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Book Signing Survival Tips for Fiction Writers

Writing Novels That Sell with Adrienne deWolfe

For you new authors, who are dreading your first, official book signing, take heart. 

There’s always book signing #2.

Okay, okay.  I’m kidding.  (Sort of.)

Earlier this year, I wrote one of my more popular posts,  Humor for Fiction Writers:  How to Hand Sell at Book Signings.  As you might imagine, this post is full of wit (and a smidgen of wisdom if you're brave enough to read between the lines.) 

I staunchly maintain my earlier opinion that book signings are fun, if you go into the event with the proper frame of mind.  (AND with antacid, aspirin . . . oh, heck.  Let’s just cut to the chase:   bourbon is a must-have for your cup of Bookstore Punch.)

Unfortunately, not all new authors have learned these tricks of the trade.  Take, for instance, the experience of my Historical Romance-writing friend, Abigail.   (Are you kidding me?  OF COURSE I changed her name!) 

Recently, Abigail was sitting at the traditional, holiday book signing in a shopping mall, waiting for someone . . . ANYONE . . . to pass by, who might actually read Romance and recognize her name.  (This is why I encourage midlist authors to attend book signings en masse.  Multiple authors equate to multiple mailing lists, which, if contacted early enough, can lead to multiple WARM BODIES showing up at your book signing.)

But I digress. 

During one of her “lulls,” Abigail was approached by a Romance reader who wanted to become a published author.  This fan rushed up to Abigail, deposited a manuscript of roughly 1,000 pages in front of her, and announced, “Gee!  Since you aren’t doing anything, would you mind reading my novel and giving me your opinion while I shop for my husband’s Christmas present?”

(True story.  I swear!)

As you might imagine, Abigail was indignant, outraged – the whole shebang. 

“Abby, Abby, Abby,” I consoled her, patting her hand.  “You never want to alienate a fan!  All you have to do is smile nicely and say, ‘Of course I’ll read your manuscript, dearie!  For my critiquing expertise, I charge $10 per page, payable in cash.  I’ll wait here with your masterpiece while you visit the ATM.’”

There, you see?  Wins all around!  The fan goes away, thinking that Abby is helpful, professional, and a  demi-goddess in the publishing world.  Either that, or the fan actually DOES pay Abby $10,000 to read her manuscript, and Abby is delighted with the supplemental income. 

Yes, my friends, attitude is everything.  You must bring a sense of humor to every book signing.  And, of course, you must learn to think fast on your feet.

While I was signing my Historical Romance novel, Scoundrel for Hire, in my hometown of Austin, Texas, I was approached by a man in black leather and chains. It turned out that he was the leader of the local Harley Hog riders, and his size was more intimidating than his outfit.

Book Signing Survival Tips for Fiction Writers

Adrienne deWolfe signs her award-winning Historical Romance, "Scoundrel for Hire"

He proceeded to regale me with stories of Harleys and Harley gals. (Did I dare to shoo off this Hulk-sized nuisance?  NO.)  Fortunately, my cowardice led to a book sale.   Delighted, I whipped out my pen, opened my novel, and asked, “So what is your girlfriend’s name?”

BIG MISTAKE.

One of the first things you must learn as a public figure is NEVER to assume ANYTHING.  My Harley Hog fan got all indignant and said, “I’M the one who reads Romances.  I want you to autograph the book to ME.”

Mini-disasters (like getting squashed by some Harley guy’s humongous fist) can be avoided if you practice political correctness.   The question, “To whom should I autograph this book?” is a much better approach than, “What is your wife’s first name?”  (Trust me.  The one time you assume that the guy has a wife, he’ll be blissfully in love with some other guy, named Ralph.)

Which reminds me of ANOTHER amusing book signing adventure. 

(I swear, folks.  Every word in this post is true.)

There I was, sitting in a San Antonio shopping mall, scheduled to sign books at 3 p.m. on a Friday.  (Word to the wise:  NEVER schedule a shopping mall book signing on a weekday, before 6:30 p.m. – unless, of course, you are hoping to take a nap.) 

Following my own advice on hand-selling, I began to hail pedestrian shoppers.  (I think exactly six walked by during my two-hour gig.)  One gentleman in particular seemed ripe for conquest, because he kept squinting at my sign and strolling toward my stack of ear-high books.  (I found out later that he was near-sighted.)

Did I let this intelligence phase me?  Absolutely not. 

Nor did I crumble when he admitted to reading ONLY mysteries.  I smiled pleasantly and asked what his “women friends” liked to read.   (Note the cleverly abstract wording:  “women friends.”) 

He pondered this question for a moment, and then admitted that he didn’t know what type of fiction his wife liked to read.  So now I knew that the man was married.  (Honestly, fellas.  If you share the same BEDROOM with a woman,  how can you not know whether she reads ROMANCE?)

Desperate to sell something -- or maybe I was just bored; I can’t remember now -- I wracked my brain for a Romance factoid.  As a result, the following blurt came out of my mouth:

“You’re married?  How wonderful!  Did you know, that according to Psychology Today Magazine, wives who read Romance are more affectionate and more sexually responsive to their husbands?”

Picture Mr. Mystery-Reading-Man with a deer-in-the-headlights look, bolting for the mall entrance as if he’d just crossed paths with a plague rat.

Dejected by yet another lost sale, I packed my belongings, said farewell to the book store staff, and proceeded to slink out the door.  

Suddenly,  who should I spy, but Mr. Mystery-Reading-Man, standing beside my book signing table.  What was this venerable gentleman doing? 

Shoving my Romance novel into the hands of his VERY pregnant wife!