My Publicist arranged this event for me a month ago. I was supposed to get some promotional materials, posters and bookmarks, two weeks after my first order of books arrived, but they didn’t show up until two days before the event. I dropped a poster off at the venue on Thursday for a Saturday signing and was told that it would be displayed in the front window. When I arrived forty minutes early on Saturday morning I expected to see my poster hanging somewhere in the vast empty glass storefront window, it wasn’t there. I wasn’t surprised as I shook my head, mumbled something to myself and walked inside.
A friend of mine that was big in the music business told me, “Never start early, no matter what.” If you do then someone else has the reigns and they wind up thinking they’re in charge of you. I made my initial contact with the people at the store and go back outside to wait the clock out for the right time. In the beginning you get your hopes up, when I saw the parking lot was full I thought, “this could be good.” But when I went inside everyone was going about their business, ignoring me. Reality sets in quickly and keeps you in check, nails your feet to the ground.
I knew it wouldn’t take more than fifteen minutes to set up my table so I waited in the car until quarter to one, then got my stuff out of the car and set it up in the front part of the store next to some used book racks. I forgot to bring my chair, but they had one readily available for me to use. I sat down at my table precisely at one o’clock, “Be on time” my friend told me, “Above all else. You show respect to your audience that way.”
After sitting for only five minutes and watching the store patrons ignore me, I look at the clock, how much time is left? My publicist said he did a local press release to over a hundred locations and entities, I’m thinking that no one read it or maybe they just weren’t interested in a local nobody.
The venue that I’m at buys a lot of books and resells them. I’m sitting ten feet from the front door, watching person after person come in with armfuls of books to sell; it’s like having a wedding in a grave yard.
“It’s usually a lot busier than this” the store clerk says to me from across the counter.
“It’s all good” I replied to his attempt to justify the patron’s lack of interest.
As people come and go all I can think to do is look the part, but what’s that. I’m supposed to be an author and it’s hard to look like what people expect when they haven’t read the book yet. There aren’t any questions to answer about what’s on page fifty. Am I supposed to look worldly, sophisticated, and skilled? Or does it show that I’m actually some guy that has no idea what he’s doing. At my first two signings I had someone to talk to; here I’m falling asleep in my chair with an hour to go. The music they are playing doesn’t help; it’s soft and slow in the background. Lionel Richie and Stevie Wonder interlaced with something that sounds like it should be reserved for elevators.
I watch everyone that comes through the front door. Most of them come in and make a beeline for exactly what they are looking for. That’s why they came in the first place and like a bloodhound on a scent they don’t deviate even a little. Readers like what they like and it appears that something new isn’t on the menu today.
I’ve been staring at the open beamed ceiling long enough to pick out a good place to hang myself, now I just have to decide if I should use my shoelaces or my belt. Then it occurred to me that my boots don’t have any laces, “Belt it is.” I stood up and reached to my waist as a woman with two young children in tow approached the table. She was an aspiring author who wanted to know how I got published. She had a dozen questions for me and I answered as best I could with my limited experience. She was ecstatic to hear what I had to say and bought the only copy I sold that day.
All it takes is one person to turn your whole day around, someone who has a genuine interest in you and your work. I know she’ll read it and probably enjoy it because I gave her a little insight into how I wrote it and what it was about. That’s why the Internet can’t even hold a candle to real life. As authors we try to put our energy into words so people can experience it over and over. A post or a message no matter how much energy the sender has will always fall short of what you get from the human face.
After she left I didn’t even care if I sold another book, hell I would have packed up then and there if it weren’t for Axle Rose walking off the stage before the show was over and basically telling all his fans to get bent. The rest of the time flew and I walked away with a great sense of personal satisfaction.