THAT WAY-OUT WACKY WORLD OF BOOK SIGNINGS
by Diversion Press author, Sean McHugh
Every aspiring author dreams of the day he's sitting at a table in a nice high-end bookstore surrounded by stacks of his freshly-published work while eager fans wait eagerly for his autograph.
I'm grateful to say that this dream has come true several times for my co-author and myself since the publication of our first book, “Broomsticks.” However, it's the quirkier side of book signings we remember the most...especially when we need a good laugh. So, I have conjured up a list of 5 things newer authors can look forward to as their first signing approaches.
1. EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED:
Most bookstores book children's book signings on the weekend during the day when younger shoppers are more likely to be around, but scheduling is up to the bookstore, not the author. We were booked at one very nice store on a Tuesday night during the school year just two hours before the store was to close. Not only were there no children there, but there were no customers! I'm exaggerating. We did count four adult customers during the two hours. Still, Katie gave her reading as if there were a packed house and we sat smiling at our table for the duration. The store also very kindly provided us with free coffee!
2. WEATHER PERMITTING:
Whether your signing is outdoor or indoor, weather is a major factor. Katie and I once had an outdoor signing on a bitterly cold and windy day. It was so windy, our entire display, books and all went flying higher than the magical characters in our stories. On the flipside, I had a signing on a hideously hot day in July in a church parking lot with no coverage from the sun.
3. KIDS ASK THE DARNDEST THINGS:
Kids are great! I especially love doing school visits! Always try to book your school visits on a Friday during the last hour of the school day! The kids love you for it. They're in good moods because they know they're almost out for the weekend and they know they won't be quizzed on your book. Teachers are great too! They are so organized and usually have the money for the book sales collected before you even arrive! But be prepared for some really wild questions. I don't mean the usual questions about the characters in your book. I mean questions like , “Can you imitate a goat?” and “How much do you weigh?”
4. PURCHASE FIRE INSURANCE:
One venue actually accused us of starting a fire. We didn't.
5. THE SHOW MUST GO ON, BUT TRY NOT TO SPLIT UP THE ACT:
We were booked at a reading event that had several other storytellers. One person cancelled so they told Katie(They didn't ask her. They told her) that she'd be in another room reading some other book to a group of toddlers while I read our “Broomsticks” to the older kids on the other side of the building. Needless to say, we weren't too thrilled about this but being the trooper that she is, Katie obliged. That is until she realized the book they gave her to read was about a dinosaur that ate witches! Needless to say, this was not an appropriate story for the author of a book about witches. Meanwhile, on the other side of the building, they set me up to do my reading next to an automated Halloween display with extremely loud sound effects...clapping thunder, cackling, and moaning winds. That's a tough act to follow, especially if you don't have a microphone.
As I said, expect the unexpected, but please don't let these few events turn you off of book signings. For the most part, book signings run smoothly and are very rewarding financially and personally. We've had kids come up to us dressed like the characters in our books. One library actually had a Broomsticks day with Broomsticks cookies and Broomsticks coloring pages! It's such a rewarding feeling to meet people who have been touched by your stories and your characters. It truly is a dream come true! The setting never mattered. We've had signings everywhere from church festivals to yogurt places. Whether we were at our favorite bookstore where they rolled out the red carpet for us treating us like L.Frank Baum and J.K. Rowling or having a signing at a garage sale. There's one thing that all these places had in common. They all were delighted to have us and invited us to come back when our next book comes out. (Yes, even the place that accused us of causing a fire).
And you know what?
We will. We will come back!