Friday, August 17, 2012

Book Signings - an author's nightmare or pleasant dream?

Last  Saturday I, along with four other authors, gave short talks on themes in stories and signed books at our local Bereans Christian Book store.  Book signings can either be very humbling for an author or very encouraging.  Most for me have been quite humbling.  I've lost count on how many book signings I've been on. In the beginning of my career, my publisher sent me all over the place, mostly throughout California, but they also sent me to Michigan for a week and then on another trip to Minnesota.   Let me tell you, those were humbling experiences. 

Most of the time, I sat behind my little table stacked with books, smiling and trying to engage passers-by in conversation, letting them know I'm an author and what my book is about etc.. And most of the time, I sat there alone while people hurried past, averting their eyes.  There must be something very frightening about authors! I kept checking myself in the mirror to make sure my make up was in place and I hadn't grown fangs!  I remember at one point after nearly two hours of sitting there drumming our fingers and eating up all of our free chocolate, Kelly Hake and I put up a sign on our table that read "Don't feed the authors"  just for fun. We still didn't get any interest!! or laughs!! What's wrong with people? Take pity on the poor, unknown authors!

Since then my publisher has discovered the futility of book signings, and they've stopped sending me. Thank God because I was starting to get a complex and probably would have needed therapy for my low self-esteem. However, every once in a while a few of us local authors get together at our Christian Book store and have a signing. So, bearing extremely low expectations, I grab my pen, my glasses (or I can't see my own signature), put on my smile, and head on over to the shop, looking forward to chatting with my author friends more than anything.

This Saturday was no different. At least it didn't start out that way. Now, mind you, we authors aren't beyond begging or bribing. We had assembled a huge gift basket with 5 free books, candles, chocolate, and lots of other goodies to be raffled off to one of the people attending. Not to mention that each of us planned on giving a free talk on how to incorporate theme into your manuscript!  Did I mention free? Where can you get five writing lessons from five well-known authors for free? You would think that would draw a crowd.
Still at half an hour after the start, we had only 1 person there.

But before you start feeling sorry for me, it wasn't a complete bust. We gathered our chairs in a circle and started our talks. Then slowly one by one, more people trickled in. One here, another there, three more (friends of one of the authors!) here, a few there.. until at the peak, we probably had about 8 or 9 people! Now, that's a crowd for a book signing.  I actually had a pretty good time. I got to chat with some really nice people, some who write and hope to get published, others who are just readers. One lady approached me carrying a copy of The Restitution and told me she first started reading my books back when my pirate series came out and she's read every one since. How cool is that?

I didn't sell a ton of books. I didn't make a name for myself in San Jose. But God was gracious as always and I had a great time with old friends and new ones. I will never complain about my life. You should have seen that deep, dark pit I was in when God reached down and pulled me out! After that, everything is gravy! I feel extremely blessed to be signing any books at all! Especially books that I have written. God is so good.

Here's a picture of the authors at the signing:  From Left to Right. Shelly Bates, Dineen Miller, ME!, Susanne Lakin, and Kristin Billerbeck.

By the way, all these author's books are fabulous!! You should check them out!   And yes, I'm short. I know I'm short. And I even had heels on!

Here's another couple shots of the actual signing.

So, what are your thoughts on Book Signings? Have you ever attended one? Do you think they are valuable? Would meeting an author be important to you?   And more importantly: DO AUTHORS FRIGHTEN YOU?    


  1. Fri Aug 17th,
    "Morning, MaryLu."
    Thanks for sharing your Saturday with us, and the wonderful photos ! I just happen to think: you're TOO cute, never mind how short or tall you are !
    As to "book signings" ... well, perhaps I'm being a tad biased -- but "if" it was you, and other Christian authors I was going to be chatting with, etc ... I'd be honoured and thrilled to be making your acquaintance "in person" !!!
    Once, I passed by a Coles Book Store in a shopping Mall ... and did not know the author all set up for a book-signing, did not know of his books, and he was sitting there looking most haughty, "unapproachable". And even when I did say something to him ... he couldn't have cared less. So with him, I felt most intimidated, unworthy, and that the entire ordeal was a completely wasted effort (on my part) !!! And yes, he rather frightened me. Had I known the reception I was going to receive from him, I wold have avoided him in the first place. I had absolutely NOTHING in common with him.
    I already mentioned on your FB page, that "if" I had lived anywhere near your book-signing ... I definitely would have come ! And yes, I believe they are valuable -- for you the authors, and, us, the public. It would have been a highlight for me, and very important to see/speak with the "lady behind the stories" ! Especially "Christian authors" ... as they would be a joy to meet, and, to feel the love of Jesus radiating from each of them.
    And because you have shared so much of yourself with us personally on your blog-sites ... most of us probably "feel like" we know you already !!!
    Yes, we are all blessed that you answered God's call on your life to be a writer ! Glad to hear that it was a good day, meaningful, and, that you enjoyed being with your "fellow authors".
    I'll say it again: Wished I could have been there too .....
    Have a great weekend.
    Take care, and, God Bless,
    In Him, Brenda Hurley

  2. I'm so glad a book signing went well for you!
    I really like book-signings and I think it is really fun to meet authors and actually talk to them. If you did one near me, I promise I'd go! LOL ;)

    I have attended a few books signings that I saw when I was just walking around a bookstore.
    And no, most authors do NOT scare me! :D

  3. Glad you had a fun time at the book store! :)

    Like the other ladies said, I would have come if we lived closer. I'd love to meet you and chat with you about writing! I'm sure the people who came out were blessed by all of you.

    I live in a small town that never has book signings, other than for local authors the odd time (whose books have never interested me). A girl I grew up with became an author, and I went to a signing that she did here in our town, but that's it.

    So, it's not a big deal to me. But again, if it's an author that I am really impressed with, and they came to visit our small town, I'd probably go. (Hint, hint ... You'd like it here - the water, the shipwrecks, the beaches, the sunsets ... LOL!!!)

    Smiles to everyone today!

  4. Well, I've never been anywhere that a book signing has happened. I've always lived in small towns. I think they can be valuable if you are an outspoken person. If not, you should never do a signing alone. You and these ladies had the right idea and I so wish I could have attended. Authors do not frighten me, they intrigue me, different stories, different backgrounds. And just look at you! Frightening? Bah! Yer a sweetheart!

  5. Brenda.. you made me blush with your cute comment. Thanks. That's too bad about that author you saw. Shame on him for acting like that. I imagine he didn't get too many people interested in his books.

    Heather, thanks. It's nice to know there are some people who aren't afraid of authors.... you'd be amazed at the people who run away from us!

    Caroline, I'm sure I would love it in your town.. I love small towns.. besides you had me at shipwrecks and beaches.

    Chaplain, I agree.. I'm not really very outgoing so I do better in a group. If I'm sitting there by myself, and no one talks to me, I feel rejected and get depressed. :-( And indeed, how could me at only 5'1" and 110 pounds (well 112 if we're counting) scare anyone!! LOL

  6. Well, you just blew my mistaken impressions! I would've thought people would be lined up to the door to meet you and your author friends! No, I've never been to a book signing, obviously because I've lived most of my adult life overseas. I'm sure you'd know better than I do, but why would they not be valuable? I think it would be very interesting to meet an author. However, since you asked...yes, I would be intimidated. Usually when you go to events like retreats and conferences, lines are a mile deep to talk to the famous speakers, so I'd never bother. I figure they're too cool to be REALLY interested in Jane Doe. But if someone is just sitting there alone...why not? I do a lot of public relations work myself, so I know what it's like to be on both sides of the table. I don't know...maybe life is too busy for superficial conversations, so unless I have something significant to say... If I ever see you somewhere, MaryLu, I'll be sure to stop by to say hello, regardless!

  7. Oh...You're not short.The rest of the women are just really tall. ;)
    I love your shirt by the way.
    Books look great. I miss book stores! I'm being deprived--I have no extra money right now.
    -Rebekkah xD

  8. I have never been to a book signing, but I am sure it would be fun to do sometime. I would be so excited if you did a book signing in my area! It doesn’t sound like that will ever happen, but a girl can certainly dream!

  9. It always astounds me to hear these stories from authors! I LOVE book signings! I would be first in line at yours! LOL I used to be a bit intimidated by authors until I met so many ACFW authors and saw how gracious you all are. No one wants to feel looked down upon, and I've been around authors who think they're "all that." But fiction authors seem to be less likely to have that tendency.

  10. Diane, LOL. No.. I've never had anyone line up to see me!! But I've also heard the same thing happens to far more popular authors than I am. It's weird, isn't it? I'm more like you.. I'm sort of nervous talking to someone famous.. I'm not including myself in that category at all!

    Thanks Rebekkah!! That's right, those other ladies are far too tall! Book stores seem to be dwindling all around us. I know of 2 that have closed just in my city.

    Emma, you never know what the future holds!

    Linda. I KNOW you would be there (with bells on!) And a huge smile! I've met some authors with an attitude too.. I never understood that. It's God who gives us talent and opportunity. And everyone has talents.. why act like you're more important than anyone else?

    Anyway, have a great weekend, ladies!

  11. I would definitely go to a book signing of yours, MaryLu! But they are not close to where I live. Otherwise I would love to meet you and buy a book and get it signed! :)
    I'm still wanting so badly to get Veil of Pearls and Central Park!!
    Have a great weekend, MaryLu!
    Happy writing!

  12. Oh MaryLu, I wish we were closer. I definitely would've come to see you. I've never been to a book signing, but would love to, especially if one of my favorite authors was featured there. It would be so much fun to be able to meet the lovely ladies whose books I read, chat with them, get pics taken, and of course, get their autograph;) Maybe I would have been a little intimidated a few years ago, but have since learned they are people just like me, and we all have one thing in common...our love for the Lord. Thank you, MaryLu, for your friendship. :)

  13. Hi MaryLu!--

    Are you kidding?! I'd be camping outside the door with the rest of the crew waiting for them to open!

    I imagine its like striking up any conversation with a for an author it would be intimidating. And if the people going by kind of feel the same way, well then it's a tough way to start things off.

    Wonder what would happen if a book trailer could be played; then folks might not feel they'd have to start off with a conversation...
    and they could find out something about the story so they could discuss it right off.

    I'd always dreamed of going to booksignings for my own stories....
    and thought I'd love to have them in museums/historic sites if the setting of my book took place in those areas. Or during some type of commemorative event; would love to just set up a table and join in!

    God bless you, MaryLu!

    p.s. Your anniversary trip looked wonderful! (did you get research in? :)

  14. Thank you, Tori!!! I would love to meet you too!

    Angi, it would be great to live closer.. I wished all the wonderful people I've met online lived near me.. I'd have a ton of friends!

    Pat.. you crack me up. Camping? LOL Playing a book trailer would be a great ice breaker... I may try that next time. But I agree with you about the museums.. This signing would have been perfect in Charleston at a plantation or one of those townhomes in the historic section of downtown.. But those locations are hard to come by. I pray you get to sign one of your own books in a museum someday!

    No, I didn't research on my trip to Jamaica.. this was strictly meant to spend time with hubby. ;-)