In my pre-publication days, if I ever imagined having a book signing, it included images like people actually wanting to buy my book and have me sign it. Maybe (if I was getting really deep into the fantasy) a line of people.
Of course, reality crashes down after publication, and you realize that unless your book is about teenage wizards or vampires, you won't have a long line. Or any line. And you'll be lucky to sell more than one that your mom came to buy to support you.
You do book signings anyway to show your publisher you're committed to promoting yourself. You chat with the employees and get to know them. You try to meet customers, and when they pay you the slightest attention, you try to encapsulate your book into about five seconds, because that's as long as they're going to give you before moving on.
And that's if you're lucky enough to get someone to make eye contact, because as people walk in the door, they instinctively look away from the lonely author as if she has a contagious disease. Whatever path they were taking through the store, they now make sure to veer away from your table.
The experience is less than glamorous or ego-stroking.
I've done so many book signings that I've lost track of the number. It's got to be close to a hundred over the five and a half years I've been doing this. In that time, I've gotten a thick skin. If I don't sell any books, that's okay.
I've also managed to break out of my shy bubble so I can talk to perfect strangers and give them a very brief spiel. Then I walk away so they don't feel any used-car salesman pressure. It's a delight if they decide to come find me at the table and buy a book.
As for the chair at the table, forget it. Unless I'm actually signing a book (and sometimes not even then), I don't bother sitting. I'm up and around and talking to people.
While signings are still not in my top ten list of fun things to do (in fact, they're exhausting; it's tough to keep yourself "on" and smiling and cheerful and energetic for long spells), I've started experiencing a few new things in my most recent ones.
When I tell people about my books, I always mention the three old Utah temples they're about. At least once at every signing, and often more frequently, I invariably get asked, "What about Manti?"
Out of the four old temples, that one is glaringly absent, of course. It's great to be able to say, "That's next."
Then I get a response like, "Oh, good. Because that's my temple."
I'm amazed at how many people have a personal connection to one of these sacred buildings, how they are drawn to a specific one and cherish it. Many times people have bought one book or the other specifically because they grew up in Logan or their daughter went to school in southern Utah and loves the St. George temple or they were married in the Salt Lake temple.
I embarked on this entire series because of my personal love of the Logan temple. It's my temple. I was married there. So on one hand, I shouldn't be that surprised; I just didn't anticipate the intense reaction.
The second unexpected thing to happen this fall is something that turned out to be ego-stroking after all. (Who knew that was possible with a book signing?) Sometimes when I've talked to a customer about my books, they say the unthinkable:
"Oh, I have all your books. I love them."
Excuse me, wha-ha?
I'm so used to introducing myself and my work to people that it's completely bizarre to have reached the point where anyone has actually heard of me. Some have read my books multiple times.
More than once I've had to stop myself from saying, "Really? Are you serious?" and instead grin and say, "Thank you so much," with my mind spinning.
Such moments are still few and far between, but they happen just often enough now to keep me plugging along, seeing that hey, I'm making real progress, inch by inch.
And if you've been keeping track of my manuscript progress, I'm about a week away from submitting the Manti book!
~~~ Know of a sale I missed? Let me know in the comments! ~~~ The Book Thief , by Markus Zusak It is 1939. Nazi Germany....
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