All He Had To Say Was Thank You

There is an urban author’s myth of a now famous author in her undiscovered days – was it Janet Evanovich? – who spoke at a bookstore in a mall with pouring rain outside. She knew the audience would be sparse as the mall was empty, and to cheer herself up, she bought a box of chocolates from the store next door. 

Only four people turned up and she made them sit in a circle and gave them each a chocolate. They were silent as she spoke and read, and asked no questions. At the end three got up and left. The fourth thanked her and the author asked, rather desperately, if she wanted to buy a book. The woman laughed and said that all four were homeless, and just thirsted for a little culture so the bookstore allowed them to attend. The author felt compelled to give her a copy of her book and the rest of the chocolates.

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I recently went to a book reading of an author who is struggling to break through, like me. We had met a few times and I have offered advice at various stages. I dutifully spread the word of his book launch to my social and e-circles, attended the reading, and bought a book.

Not many people turned up and even less felt inclined to buy the book. He was disappointed and the bookstore staff was not too excited either. When I asked him to sign my book, he mumbled a weak thank you and scribbled. I don’t think he ever made eye contact with me, and I felt a profound sense of resentment.

This is reality for all but the 200 or so A-listers. The rest of us may have 50 people in attendance or 5. It is hit-or-miss and this is probably a significant reason why adopting an online marketing strategy makes sense.

To celebrate the first Wycaan Master trilogy and the Eric Hoffer Book Award, I held a celebration in my hometown at the iconic Games of Berkeley at the end of last year. There was a strong attendance, but I put a lot of time into advertising and most of those attending had already bought the books. It was not a good return on investment if I look at it through economic eyes alone.

 Games of Berkeley Question from Asif

But I loved doing it. I loved my friends who came and read parts, I loved the Q&A, especially the questions from the younger members of the audience, and most of all, I loved the conversations and the excitement of my readers – yes, for one afternoon they were all mine!

I sincerely hope that those who attended left happy and committed to my series and me. I especially hope that the young people were inspired to continue reading and, who knows, maybe put millennial quill to parchment. 

I have heard many times that my author-hero, Terry Brooks, is an inspiring author to meet. I hear he shares a conversation with everyone bearing books, and that he is a delight to be with. I can believe that after reading this passage in his book, Sometimes The Magic Works. He says that book signings are not about selling books or advancing your career. He say…oh why not just let him say it:

Terry Brooks

Terry Brooks

“It is not in fact about you at all.

Rather, it is about making a connection between readers and books. It is about making readers feel so enthusiastic about books that they cannot wait to come back and buy more – not just copies of your books, but of other authors’ books, as well. It is about generating a feeling of goodwill toward the bookstore and the staff. Mostly, it is about reassuring everyone that they did not waste their time on you. 

How do you accomplish this? …

…Speak to everyone. Make them aware of the fact that you are grateful to be there, anxious to chat, and ready to answer questions if they have any. Never sign a book without looking at and speaking directly to the reader, and then thank them for choosing to take a chance on you.”

I think I have always thanked those who buy my books. To this day, when a stranger tweets me that they just bought one, I feel genuinely touched and honored that they spent their hard-earned money on my books.

Book Signing Games of Berkeley

And I thank them.

Maybe one day, someone will develop an app wherein I can put my hand through the screen and shake theirs as I thank them. Perhaps the 2.0 version will allow us to reach through and hug someone.

 girl-hugging-words1

The world would become a better place, for authors, readers and all humankind!

Have a great week,

Elfwriter

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, The First Decree, and Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3 – all released by Tourmaline Books. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Google+

23 comments on “All He Had To Say Was Thank You

  1. […] Finally, here is the third and final part of the interview. There is a great part about the author’s interactions with his readers, something I discussed last week. […]

  2. I love this. James Danshner’s book is about to be made into a movie (Maze Runner) and he spoke recently about sitting alone in bookstores with all the awkward glances. Everybody starts somewhere, right?

  3. TuiSnider says:

    Thanks for posting this. Like you, it thrills me when someone tweets that they’re reading my book, and I love it when people ask me to sign them. I don’t expect huge crowds when I speak at a library. I focus, instead, on giving the best presentation possible.

    Anyway, I’m dropping by via #Mondayblogs Happy writing! ~Tui, aka @TuiSnider

  4. Lisa says:

    So true. You never know who the 1 person in attendance may be and the 1 is as important as the 100. That being said, I just wish those who do attend book signings would pay for the books. Writers work hard. Stealing from us doesn’t help your karma. Then again, guess I should feel honored that they wanted my book enough to steal it! LoL

  5. Reblogged this on Barrow Blogs and commented:
    lovely pest that gives us all hope

  6. […] Book Designer gives you some awesome tips on how to become an Authorpreneur.  A beautiful read was this post on authors, book signings, and gratitude.  And last, but not least, be sure to at least peruse […]

  7. Parmita says:

    A very heart-warming post! Every author hopes that their work will be the next bestseller and people would be standing in a queue to get an autograph. But very few authors get there and it has nothing to do with how great of a writer they are. As writers, we have to brace ourselves for something which is beyond our control.

    I absolutely loved reading this post! In all the despair, it is humility of an author that makes them truly remarkable.

    Will be retweeting this.
    @parmita_

  8. I’ve had a few book signings in brick and mortar bookstores. One was standing room only. At another one, no one came, so, since the store was empty, the manger and the one clerk sat in and listened to my talk. A few months later, that independent book store closed its door forever. Sad!

    My wife has never forgotten the one book signing—of many she’s had over the years—she had in the early 1990s where no one came and the manager of the bookstore felt so sorry for her, he was the only person who asked her to sign a copy of the book.

    Today, my wife’s 8 books have been published in more than 30 languages and in English alone, has sold more than a million copies.

    She was promoting her first book, Red Azalea, when no none came to her author events at real bookstores. She said it was really depressing. Then that book became a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and won the Carl Sandburg award, and now about 25 years later, when she is on tour, she ends up in front of hundreds of people on a stage alone or in a panel.

    When she was on her last tour for her 8th book, she was in Chicago. Because of bumper to bumper traffic, the driver dropped her off about a block from the bookstore. When she reached the bookstore, there was a woman standing on front of the poster that announced my wife would be there for a signing. Without the woman knowing, my wife heard her say, “This is great. She’s my favorite author. I love all of her books.” Then the woman turned around and saw my wife. They talked.

    The lesson learned, expect baby steps and never give up.

  9. BB Free says:

    My very first book launch for my children’s book is coming up in August, and this post is exactly what I needed. Puts it all in perspective. Rather than stress too much about it, I choose to enjoy it when it happens. If I do that, it will be much easier to make those precious connections. A million thanks!

  10. Reblogged this on The Consulting Writer and commented:
    I’ve read the same about Terry Brooks. I’ve never read his books, but I’ve heard from others what a kind and genuine person he is.

  11. I’ve tried holding book launches twice and usually end up inviting a mixture of friends, family, and local press…I can rely on my immediate family to turn up but it’s amazing how many friends find excuses not to come, or cancel last minute. They always promise to buy a copy the next time they see me, and then they never ask again, and I don’t like to remind them. It’s really frustrating, because you’d like to think the people you could rely on would be your friends! That said, I tend to find only passionate readers will contact an author online to tell them they enjoyed their book, though every time they do I’m always so grateful!

  12. Liz Crowe says:

    Just saw this on a tweet and it’s so timely for me as I’m headed into 2 of these “multi author events” this weekend one at a bookstore one at a library but both local-Ish for me as I’m not in a position to be able to pick up and travel to all the zillions of them offered around the US especially for “my” genre. So much truth there and nicely stated. Thanks, congrats on your awards and best of luck in your ongoing quest for success!

  13. caroleparkes says:

    A truly heartwarming post. Although I’m about to publish a second book this month, I’ve never done a book signing. With the attitude Terry suggests, it doesn’t sound so daunting. Thank you for this inspiring post.

  14. DustySpider says:

    I loved this post. I have have 3 books published, and each launch/reading is always a little nervewracking. But there’s always someone who is stoked to be there. I focus on that someone, and when I get home I remember that it’s the “someones” who keep me writing.

  15. […] I am currently on my final round of edits before I send Wycaan Master Book 6 to the editors. I loved writing the book and set about it with all the vigor I poured into the first five. But in the ensuing rounds of edits and rewrites, I began to feel a desire to finish the series, to look ahead at the dozen or so next projects that hover in my mind. Still, I am singularly focused on completing Book 6 and getting it into my readers hands as promised. This is not a one-way relationship. Even the A-list authors are nothing without their fans. Respect is a two-way thing. […]

  16. I loved this post !! It’s so true. May the goodwill will keep going round🙂

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