DANVILLE LIFE – BOOKSIGNINGS
BY Penny Warner
Ah, the glamorous life of a writer. I’m “on tour” with my latest book, THE OFFICIAL NANCY DREW HANDBOOK, which means I’m signing at some bookstores, “chatting” on a few weblogs, speaking at a handful of writers’ conferences, and spending all my advance money making cute little bookmarks as bribes for potential readers.
If you haven’t done a book signing recently, here’s how they typically go: You cold-call booksellers, ask if they’ll host a signing for your upcoming “bestseller,” and show up at the appointed time to sign autographs for your adoring fans. At least, that’s the idea. Here’s what really happens:
You email the booksellers asking for a signing because there’s not enough alcohol in Danville to provide the courage you need to actually speak to them, certain they will laugh in your face at this ludicrous idea. When a bookseller surprises you by asking when you’d like to come in for an event, you blurt out a date, which has already been booked by JD Salinger or JK Rowling. He counters with only date he has left this year and you gratefully accept, only later realizing that it’s the same time as the Super Bowl, the last episode of Gray’s Anatomy, or Christmas.
You send out handcrafted invitations to 200 of your closest friends, including the grocery clerk, the five-year-old boy next door, and the new neighbors you haven’t even met yet. You email the rest of your fans, creating an eye-catching flyer that doesn’t convert on anyone else’s computer and reads: “*^$&((%##& *&$^#*&^($($*(!”
You bribe your future readers to the event by promising them an all-you-can-eat dessert buffet and free bookmarks, then search the knock-off stores for a “literary outfit” that makes you look like JK Rowling. You realize after you purchase it you look more like Lady Voldemort so you change into a T-shirt featuring an ironed-on copy of your book cover, pull on a pair of black jeans to hide your less-than-literary fat, and skip the fake glasses.
When it’s “book-signing time,” you arrive at the bookstore to stage your themed display. You find yourself at the kiddy-sized table in the back, next to the Books That Never Sell. You sit down and try to look busy by constantly rearranging your book stack, while shoppers give you a wide berth and never make eye contact. Finally someone approaches your table, smiles, and you get your Mont Blanc pen ready to sign a heartfelt passage, personalized to the reader. That’s when she asks you where the restrooms are located and you point with your outrageously expensive pen. Suddenly you’re flooded with table-visitors, all asking questions like, “Do you have any books on bird-watching?” “Have I ever heard of you?” and “What’s Sue Grafton really like?”
Between “customers” you browse the bookstore shelves and end up buying more books than you sell. You wonder why you bother to write books that nobody reads, and ask the bookseller if he needs any part-time help, since it’s time you got a “real job.” Just as you’re packing up, someone approaches and asks if your latest book is out. You smile proudly, point to the stack of unsold books on the table, and give her your well-practiced pitch: “It’s a kind of Gone with the Wind meets ‘King Kong’ set in Fresno, featuring a love story between a feisty former nun and a muscle-bound rodeo clown, who overcome a nuclear war, barely escape death by quicksand, and achieve happiness as Telemarketers.” She puts your book down, says she only reads chick-lit cookbooks, and heads for the free snacks.
Hey, don’t feel sorry for me. I love every minute of it. In fact, you’re welcome to join me when I come to your local bookstore. While you’re there, feel free to ask me where the restrooms are and help yourself to the free snacks...
When she’s not on the road, you can reach Penny Warner, the author of over 50 books, including THE OFFICIAL NANCY DREW HANDBOOK (Quirk Books), ROCK-A-BYE BABY (Chronicle Books) and LADIES’ NIGHT (Adams Media), at www.pennywarner.com