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Book Signing Nightmares

Book signings. Ugh. The mere thought is enough to send shudders down the spine of those of us who have sat behind a table of books, wearing an insipid grin while praying that someone, anyone, will come over and talk to us.

Book signings are a lot of legwork, networking, interviews, and basically debasing yourself to the free world for little or no apparent reward. Leading up to a recent author event, I did radio interviews and was featured in two local papers. The library where I was to sign and read from my book bought radio spots for the event. Even after all that, response was regrettably low.

In a depressed, dejected state, I prepared for another book signing event in another out of the way locale. A forty-five-minute drive with gas prices kissing three dollars a gallon to sell a couple of books.

I know what you’re thinking. Book signings are for the reader, not the writer. It’s all about networking. I realize that. But the cold hard facts are that since getting published, I’m having a hard time finding time to do what I’m paid (hmm) to do…write. Regardless, I put on a happy face, loaded up the minivan, and headed out.

A sixth grader met me at the door of the library. “Are you the writer?” he asked. He held the door open while my husband and I carried in our boxes–one containing books, in the other; flyers, a door prize, bookmarks, a sign-in notebook, and all my other writer paraphernalia. While I was setting up the table, preparing myself for a dismal turnout at this small off-the-beaten-path branch library, a young man entered. He turned out to be from the local paper, his presence requested by the librarian. He interviewed me before the signing and then exited. I went through my spiel for six people, one of whom was my mother.

“Why am I doing this?” I asked myself after selling five books, barely enough to replace the gas in my tank.

But it’s all about networking.

And the boy who met me at the door? It turns out I have a fan besides my mother. He had been waiting to meet me all afternoon. He didn’t have money for a book, but asked if I would autograph a picture and an author event flyer that he paid a quarter to print off of the library’s computer.

So why do I do this? An entire evening where I ended up selling five books?

It turned out I got more than just treated nicely by a sixth grader that evening. The following week, my interview made the front page of three different newspapers in neighboring counties. My next reading/signing more than doubled in attendance and books sold.

Yes, readings and signings are never as exciting as they appear on television. It’s a lot of driving, a lot of schmoozing, and little outward reward. But it’s fun. I meet honest, helpful, friendly people. And my offer to autograph a copy of one of my books has yet to be refused.

Don’t go to a reading/book signing expecting to sell a carload of books. Go prepared to speak to a few people, make some friends, and hopefully leave them happy for having left the comfort of their homes to listen to you speak for thirty minutes. They will appreciate it. Your local library will appreciate it. If nothing else, your significant other will enjoy the opportunity to show you off.

Relax. Have fun. Unless you are a professional athlete or ex-president, it will take a lot of time and more hard work than you bargained for. But your book is worth it. Your message will get out there, one reader at a time. Be patient. It may not get any easier, but someday a sixth grader may ask for your autograph, and it will be worth all the effort.

What to Do With Old Books

Books should be loved and if you are loving too many, there are things you can do to make room for the new and make sure the old are not neglected! Even the most dedicated collector and reader needs to get rid of books. And there are places out there that are willing to take them in.

The first thing you need to do is assess your books. There are some which have had a good life and are ready to be recycled and reborn into new works. If covers are torn or missing, pages are coming unglued or are missing, or the whole is damaged by water or dirt, be kind and send them to the recycling bin. Do not give them to charity (they will only have to take the time and effort to toss them), do not pass along to friends (they will not thank you for it).

Once you have determined if the book(s) are worth saving, think about the best way to give it a new life. Of course, many will give the book to Goodwill, Salvation Army, or another like organization. Or, they will pass it along to a friend or colleague. This is great… but there are other ways…

Go to Book Crossing. On this website, you register any book you want and then “set the book free to travel the world and find new readers.” Once you register, you print out a label to stick inside the book and then leave it on a bus, in a waiting room, even donate it to charity or give it to a friend. The fun part is that the person who receives it can go onto Book Crossing and let you know where it ended up! You can track your book as it travels from one person to another.

Have a Book Swap Party in your neighborhood or at work. Everyone brings their cast off books, in good condition, for the others to look through and take. You will be amazed at which books some will take. You can go round-robin style and talk about why you choose a particular book, or allow the original owner to give a book to a specific person and explain why. Or just have a free for all! After the book swap, box up the remainder of the books and donate them to charity.

Many used bookstores have reader programs which allow you to earn books from their inventory in exchange for books you bring them. Bring in 10 books and get to pick out new titles I haven’t yet read? Sounds like paradise! Check with your local used bookstores.

Go to your local library and ASK if they would like the book. Many people will just “return” a book to the library, but libraries are short on space and if the book is not one they need or fits their collection, they will have to get rid of it. So, ask first. Often, the Librarian will take the book, even if it isn’t something the library needs, for the Friends Group which supports library programs. These Friends groups usually hold book sales to raise funds and are appreciative of books in good condition.

Senior centers, retirement community centers, and Boys ad Girls Clubs love books. Appropriate books for the audience they serve, in good condition, are always welcome.