The event Friday in Logan was amazing. The Logan Library was awesome getting the word out. 1000 people came! It was so fun to drive up and be on a panel with four fun authors. We kept laughing, and the later it got, the punchier we felt. I signed for four and a half hours. Whew! Everyone was so lovely. Thanks to the Book Table for selling books.
You never know how events will turn out. Sometimes 1000 people come, and sometimes no one does. There's a book called Mortification in which published authors share book event stories that were, well, mortifying. Everyone has them. They are often painful at the time, but become great stories to share with other authors and laugh about later. They are valiant battle scars, like rejections.
After sharing about an amazing event like Friday's, it may seem like that's the life of a published author. But really, it's an anomaly. Let me share a few embarrassing books events. Feel free to laugh at my pain, and know that I don't share to complain. I know how lucky I am to be published at all and have the opportunity to have a book signing no one comes to!
Seven years ago, my very first out-of-Utah book event. I went to a regional trade show where booksellers from surrounding states came to learn about the latest releases. There was an evening signing, where my publisher supplied boxes of the goose girl to give away. Yes, that's right, GIVE AWAY, and they were hardcovers, not even ARCs. Hopefully the booksellers would read this book and then want to order it for their store! Some booksellers came to my table and requested a copy. "Who do you want me to sign this to?" I asked. "Just a signature," they said. The experienced novelist to my right whispered to me, "When they want a signature only, it means they're going to resell it." I didn't know if that was true, but I became very aware that 90% of them wanted signature only. Long before the hour-long signing was over, my line was over. I smiled cordially but was really panicking. My first book! My baby! And I can't even GIVE it away!
What did we learn? At book conferences, booksellers get lots of free books. They have to haul/ship them all home. It's nothing personal, but they just can't take them all.
Six years ago (I think, maybe sooner) I am invited to speak at a large conference in another state. I arrive at the venue: an auditorium that seats 2000 people. Exactly 15 people come, most of whom are from my publisher, the rest are conference attendees I met and begged to come in case no one did. I give my talk. I want to die.
What did we learn? To take pictures! My only regret is not taking a photo of that huge room with thousands of empty seats and those few people in the two front rows smiling awkwardly. That would have been such a funny keepsake.
Five years ago, I fly to a far away state to do school visits. At the first school, no one seems to be expecting me or have any idea who I am. Eventually they put me in the library with a class of about 20 middle schoolers, who are mildly happy to be out of class and supremely uninterested in the random adult in front of them. The librarian introduces me, "Here's Sharon Hall. She writes books." He then goes over to the couch where he reads a magazine during my presentation. A few teachers on break gather nearby, speaking so loudly I have to ask them to please keep it down because the kids couldn't hear me. Not that they really wanted to.
What did we learn? You are not nearly as cool as you'd hoped.
Four years ago, I go on book tour. My publisher hires a car to take me from one city to another, where I am to do a presentation and signing at a bookstore. The car must be expensive. I am already feeling guilty. I hope I sell enough books to make it worth it! I arrive. There's a picture of me on a poster in the window. I enter. There are no chairs set up for a talk. The embarrassed bookseller explains no one has come. She puts me in a chair by the door, where I sit for an hour as customers enter and try not to make eye contact with the leprotic author at the door. One woman comes to me to ask where the DVDs of Curious George are. I'm sorry, I don't know. She sees the sign, realizes I'm a visiting author, and feeling sorry for me, sits in a chair facing me and talks to me about Curious George for 20 minutes. She leaves and buys the DVD. No books.
What did we learn? Well, this example was just one of many. 99% of authors have many such stories to tell. It happens, amigo.
Three years ago, a holiday book signing at a local bookstore. In comes, oh let's call him Alfred. "Alfred!" I cry, giving him a hug. He was a dear friend of mine and my husband's in high school and I hadn't seen him since. We exchange info. What am I doing? Mothering mostly, and I write books. He's a middle school teacher and in fact has come to the store expressly to purchase a graphic novel good for middle schoolers. What luck! I normally am shy to promote my own books, but clearly he'll be delighted with Rapunzel's Revenge, a graphic novel perfect for middle schoolers, written by two old friends. He looks it over. He puts it back on the shelf. He doesn't buy it.
What did we learn? Remember those fantasies about how one day you would show everyone you weren't really a loser after all? They never come true the way you imagined.
Two years ago, a specialty bookstores invites me and Dean as well as another author to speak at an event. There's a nice crowd of about 70 in the auditorium. The other author speaks first. We sit in the audience so we can see his slide show. He's a cool author and we're so pleased to be a part of it! We're peers with this great, accomplished artist. Cool! But apparently he didn't know anything about us, because at the end of the talk, he says, "And now I think we're going upstairs to the gallery for a gallery talk." He leaves. The audience stands up and follows him. Dean and I sit there, stunned. The organizer gapes, unsure what to do. I know what I'd like to do--RUN AWAY! But one girl and her father remain in the audience, apparently the only ones in the crowd who had expressly come for me and Dean. So we remain and give our presentation to two people. After a few minutes, three more people shuffle in. One of them later accuses me of stealing one of my book ideas from him, although I have never met him in my life.
What did we learn? I'm not sure, but whatever lesson I was supposed to have learned long ago I apparently didn't, since such things keep happening.
This was just a random sampling of the common humiliations authors experience. What makes them hard is this expectation. Someone set up an event believing that I could make a go of it, and yet I couldn't. I feel like I failed the bookstore, the school, my publisher, the organizer. But hey, surely I'm beautifully humbled by now, right? Yay! I am Miss Humility!
I'm going to paste in below links to other authors telling their own tales.