Book signings. Yuck. The mere thought is enough to send shivers down the spine of those of us who have sat behind a table of books, smiling vapidly as we pray that someone, anyone, will come talk to us.

Book signing is a lot of legwork, networking, interviewing, and basically lowering yourself into the free world for little to no apparent reward. Before a recent author event, I did radio interviews and was featured in two local newspapers. The library where I was going to sign and read my book bought radio ads for the event. Even after all that, the response was woefully low.

In a depressed and despondent state, I prepared myself for another book signing event in another secluded location. A forty-five minute drive with gas prices hovering around three dollars a gallon to sell a couple of books.

I know what you’re thinking. Book signings are for the reader, not the writer. It’s about networking. I realize that. But the cold hard facts are that ever since I got published, I’ve been having a really hard time finding time to do what I’m paid (hmm) to do…write. Anyway, I put on a happy face, loaded up the minivan, and headed out.

A sixth grader puts me at the door of the library. “Are you the writer?” he asked. He held the door open while my husband and I carried our boxes, one with books, into the other; flyers, a door prize, markers, a signature pad, and all my writing paraphernalia. As I was setting the table, preparing for a lousy turnout at this unusual little branch library, a young man walked in. He turned out to be from the local paper, his presence requested by the librarian. He interviewed me before the signing and then came out. I ran through my spiel for six people, one of whom was my mother.

“Why am I doing this?” I wondered after selling five books, barely enough to replace the gas in my tank.

But it’s about networking.

And the boy who puts me at the door? Turns out I have a fan besides my mom. He had been waiting to meet me all afternoon. He didn’t have money for a book, but he asked if I would autograph a photo and an event flyer from the author that he paid a quarter to print from the library’s computer.

So why am I doing this? An entire night where I ended up selling five books?

It turned out that a sixth grader treated me more than well that night. The following week, my interview appeared on the front page of three different newspapers in neighboring counties. My next reading/signing more than doubled attendance and books sold.

Mind you, readings and signings are never as exciting as they seem on TV. It’s a lot of driving, a lot of talking, and little external reward. But is fun. I know honest, helpful and friendly people. And my offer to autograph a copy of one of my books hasn’t been turned down yet.

Don’t go to a reading/book signing expecting to sell a bunch of books. Come prepared to talk to a few people, make some friends, and hopefully leave them happy that they left the comfort of their homes to listen to you speak for thirty minutes. They will appreciate it. Your local library will appreciate it. At the very least, your partner will enjoy the chance to show you off.

Relax. Have fun. Unless he is a professional athlete or a former president, he will take a lot of time and more hard work than you expected. But your book is worth it. Your message will go out, one reader at a time. Be patient. It may not be easier, but someday a sixth grader may ask you for an autograph and it will be worth all the effort.

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