When you’re a writer, one of the most dreadful experiences you can inflict upon yourself is the author signing at a bookstore. The fantasy--which does come true once in a while--is to get mobbed by fans. However, for most of us ink-stained wretches, the reality is that we’re assigned a couple of hours to sit at a table, and nothing happens. The store announces that they’re pleased to have--insert your name here--author of--insert title here--signing that day. That message is actually code for, “Avoid the person sitting at the table.”
That writer becomes one of the most pathetic creatures in existence. A mangy, starving dog gets more admiration. People avoid eye contact and stay clear of the writer as if he or she had the most contagious cooties imaginable. It’s an exercise in damnable humiliation.
This weekend I signed at two Borders stores with Shari Cuadron
, author “Who Are You People,” and William Haywood Henderson
, author of “Augusta Locke.” At both stores we had a row of tables near the front and our books propped on stands. Here we go.
People who come into bookstores are almost as introverted as writers. If we all stayed in our comfort zones, readers and authors, none of us would meet each other and none of our books would be sold.
I knew the readers wouldn’t come to us so I came to them. I guarded the entrance and greeted everyone who came in. “Hi, welcome to Borders. I’m today’s guest author...” and segued into my spiel. I referred the readers to Shari and William.
We didn’t sell a lot of books, but we did sell. Rather than sit at our tables and lament the situation, we engaged a lot of people and time passed more pleasantly.
If you want to sell your books, you have to get out of your comfort zone. Whether it’s to an agent, an editor, or the individual reader, you’ve got to be ready to look them in the eyes and say, “Hi, I’m so-and-so and this is my book.”