Beginning authors are so grateful to be invited anywhere, they sometimes make decisions that don’t really help their careers.
Back in the 90s when my first books came out, I agreed to signings at a number of book stores. That meant sitting at a table by myself or with other authors with a grin plastered on my face, hoping people drifting by wouldn’t just look at my book and chat, but would buy it.
It was profoundly demeaning. It made me feel like a pickle salesman on the Lower East Side in the early 1900s. And it was a complete waste of time. Yes, books of mine were piled in the store. And yes, I got to meet book store staffers. But unless they’d actually read the book and pushed it because of that, my showing up and sitting there didn’t really matter.
Worst of all, I’d be thinking after one or two hours: “I could be home writing.”
Doing a reading first and then a signing at a bookstore was of course completely different. People not only got to hear me talk about the book and read part of it, they got to ask questions that were always much more pointed and interesting than anything idle shoppers asked when they stopped by a signing table. Books always sold after a reading, even a week or so later because I signed stock. A reading is an event. A signing is, well, I’m not sure what it is, but it doesn’t have the impact a reading and Q&A can have.
A writer’s time is valuable. Even beginning writers should think twice before agreeing to events that waste that time and have no real impact on sales.
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