Friday, October 7, 2011

The most expensive book signing EVER.

All right, tomorrow is the last day to enter to win my new book Not My Type by commenting on my last post here (for those too lazy to scroll down. Geez).

Uh, and I'm signing books from 11-1 tomorrow (Oct. 8) at the Ensign Books in Temecula. As always, I'll have fudge.

So, book signings.

Many of you have been to them for some author. Some of you have been to mine.

I really like book signings. Also, I kind of hate them.

I have done several now. Not a lot compared to most authors, but I'd say at least a dozen. So here's the deal: Not ONCE has it ever been worth the money. Not even close. But then again, that's not really what a book signing is about.

Let's take an April book signing I did. A 90 mile round trip (gas + $14 in tolls), the cost of the fudge I make and bring ($10), plus I like to buy a book at the stores where I sign ($14). That day, I bought paintings for my kids' Easter presents ($80). Oh, and I got a speeding ticket on the way there. ($450.) And I sold 4 books, two to people I knew.

Minus the speeding ticket, that's kind of the norm. I know, you'd rather poke your eyes out with pencils than spend your entire Saturday six weekends in a row doing the same.

The thing is, when I sell a book through a store, I make a little over a dollar a book, and I only get those dollars twice a year in my royalty checks. I'd have to sell A LOT of books to pay for just the gas money of getting to the closest LDS bookstore which is over 20 miles away. And I have not ONCE broken even yet on a single signing I've done. 

The most books I've ever sold at a signing is the one I did in Utah a couple of weeks ago. That was in the 20 something book range. And every single person who bought one was someone I knew at least a little. And um, that was a $200 plane ticket to get up there, plus a car rental.

So that's the part I hate. Really hate.

Then why do them? Just because it's expected? No. They're still a potentially smart business decision. Because bookstore visits aren't really about selling books to the random customers who come in. It's about building a relationship with the store owners and booksellers who work there so that mine is a book they keep recommending even when I'm not there. 

The thing is, even that wouldn't be enough to drag me into spend the bulk of my Saturdays for a month in a bookstore, feeling foolish at my little table while half the people in the store try not to make eye contact with me. (What? You thought this was GLAMOROUS? Ahahahaha!) But there are other parts of this equation that make it totally worth it.

First, the booksellers and store owners generally love books and that leads to some really fun conversations. I often get to tell them who in the market I'm reading lately and get their opinions on which books I should try. I can't be talked into doing boring things for money. (Yeah, I realize that's the luxury of having a stable household income). But fun? Yes, sign me up! That's because I value my time over my money. (Again, I know that's a luxury.) And talking about books is definitely fun.

Second, the strangers. The strangers are fun to talk to because when I can tell they aren't going to be into my book, if they're in the fiction section I still see it as a challenge to find them a book they WILL like. That also leads to a lot of fun conversations.

Third, and my tied for first favorite part, is the rare times that a stranger comes specifically to see me. They've read my book, they want the new one, they want my signature on their copy, they just want to say hello. SUPER EXTRA fun. I'm not actually sure I can explain in words how cool that feels and why. It's validating, yes, but it's a little more than that. It's kind of like they come in because they feel like they've connected to me, because something in one of my stories feels familiar and real to them, like I understand them, and I feel happy that I could do that for them. It helps me feel like what I do is worthwhile and it matters.

And then fourth, my other tied for favorite part of book signings are the people I DO know. Because when they show up it's always a great time to chat and catch up. I get to see people I haven't seen in a really long time because of these signings. But what most of them don't realize is that it's a vote of confidence, and a lot of times, during signings where ten people in a row have blown right by my little table to grab their copy of 17 Miracles without so much as glancing my way , I really need the pick-me-up of someone stopping in to say hello TO ME. I value that so much.

So . . .

I think I have about four book signings to go before I worry about this for the next book. But as long as I've got my bowl of homemade fudge and fellow bibliophiles to chat books with, that's all right by me.


Donna K. Weaver said...

Wow, Melanie. The idea of book signings has always scared me (in the rare event I should get lucky enough to get published ... rofl ... I know, right?). The first part of your reality check made my eyes get big. But I love the latter half of your post.

You're right. Some things aren't about the time and the money.

I finished "Not My Type" on Wednesday night and LOVED it!

Vivian said...

Thank you for sharing that side of being an author and the whole book singing ordeal. You never think about the "behind the scenes." As a reader you just think about the book and meeting the author, not really about if she is getting paid, how did she get there. Although in my case I DID expect my fudge when you said you were bringing it ;) Happy to hear you are enjoying all your book signings. Have a great weekend friend!

p.s Did you see this? Thought you should know how it is that I "got into you" ;)

Mindy said...

Great post Mel!

Jill Campbell said...

Book signings sound pretty scary, not that I need to worry about that anytime soon.

Haven't read any of your books yet. Hoping to soon. If you ever come to a bookstore near me, I'll come meet you AND make eye contact!

Jen said...

HA HA HA! My sister is friends with several LDS authors and every one of them has said the same thing. I would love to come to one of your book signings. Let me know if you are ever in Mesa Arizona. Just know that people don't make eye contact because you are intimidating.

Becca said...

I hear you about the SUPER EXTRA FUN part. And really? The only way to do a signing is by twos - you need that other author there, even if he/she's selling a gazillion books to your one, just to have someone there to tak to!

Andrew & Sarah Clawson said...

Loved seeing you! A big thank YOU for signing my book and my friend's book. She was escatic when she got her books. At least you got to see me, that's a plus right?

Maggie said...

This is the hardest part of marketing for me. I HATE the spending as much (or more) than you make part. I do love meeting people in the bookstores and yes, the bookstore workers are really neat.

I would love to do a joint-author signing with another LDS writer some day, BUT since I'm quite a ways from Utah, the chances of that happening any time soon are slim. Oh well, good luck with your next round of signings!

Karen Peterson said...

This is one of my biggest sources of anxiety for my future. Because I am not as cool as you and I just know I'd be the author that sits there all day by myself giving people directions to the bathroom or the self help section.

Anonymous said...

The thought of having to do book signings will probably keep me from pursuing any latent writing aspirations. But I like hearing about the silver lining.