take Manhattan.” [not really, I just always thought a story like that sounded like fun – and I want to protect the author.] She looked at her watch and stood up. “Thank GOD that’s over. I hate these effing signings.”

“Why?” I ask, thinking her people skills needed some refinement.

“I’ve been here for four hours and sold one book. I’m published by one of the largest publishers in the US, and I SOLD ONLY ONE BOOK.”

“Hey, tough luck,” I said, putting the book down, convinced the faeries in her book were probably hostile. My friend, who has a thing for faeries, bought a book.

So that was fun, I commented to my friend over lunch and drinks. Next time just put a fork in my eye, ok? My friend apologized.

The thing that made this day sad was how the author missed an opportunity to have some fun and spread it around. Rather than do a book event, do a BOOK EVENT – a reading – and add some spice.

Readings take more effort and planning, but they can also be a lot more successful. Successful = happy bookstore who will remember you and your book. Yah, yah, I hear you now; but, Pricey, it’s fiction, so how do we turn this into an event?

Let’s say her book really is about faeries who take over Manhattan. She could do a little intro about the what-ifs; what if faeries did take over Manhattan [and who’s to say they haven’t?], what would Manhattan look like? Would the cabbies all wear bright pink and green uniforms? Would the food carts serve faerie burgers and gnome fries? How about crime? Would criminals be turned into oxen and forced to pull tourists from Ohio? Would the world be better off with faeries running the joint?

What she’s be doing is loosening up her audience and getting them to think about alternatives – a better, cleaner, healthier way of life [assuming faeries possess these qualities], which segues into her book. She would then pick out a corresponding passage from her book.

She would then stop and throw out some more what-ifs. The cool thing about this is she’s engaging her audience, making them think, making them laugh. I’m willing to bet that she would have sold more than two books.

Look, bookstores, for the most part, hate book signings. They’re a lot of work. They order the books in advance, promote, advertise, make up fliers, and set up the signing area. After everything is said and done, they may not sell very many books. Many stores don’t do signings anymore. Some actually charge. Signings are not a matter of “If I sit here with a stack of books, they will come.” It’s more, “I will sit and eat the candy jar.” Heck, I’ve seen famous authors whose fingers were firmly planted in their noses, so a lousy event can happen to anyone. Question is, you want it to happen to you?

If you’re going to book an author signing, have something to say. Engage your audience. Ensure that you’re not talking to the wall by getting the word out to likely readers because you HAVE defined your readers, yes? Talk to book clubs, schools, retirement communities. It’s not a guarantee that anyone will show up, but I’m betting people will show up if you send out enough blasts with an enticing pitch such as: Jane Author ponders what the world would look like if it were controlled by faeries. Hey, mention that you’ll be serving faerie brownies laced with. . . ah . . . oregano.

See, the sky is the limit if you set your creativity ray gun to kill. And, as writers, we already have that in the can, right? Just because it’s fiction doesn’t mean you don’t have something to say – even if it is turning Lady Liberty into a pointy-eared faerie who’s loaded on brownies . . .

2 Responses to Flap your gums

  1. OK, I’ll add a question (or ten): what do the bookstores think about events that are more than signings? Music? Dancing bears? Magic tricks? Let’s say the author is a big ham with a big imagination, and just starts giving a talk, heck, multiple 10 minutes talks, introducing self, passing out bookmarks, walking around the store talking to herself? Acceptable? Not?[Lynn: walking around talking to yourself may get you a free ride with a snug-fitting jacket. Anything you do should be arranged in advance because you never want to get in their way. If you’re going to do talks, the store will arrange a space and chairs for you away from the main floor. Stores want proactive authors because they create interest. But always talk to the event planner first.]

    Surprise the staff and manager or arrange in advance? What say ye?

  2. B Wilson says:

    I just wondered if you’d ever encountered The Good Fairies of New York (by Martin Millar)? [Lynn: sheesh, and here I thought I was being so clever…]

    It’s not quite the takeover you describe, but it’s still pretty fun…

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