Monday musings: Observations at book signings

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By Scott Bury

Scott Bury showing off his display at his latest book signing event.

Last Friday, I did a “meet the author,” book-signing event at Coles Carlingwood bookstore in a mall in western Ottawa. That was the fifth such event I have done in 2018. Most of them were outdoors, but now that snow remains on the ground, I won’t be doing outdoor signings until spring, at least. I probably won’t be doing any more in a store, either before the end of the year. Bookstores in these parts doesn’t do in-store events because they’re just too crowded with shoppers and all the non-book stuff they promote during this season. An author at a table stacked with just their books would be more of an obstacle than an attraction.

After five book signing events, there are some patterns I have observed.

I have to admit that I always feel a little trepidation as the date for a book signing gets closer. What if no one comes? What if no one buys a book? I’ve ordered a quantity—will that expenditure be in vain?

But over the year, I count nearly all the events as successes. I don’t always sell a huge number of books, but with one exception, more than I feared would be the worst-case scenario.

I learned a lot through this. I saw how some other authors, experienced in these things, who brought big fabric banners on collapsible frames. Some rented or bought big tents for protection from the elements. One, a horror writer also from Ottawa, has a little Cthulhu figurine that sparks conversation.

It’s astounding how many independent writers there are. Some come to events like the Authors’ Market at the ByWard Market with embarrassing self-printed little books, but most have learned the importance of investing in their own work with professional editing, design and production.

I have also learned that it’s nearly impossible for independent authors to get the attention of major media. Thank goodness for community and independent newspapers.

Another thing I learned after five book signings in eight months is that people like to talk to writers! Many are delighted to meet the person whose name is on the cover of a book. They are almost always amazed that someone actually wrote a whole book—never mind seven.

Another thing I have learned is that people have very different reasons for buying a book. One lady bought four different books as Christmas presents for her sons. She wanted me to sign them with not only my name, but also that of one of the characters within.

Another reader wanted an inspirational message with the signature. Still another wanted the date and place of the signature.

They asked the usual questions: what inspired the story, how long it took to write, why I wanted to be a writer.
It’s rewarding. I learn more about readers and why they choose to read the books they do.

Often, a personal connection is what it takes to get someone to buy a book. Over the summer, a number of current and former military people bought the Eastern Front trilogy. I also remember a lady with a British accent who told me about hiding in bomb shelters during the London Blitz.

At Arts in the Park in June, a man who had bought a book the previous year came back and bought a copy of Wildfire.
Everyone seems to have their own reason to read books, and to choose which to buy.

Thankfully, sometimes the chance to meet the writer is enough.

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About Scott Bury

Comments

  1. Great post Scott. I agree, it is very difficult for indie authors to get the media attention/coverage we need to make it big. Investing money in marketing and promotion is key, as well as getting out there like you do and actually meeting the readers. Independent book signings is just as much about meeting readers as selling our books.