Booksigning Hell

Years ago, before I started collecting books, I remember seeing Elmore Leonard signing books at a Crown Books in Encino… and there was no one there. He was sitting at a table alone. I couldn’t believe it.

Flash forward a few years later, and I’m doing booksignings. Sometimes people show up… and sometimes you’re all alone… or worse, it’s just you and the bookseller, reading you her horrible erotic poetry for two hours (One began: “Hello, He Throbbed…”)

Despite having seen Elmore, desolate and alone, all those years ago… I still feel bad whenever no one shows up for a signing. So, in a perverse way, I take pleasure in reading that even the big boys (or, in this case, the big girls) still occasionally experience the midlist signing blues. This dispatch came from Aldo The MysteryDawg:

Last night I had the wonderful opportunity to meet the multi-talented Laura Lippman at the Mystery Bookstore in Westwood. She was signing her latest novel By A Spider’s Thread, the next installment in the PI Tess Monaghan series. There was a standing room only crowd – Bobby, Claire and Shelly (The Mystery Bookstore staff) along with my friend Alan and me. Never the less, Laura was a good sport and talked to us for the entire hour as she signed our books and the bookstore stock.

That, of course, is the sign of a pro. She didn’t get pissed off that no one showed… she realized that the most important person in the room was the bookseller… who would be hand-selling her book long after she left. It’s not how many people show up when you are there that’s important… it’s how many books are sold after you leave.

5 thoughts on “Booksigning Hell”

  1. One of the best booksigning experiences I had was when Laura was on tour for IN A STRANGE CITY right after 9/11. Unsurprisingly, people just weren’t going out anywhere, let alone to bookstores, so those attending her event included myself, a couple of her writer friends (Keith Snyder was one) and the booksellers. We sat around and talked about the impact of the attacks and whatever else we felt like talking about. Some signings are wonderful when there’s a throng of admirers, but others work just as well–if not more–with a select few in attendance.

  2. You mean I gotta listen to someone’s bad poetry?
    Actually, I got an email from Steve Hamilton shortly after he signed in Dayton. I didn’t know him very well at the time, and he was busy talking to some relatives and a fellow client of his agent (whom I think I spent more time talking to.) Nevertheless, he sent me a thank you note for showing up, saying it’s good when someone familiar drops by because the road is boring as hell sometimes. Really floored me because we’d exchanged maybe 3 emails at the time.
    Then you get guys like George Pelecanos who’ll walk up to you in the stacks and start talking to you. I got an education on writing the night he came to Cincinnati, and I was buying a Dennis Lehane book when we met. (He approved of the choice, btw.)

  3. Saturday, I was about the only person at the signing for Laura Levine’s new book. I was sorry for her, but I had a great time chatting with her for the entire hour.

  4. I remember two-hour signing at a mall in Omaha when only two people showed up. One was a man who swore he was from New Jersey and only in Omaha because he was in the witness protection program, having ratted out the Mafia don with whose wife he’d been sleeping. He thought his story would make a great Movie of the Week. The other person who stopped by was a nice woman who said she’d never heard of me but that she was going to buy one of my books because she felt sorry for me. Never one to turn down a mercy buy, I thanked her very much.

  5. Shamelessly Happy

    A hot topic amongst professional writers who blog is the never ending (?) merry-go-round of promotion, and the increasing need for authors to make an extra effort and pay out of their own pocket to raise their profile enough to get a book out there (and b


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