I had the pleasure of experiencing my first book signing recently at the Barnes & Noble in Palm Desert, California. It was, in all ways, a positive learning experience.
Barnes & Noble allows and deftly facilitates signings for ‘independent’ authors. Theoretically, it’s a win-win for both parties; the writer gets exposure, and hopefully they bring customers in the door for the host.
When I asked Mike, the genial employee who set up the event, for advice on how best to maximize the experience for all, he said something like, “Create a relationship with the customers – it’s all about that.” I could do that, I reasoned. I have great social skills.
But when I found myself standing by the front door with my banner on the adjacent table, books piled high, postcards at the ready, I suddenly felt like a lady at Costco trying to talk passersby into a small container of cold, wilted spinach. It was like my first junior high dance or the time I went to a job interview with a Tampax peeking out of my nice linen jacket (really). “Creating a relationship” suddenly didn’t seem so easy.
After many cheery (and often rehearsed, as per advice online), “Hi! Interested in a book that will make you laugh about getting older?” and hearing “No thanks, I’ve laughed enough about that,” I had to reassess. I decided that being phony (I am never that cheery) was a lose/lose for everyone. How could I be genuine, do my job, and connect? I decided, rather than instantly project myself, to pay attention to the humans walking in the door.
If someone smiled and expressed visual openness, I smiled back. Crazily, often that person would move a few inches forward and I could initiate a conversation. My large and declarative banner read, “The appalling, unexpected and glorious consequences of being an aging Baby Boom” turned out to be a pretty good conversation starter. Several times, it was a man who read it and became curious. Inevitably, their wife was somewhere in the store. I had no problem convincing them to bring their spouse back for a purchase because I knew they would love the book – I’ve had enough great feedback from Baby Boomer women to feel confident in that regard.
It turned out, the success of the event was a direct result of a few friends who’d read the book buying copies for their girlfriends (a now common occurrence) and many strangers stopping by, getting curious and buying books. One woman purchased a copy for five siblings, women and men. I did wonder what her brothers would think about the chapter about coconut oil as a vaginal lubricant, but also happen to know that men find the book most informative. Another lady said it looked like a ‘perfect airplane book’ and was going to read it on her flight from Palm Springs to New York. I spoke to Laura, a gorgeous fifty- year-old woman from London, who clearly needs to allow herself to be a writer. We had a great conversation about our shared short attention spans not preventing us from being productive. Laura, I am expecting a report from you this August on how the twenty minutes a day works. A colorful fellow, Andre, a fellow independent, chatted about his own experiences and offered great advice.
Ultimately, I met a lot of wonderful, interesting and open-minded potential readers who were willing to take a chance on my book. I also fully appreciated the friends who took the time in the middle of a hot Saturday afternoon to support my efforts. The guys at Barnes & Noble were patient and delightful. Sales were impressive and the event, from the store’s and my perspective, was a success.
I may or may not have other book signings. I hope so. It’s a chance to stretch myself, meet new people, and promote an endeavor I believe in. I got lucky, had a great time, and was reminded that being genuine is always the best path.