Monday, April 14, 2008

Book Signing Survival Guide

Robin and I recently did a book signing together in a town where we knew absolutely NO ONE. We were parked at a table smack right in front of the main entry way, so incoming customers had three choices: 1) vault over the top of us; 2) veer sharply left or right as if we had the bubonic plague; 3) stop and look at our books. For the introverted customers, it was a bit of a nightmare. You could read it on their panicked faces as they came in and struggled with the dilemma of US.

If Robin or I had been at the table alone, it would have been mortifying all around. We've talked here previously about how helpful the buddy system is. This was a prime example. Nearly the first question I ask when I'm asked to do a book signing, if she is not already on the docket--"Can my cool author friend RL LaFevers come sign with me?" They always are thrilled to accomodate.

And, if you're not already convinced, here are Seven and a Half More Reasons to Do Book Signings with a Buddy:

1. You have someone to talk to when you don't have a customer. It is truly an uncomfortable feeling to be sitting at a table in a bookstore all by yourself. * Everyone is trying very hard not to make eye contact with you. I start having very vivid flashbacks of my 8th grade graduation dance.

2) If someone picks up your book and says, "Is it any good?" (people say the darndest things), your tablemate can wax poetic about it while you get very busy straightening your stack of postcards that have suddenly gone amuck.

3) You have someone to cover you when you go off to powder your nose or hunt for a Diet Coke. Potential customers won't think the book signing is over.

4) Is there anything better in the world sitting next to an author in a real live bookstore surrounded by books? The two of you can chat about all the ones you want to read!

5) You bring in more revenue for the store with two authors, and you'll leave the store manager/owner with a warm glowy cha-ching feeling about you, when maybe it was your tablemate that sold all the books.

6) You can compare giveaway schwag with each other. Find out where to order the coolest pencils, best postcards, try the newest flavor of Hershey chocolates, in case one of you always brings chocolates.

7.) After doing several signings together, Robin and I have concluded that we appear much more approachable as two authors. We don't look as needy or scary to parents or children. (IOHO)

7.5.) Can I just tell you again how helpful it is to have someone cover for you when you need to use the facilities?

If you are getting ready to do your first signing and you don't yet have a buddy, or are doing your 88th signing and still don't have a buddy, Robin and I are available for hire. If you live more than 60 miles from Santa Barbara, please send airfare. And we neither of us would argue with a little stipend, and oh, maybe a tiny clothing allowance-- and if you really must, fresh chocolate chip cookies are always so lovely. Robin will take lemon bars. (Kidding!)

Later, Innies--

*Stay tuned for an upcoming post entitled How to Survive a Book Signing When You're Alone. There are some excellent tricks for making it easier.


Anonymous said...

I've got to get myself a signing buddy! You make the argument watertight!

R.L. LaFevers said...

Yes! Yes! Yes! (Wait a minute. I was supposed to be practicing my no's. Oops.) Every word of Mary's post is TRUE (especially the part about me preferring lemon bars.) In fact, I'm not sure if I could ever do a solo book signing again. I'm telling you, having a signing buddy is key.

Terry P. said...

Oh my, Mary--I am so looking forward to your upcoming post on doing a signing alone (I've got some out of state signings set up for this summer). I love your buddy-plan, but have never done a signing with a friend. Let's see, I know I have friends who are authors--why haven't I done this before???

Terry P.

Shari Green said...

LOVE the picture on this post -- that could be me if (when?) I ever have to do a signing. I'll definitely seek out a buddy author when the time comes. :)

Mary Hershey said...

Hi, Terry! Not to worry-- we'll get you all squared away. :-) When is your first signing? I'll make sure that I do the entry on solo flights before then.

Hi, Alex! ;-)

Hey, Miss Shari. Yeah, know what you mean. Peeking over the top or out from UNDER!

Fun to hear from all of you. Hmmm, I'm wondering if we should post a Find a Buddy link here somewhere so we can get some Violets hooked up!

Later, friends,
Mary Hershey

Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

I've been away and am catching up on my blog reading. Here's what I have to say about the Find a Buddy link: YES!

Katia said...

Hello, Mary, great post. I'm still catching up with all the posts. And I also think a Find a Buddy Link would be a great idea. Now, I have a question : do you feel that biddies at a reading should have books on similar themes, or genres? For instance, my picture book coming out at the end of the month is a multicultural story with a literacy theme and is set in Nigeria. In your opinion, would it make more sense to have a buddy presenting a book with approximately similar issues, or does it not matter at all? Could be kind of hard if your buddy has a funny, glittery thing that attracts all the kids, and same kids barely look at your book because the theme is a little more "serious." Or am I splitting hair in four, as I'm know to do ???

Katia said...

I meant buddies, not biddies !!! ;)

Mary Hershey said...

Hi, Katia--

This is a great question, and in my opinion, it doesn't matter! The whole point is to make YOU more comfortable, and so what matters, is having someone you enjoy being with.

That said, if the idea of sitting next to Glittery Author makes you worried and nervous that s/he'll take all the business, then don't do it.

Though, for my two cents, I'd rather sit with someone selling a lot of books than sit alone. It still gives you a chance to say 'hi" to the kids. I try to de-emphasize the SALE piece of this, and emphasize CONNECTIONS. I think it creates a different feel at your table.

Hope that helps!
Keep us posted, Katia--

Mary Hershey

Katia said...

Thank you, Mary. You know, as everything in life, I'm starting to feel that this new experience is meant to broaden my outlook on things and... help me see the big picture a little better - funny how it all goes back to writing. I believe you are totally right, and actually, since I posted my comment, I've been thinking along the same lines. Yes, what matters is to make a connexion, even if it's only one. Someone posted something about Paula Danziger having only one person turn out at a reading, and how generous and gracious she was about it all. I guess I can learn from that, too. Thank you so much, again, for this blog and all the wonderful, thought provoking posts. Truly.