My first book signing was in 1984 in front of a Walden’s Books in a Harford County (Maryland) mall. I sat behind a table with my book What’s Special About Our Stepfamily? piled in front of me. This local signing had been arranged by Doubleday, the publisher of my book.
Note from Wikipedia…In 1988, Doubleday became part of the Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, which in turn became a division of Random House in 1998. In late 2008 and early 2009, the Doubleday imprint was merged with Knopf Publishing Group to form the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
In 1984 Doubleday had given me a $10K advance, and I was happy to do any marketing they arranged. That was back when there were more than six publishing houses and they actually paid you to write a book and you didn’t have to earn it back against royalties. It was also a time when publishers had marketing divisions which arranged book tours, etc.
I was really looking forward to chatting with people and telling them about how the book came to be. Stepfamilies weren’t openly talked about then. People sometimes called them blended families. I wasn’t a blended mother, I was a stepmother and it was often a struggle. It wasn’t any easier for stepkids which is why I’d written the book. I just knew it was going to be a big seller!
So there I sat. As the mall filled, more and more people walked past my table. I smiled, trying to engage, but they put their heads down and kept walking. Seriously, they wouldn’t even make eye contact. This went on for four hours. No one said hello, let alone bought a book. It was a lesson in humility and dashed expectations for this introverted writer.
Fast forward almost thirty years to last December when friend and fellow writer, Brent Lewis, arranged for a book signing at Bridges Restaurant on Kent Island. There were five others signing and selling books: Brent Lewis, Kenton Kilgore, Jerry Sweeney, Robert Bidinotto, and Laura Ambler.
The stepfamily book had long since gone to the shredders (another humiliating story) but I had my two romantic suspense novels piled in front of me. Laura was at my side and she had the children’s books for which she had done the illustrations. We didn’t have our joint YA novel, Big Skye Ranch, because it’s an ebook.
Bridges is a restaurant with a lively bar. This is where the book sale tables were set up. I was drinking Coke, the high octane stuff with caffeine and sugar. For me, that seemed a better option than wine. A couple of glasses and I become a chuckle-head who falls asleep. But even without wine I can be a klutz so it wasn’t long before I knocked my Coke over. Fortunately we were able to pick up books before any were ruined, but now the table was sticky.
Our waitress was great. She quickly wiped the table and we were back in business. People were talking to us and actually buying books. I asked the waitress for another Coke. She must have known who she was dealing with because this time my Coke was served in a sippy cup with a lid.
Tip for Writers: only do book signings in bars. People buy more after a couple of glasses of wine! And ask for a sippy cup!