5 Things I’ve Learned from Book Signings

by Gail Z. Martin

As you read this, I’m making appearances in a lot of book stores and conventions for the launch of my new book, Ice Forged.  I like doing signings and readings, because they’re a nice change from the very quiet, deep-in-my-own-thoughts reality of writing.

Since signings are public appearances, they’re unpredictable.  You never know what’s going to happen.  Once, my signing got cut short because the mall was closing due to a large snowstorm (this is unusual in North Carolina).  Another time, when my table was located just inside the doors of a bookstore located next to the food court of a mall, a small child threw up right next to the poster announcing my signing, which started things off on a questionable note and also blocked the entrance to the bookstore for a while. (I can attest that she hadn’t read my book, so it wasn’t a comment on my writing.)

So in no particular order of significance, here are five things I’ve learned from book signings.

1.  Unless you’ve got your own TV show, most of the people who come into the store won’t be coming just to see you.  Sad but true.  Which means you’ve got to win them over one at a time and interest them in coming to see what you’ve got to offer.  This is why I like to be at the front of the store, where I can greet people and offer them a bookmark, then introduce myself and give them a friendly pitch.  It’s not for the faint of heart—many people aren’t interested, don’t like fantasy, came looking for something else, etc. But you can’t let that get you down, and you’ve got to greet the next person with as much energy and optimism as you did the very first one.

2.  Too many people go through life in so much of a hurry that they miss out on everything around them.  I can’t count the number of people who can’t be bothered to slow down long enough to know what I’m even saying when I greet them.  I might be offering them a million dollars, but they’re in too much of a hurry to find out.  What can possibly be that urgent in a bookstore that isn’t on fire?  Some just pretend they didn’t hear me.  Others mutter, “no thank you” like I was going to spritz them with perfume.  Some even hold up a hand like I’m going to ask them for money.  This makes me sad—not because they’re not going to buy my book, but because I can guess how much of life they are missing in their hurry.  This also goes for the people so attached to their cell phones that I couldn’t have gotten their attention even if I’d waved that million dollars in their faces.

3.  Always know where the bathroom is, because a percentage of people assume you work for the store and will ask you.  I can be standing next to two huge banners with my name and book covers, next to a table covered with my books, handing out bookmarks and introducing myself as “the author who is doing the signing here today” and about 10% of people will still ask where the bathroom is, or where the children’s books are, or something.

4.  People who work in bookstores are usually really nice.  If there’s a lull in the traffic, I always try to talk to the bookstore staff.  If it’s a rainy day and the mall is quiet, I especially talk to the staff.  They usually work in bookstores because they love books.  Many of them want to be writers. They also know a lot about what readers want, and I can learn a lot from them.  Plus it’s just plain fun to talk to people who love to read.  And, never forget—many people ask booksellers for recommendations.  They’re most likely to recommend your book if you’ve been a polite guest in their store.

5.  Relax and have fun.  If you get too focused on how many books you’ve sold, you stop having fun.  I don’t count.  I just greet everyone who comes my way and try to engage them, get them to smile, and have a personal point of contact for a moment or two.  I’ve met some of the nicest people, had fun conversations, and made some long-time friends.  And I find that when I focus on just being friendly and meeting people, the time flies by, the books fly off the table, and I’m not nearly as tired when I go home because I’ve been having fun.

So the next time you’re at a signing—or you see an author who is doing a signing—smile, relax, and strike up a conversation.  A good chat about books is a wonderful part of any day!

Gail Z. Martin’s newest book, Ice Forged: Book One in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga (Orbit Books), launched in January 2013.  Gail is also the author of the Chronicles of the Necromancer series (Solaris Books) and The Fallen Kings Cycle (Orbit Books).  For more about Gail’s books and short stories, visit www.AscendantKingdoms.com. Be sure to “like” Gail’s Winter Kingdoms Facebook page, follow her on Twitter @GailZMartin, and join her for frequent discussions on Goodreads.

Read an excerpt from Ice Forged here: https://a.pgtb.me/JvGzTt

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