I had to drive to the east side of Syracuse, NY last week for my first book signing in a Barnes & Noble store, and the clock was ticking. I left ‘way ahead of time for the event, but an unexpected traffic circle threw me off course. Now I was cutting it too close.
I started to feel the stress building. Late for my own signing? NO! Then I thought: Calm down. It’s not like there’s going to be a line of people waiting.
I made it just in time. And there wasn’t a line.
In fact, it turned out to be the slowest night the staff had seen for store traffic. They kept apologizing for the quiet, as they passed by.
But you know what? I was happy. I was in a bookstore with my stack of novels featured. I was in a Barnes & Noble bookstore! My publisher was there, and there was a big sign at the door announcing that I was there. The B&N manager got me a big cup of ice and a Diet Pepsi from the cafe. It’s the little things.
And I did have one reader waiting! We had a fun conversation, and I signed her copy.
One book sold.
Then another lady came along. She stopped to look at the book display. “This isn’t a book for teenagers, is it?” she asked.
No I told her. It’s actually women’s fiction… She asked me a couple of questions and picked up the book to read the back cover description.
“I like the cover,” she said. “I think I’ll buy it.”
Two books sold.
Crickets chirped for a while. (Not really, but you get the idea.) Merge Publishing’s Don Stevens handed out WYDKN postcards. We greeted everyone within smiling distance. Don was upset that there was so little traffic that night. He’d done everything right to promote the signing and got nice publicity.
But I’m an unknown novelist at this point, and this is my debut novel. So you do what you can do, and hope for the best. It was January — in Syracuse.
Luckily — I have a secret weapon. I love talking to people. I’m very good at it.
Then the best thing happened. Two young readers came along, out shopping with their dad. Audrey and Ben — about 9 and 10 years old. They approached the table like two little deer, kind of fascinated but shy. “This isn’t for kids, is it?” they said.
No, it’s for more like your mom’s age, I explained.
But you’re the author?
And we were off and running. Audrey and Ben are big readers. They like chapters books. Ben likes mostly fantasy, like Harry Potter. Sometimes authors come to their school and talk. How long did it take to write my book? Where do I get my ideas? Is it my first book? They had lots of questions! They were so bright and smart and sweet — and interested!
“I want to be an author when I grow up,” Audrey said. She loves to write at school.
That’s awesome! I told her. (A little writer in the making!! Yes!) Keep reading! Keep writing!
I gave them two postcards for the book. “Would you sign them?” they asked. (Absolutely! Anything I can do to keep these young arts lovers encouraged!)
Their dad came along and joined the conversation. What You Don’t Know Now went home for their mom.
And finally, there was Chad. Chad, Don and I had a long and fascinating talk about writing and publishing. Chad was not a guy I’d think would be in my audience. He was more a type I’d create as a romantic character. He looked like he might be someone from Syracuse U, or a law firm. Or famous. But our conversation struck a chord with him — and he bought a book.
By then, it was time to pack up. My books (some of them) would be staying on at the Barnes & Noble, on the shelf.
I went to the ladies room before we all left for home, and as I walked back to the front of the store, I wove my way through the shelves and shelves lined with thousands of books.
Thousands of books… But mine is among them now, at that store [and on Nook]. I got to talk with two kids into the arts. I had great conversations with such interesting and nice people. Complete strangers, who decided to take a chance on my novel.
Four books sold at Barnes & Noble. A dream come true. It was an excellent night.
Next book signing: February 10th, 2015 at Barnes & Noble Pittsford/RochesterNY.