Thursday, September 29, 2016

What’s in a book signing for a mid-lister?

Book signings are tough and getting tougher, according to most bookstore owners I meet. Attendance is down, people are ordering online more and more, and the entire proposition is risky for the store (especially the independent stores) who face returning unsold books at the conclusion of the event.

This summer and fall, I did several signings/readings/book talks at various locations in New England. Some at chains, some at independent stores. I continue to be amazed by the spirit of the inde booksellers. Here is Western Massachusetts, I have several indes, including World Eye Bookshop, in Greenfield, Mass., which has been around for 40-plus years, and Mystery on Main Street in Brattleboro, Vt., a place I go to ask for “a mystery I can’t find anywhere else.” The recommendations are always excellent.

Price, Hilary. "Rhymes with Orange." Greenfield Recorder, p. C4. Sept. 28, 2016.

My 7-year-old, the real Keeley

This weekend, I signed at World Eye. A handful of people walked through the front door, and it got me thinking about what’s in a signing for the mid-lister?

At a slow event, most sales are what I call “hard-earned, hand sales.” This means I’ve chatted up anyone walking through the front door (standard pick-up line, “Hi, you like mysteries? I’ve written a trilogy featuring a single-mother and border patrol agent.”) or walked the aisles handing out bookmarks. This past weekend, at a 90-minute event, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I had to scrape for every sale.

Until Lynda Mayo arrived.

Lynda is why people like me (a mid-lister) do signings. Yes, I know I do them to meet store owners and, more importantly, readers, and to spread the gospel of my protagonist Peyton Cote. But when you’re hand-selling each and every book to people who thought they came in to buy a New York Times bestseller, a loyal reader like Lynda makes your day.

She arrived with a huge smile on her face, told her husband, “This was the book I spent all day reading.” We talked about Peyton Cote, each book in the series, secondary characters, and as she continued to rave two other people overheard her, approached, and bought books (who needs plants, when you have Lynda?). Our conversation was so great I forgot to get a picture with her.

It’s not about book sales, not for the mid-lister. It’s about enjoying the process -- of writing, of editing, even of fighting with the blank page; and it's about enjoying the promotional process, including the challenge of the “hard-earned hand sale.”

And readers like Lynda make your day once in awhile.

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