Monday, September 26, 2011

Are book signings dead?

You hear a lot of people, including booksellers, say that the traditional signing is dead, unless maybe you're Jimmy Carter or someone equally famous. I remember when he signed in Fort Worth and there were crowds around the block waiting in line. But like all authors I've had plenty of experience sitting at a table watching people walk by while studiously avoiding eye contact. I remember once sharing a signing table with a western writer who would shout out to people, "Hey, you there, you're wearing blue jeans. I bet you read westerns." I considered crawling under the table.
But let me tell you about a couple of wildly successful (in my terms) signings I had this weekend. My mystery, Skeleton in a Dead Space, hot off the press, is set in a well-known neighborhood in Fort Worth. Many residents of Fairmount patronize the Old Neighborhood Grill frequently, as do I, and the Grill is mentioned often in the novel.One press considering my novel said I had to get written permission from the owner of any business mentioned--gosh, glad I didn't end up there--but I mentioned that to Peter, owner of the Grill, and he jokingly signed his name in the air. But when I told him that the novel really was going to be published, by Turquoise Morning Press, he said, "You know, we've had some successful signings here." And so it was a done deal. Peter would provide the space; everything else was up to me. Since I'm with a small publisher, I had to buy the books (at discount, of course). I sent email invitations to a long list of people, I got a cash bank, and I prepared to handle the sales--actually my granddaughter and daughter did that for me.
I had a most unusual signing Saturday: seven o'clock in the morning. But Peter said  he had a lot of readers who come in early on Saturday morning with their books. So at seven my oldest son, two of my granddaughers, and I were at the Grill. Colin had gone out really early that morning and bought a beautiful bouquet, which drew attention to the table. A bit later my other son, my daughter and her husband, and two more grandchildren drifted in. It became a family party, which was great--the kids greeted some people they'd known all their lives and I got to introduce them to some who'd heard me talk about them a lot but never met them.
It's hard to get book publicity in the local paper, but that morning they published a nice feature on the bottom of the front page of the Living & Lifestyle section. Several people came because they had read the paper; some regulars at the grill bought books to take home to their wives; some people I'd never seen bought books because they saw the display. And many of my friends came. By ten o'clock, I had sold twenty-five books, and we wrapped it up.
Peter and I agreed that two signings would be good, the second Monday evening at 5:30. I didn't expect it to be as busy as Saturday morning but Jordan hustled me out the door to get there early--and there was a crowd waiting. For almost an hour, I signed books frantically, people stood in line--lots of friends, several people I'd never met before, a few from groups I'm scheduled to speak to. It was absolutely amazing. By a little before 8:00 I sold the last book I had--holding one back for myself. Between the two signings and a few independent sales, I sold 75 books if my math adds up right, and I think it does.
The Grill was a perfect place--people could come, get their book, and leave, or, as many did, come and stay to order a meal. Some were Grill regulars but others were new to the place I'm sure. So it benefited Peter--he picked up some new customers, drew some people in for meals--and it certainly benefited me.  Not every author may be so lucky as to have a good relationship with a local cafe, but this worked for me.
And it didn't turn off the local booksellers. I talked to the CMR at our nearby Barnes & Noble today, and he confessed he forgot about our conversation until he saw a small ad I took in the neighborhood newspaper about the signings at the Grill. Now he's looking into a signing at B&N. And tonight one woman said her book group in the Fairmount neighborhood is interested in reading it. I asked if they'd like me to come talk, and she was amazed. "Would you?" I assured her I'd love to and she took down my contact information. It's all like ripples spreading in a pond.

16 comments:

Janie Emaus said...

That is quite impressive! Thanks for sharing.

Lynn Romaine said...

Good job - that's encouraging. Small town places are great! I am doing a signing at a coffee house opening in Cincinnati in a month or so - hope to have your success.

Maddie James said...

Judy, so proud of you! I'm so glad Skeleton in a Dead Space sold out! You've done a lot of hard work, but what a great twist on a signing to connect to the setting in your book. Kudos to you!

Judy Alter said...

Lynn, Fort Worth isn't a small town, but the neighborhood feel is strong and that's what worked for these signings. Good luck to you. Janie and Maddie, thanks for liking my blog and seeing the link between signing and setting. It really was all fun.

Pretty as the Morning said...

Congrats! What a lovely success! I love it when local business and local artists pair up--it's always so good for both and for the community!

Loralee said...

What an absolutely wonderful event you had, Judy. High fives on selling so many books. Wishing you continued success.

Ciara said...

I'm so happy for you. What a great success you've had with book signings. Thanks for sharing this with us. :)

Babette Fraser Hale said...

This is so heartening. I'm very happy for you. Signings are a great tool for selling books, still.

Shanon Grey said...

What a great post! Congratulations! I think living in a small town opens up many opportunities, from ideas to signings. Here to many, many more.

Jennifer Johnson said...

Way to go, Judy!

tessgrant said...

Congrats, Judy! This sounds like both a great time and a successful signing.

Judy Alter said...

Thanks to all for sharing my excitement. I was still pinching myself this morning when I made a bank deposit!

Christina Wolfer said...

Way to go, Judy. What a wonderful success story.

Christina Wolfer said...

Way to go, Judy. What a wonderful success story.

Kaye George said...

Wow, what a coup! The man is very generous to lend you the space. You struck gold and you totally deserve it!

Norma Huss said...

Oh, Wow! Fantastic!

You are an inspiration!