Casting Pebbles: A Reflection on My First Book Signing

By on November 6, 2016

As I indicated in my first post, I am entering an unfamiliar and sometimes uncomfortable world of self-promotion with the publication of my first novel. Publishers these days don’t have the resources to sink a lot of money into promoting untested authors, so the majority of my book’s publicity therefore falls on my shoulders.

This is daunting in several ways. First of all, I have never taken anything remotely resembling a business or marketing course. Secondly, having to get out there and push a product, no matter how wonderful I think it is, goes against the grain. I don’t want to impose. I even hated selling Girls Scout cookies, and who doesn’t love thin mints?

But as my publisher explained to me, book marketing is like dropping pebbles in a pond and watching the ripples spread outward from the center until they cover the entire pond. It’s like that old shampoo commercial: “You tell two friends, and they’ll two friends, and so on, and so on . . .”

So, yesterday I took a deep breath and cast a pebble.  Packing up a box full of hardcovers, a box full of softcovers, my easel and book poster, a handful of postcards and bookmarks, I headed downtown to a little bookstore/bistro combo to set up shop. The manager had graciously agreed to let me do a book signing there, but I had grown increasingly apprehensive as the day approached and there was still no mention of my event on their website or Facebook page.

And when I walked in, it was obvious by the blank looks on their faces that they weren’t expecting me.

Me: “Hello, I’m here to do a book signing. Is the manager here?”

The girl behind the counter looked a little flustered. “No, she’s off today, but she did mention that you were coming.” (Big sigh of relief!) She went on to explain that a new owner had taken over only two days before, thus explaining the lack of publicity for my event. So far, things weren’t starting off very well.

Saturday book signing
A new adventure- feeling like a celebrity!

In between making crepes for customers, the girl behind the counter helped me set up a couple of tables near the entrance and there I camped out for a while. Right off the bat, someone came along and helped reduce my inventory—with the purchase of a hardcover, no less! Things were looking up!

After that came a dry spell. However, I did have a pleasant conversation with a lady who was chowing down on one of those crepes, and when she found out I was a former psychotherapist, proceeded to tell me all about her recurring dreams, to which I responded by telling her about my recurrent anxiety-driven tornado dream, experienced the previous night, no doubt in anticipation of the charm I would need to summon to sustain me through the day.

During another lull in the action, I spied two high school girls waiting in line to order their food. Ah, my target audience! Immediately, I zipped over to them and introduced myself. “Hey, I’ve written a book about a teenage girl who has an amazing adventure in another world,” I blurted out. Instead of looking at me like I had two heads, they were sweet enough to indulge me, checking out my book and then purchasing one! The success emboldened me.

It was a gorgeous fall day and unseasonably warm.  Right around noon the shopkeepers opened up the big sliding doors and let me sit in front so that I could accost not only their patrons but also anyone walking by on the sidewalk.  And there were a lot of people downtown on such a beautiful day. I felt like a broken record: “Hi! I’m having a book signing today!” I announced as people walked by, some of them muttering a polite “no thanks, not today” before hurrying off. Talk about stepping out of my comfort zone!

Enjoying the gorgeous fall day!

Yet some actually stopped to check out my book. I met a teacher in a Catholic school who loves to find books to recommend to her female students, book club members out looking for a new book to read, and other writers, both published and unpublished, who offered an understanding ear.

Somewhere along the way, the new owner of the bookstore/bistro, a man with a thick French accent, emerged from behind the counter to apologize for the mix-up about my book signing publicity and to offer me a crepe. It turned out to be the best crepe I’ve ever put in my mouth. I even put the shameless self-promotion on hold to devour it. Apology accepted!

Six hours later, I had sold 13 books. This might not seem like a lot, but in actuality I handed out many more postcards and bookmarks to people who had some degree of interest. If you cast your net into the water enough, eventually you’ll catch a fish.

Not that I’m comparing my fans to fish, mind you.

Or, to complete the “pebble” analogy, my ripple just got a little bigger.

One comment on “Casting Pebbles: A Reflection on My First Book Signing

  1. Congratulations!! I know it was not easy to just approach people but so glad you did!! It will get easier 🙂 Congrats on the 13 book sales! Hey 13 was your lucky number today!

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