Monday, October 08, 2007

Signing Weirdness

The signing at the MoA was.... interesting, as we like to say in Minnesota.

Alas, I was also looking forward to seeing Sujata Massey, but she didn't show up. Though I came prepared, we didn't end up doing the ten minute readings either. I bought more books than I sold (but that actually happens a lot more than I'd care to admit.) On the positive side, I got the chance to hang out with Michele Hauf and Emma Holly, who are always a hoot, and, of course, my friend Kelly McCullough. Mason, my son, got to go to Lego Land with Shawn and he thought that was pretty dang special.

I wonder about booksignings, sometimes. I mean, I've had some really successful ones, including one which was a disaster in the other direction because the bookstore didn't have enough books on hand and I sold out within the first ten minutes. Lately, however, it's been surprisingly difficult to muster enough support from friends and family to get people to turn out to signings. When I do signings at smaller venues at speciality stores, I'll often make postcards that I hand-address to everyone I've ever known. That helps. I'll get a 10% return on those (if I send out 100, 10 people will show.)

But you can only really do that once, you know? People don't show up again and again to buy a book they already have.

Plus, I tend to have better luck with signings that are in the Twin Cities proper. There's some reluctance (which I can totally understand, actually) for people to drive out to various suburbs to pick up a book that they can have Amazon deliver to their doorstep. Goddesss knows, I'm lazy. I often intend to go support my friends and then find something better to do on a Saturday afternoon.

Book signings are one of those mainstays of being a published author. But are they really useful? I've heard people say that signed books don't get returned, so it's worth going just to sign all the stock for the bookseller. But, I've also heard that's not true, since the covers are ripped off returned books so a signed book is of no more value than a non-signed one. Yet booksellers have also told me that signed books sell better in the store, so they're worth doing for that. But, I don't know. I sometimes feel like the hassle you've put the store through isn't really worth what they get out of it.

My question is what do you think about book signings? Do you go to them? What makes you want to go?


Frank said...

You know, I've never been to one? Closest I came was just last week when Terry Pratchett was at Powell's in Beaverton, but a two hour drive (each way) was just too daunting. I think the only signed book in my collection is Archangel Protocol...

On the other hand, I've got tons of signed CDs and albums. It's an icebreaker, a way for shy folks to talk to the artist after the show.

Muneraven said...

What ISN'T weird about a book signing? To tell you the truth, I don't like them at all. I love books for the stories in them, not the signature on them.

Now a reading...that is much cooler. I love to hear people read their work. And I also like craft talks where people talk about their writing process. And I love hearing what an author has to say on a panel of some sort.

But signings? Bleah. You have my utmost sympathy.

You know, there must be a way to turn book signings into something more interesting. And more humane. LOL.

Tez Miller said...

Ooh, borrowed TALL, DARK AND DEAD from the library yesterday :-)

Have a lovely day! :-)

Darkson said...

Well I go to tons of signings as my schedule allows. I missed your MOA one because I was working at Huog's until 6:00 and was beat, and it was at the MOA. Not my favorite place in the metro. I did just get a bok signed by Monty Python's Terry Jones, last Friday. That was fun, although Ausburg doesn't know how to organize crowds for a signing.

I've picked up quite a few signed hardcovers on the remainder table. I've also gotten some from Amazon, when they're moving older stock. I've gotten stuff signed by Terry Pratchett at three different times here in town, but I also got one on sale from Amazon.

The larger signings are more of a chore, but the smaller ones are a lot of fun. When I went to see Alan Shepard, the crowd was so big, he was just cranking out his signature. When E.E.Knight comes to town, there's time to really connect.

I have noticed, especially at smaller events, that a lot of people who turn up are writers themsleves and I'm one of the few readers in the crowd.

As a part time bookseller, I see lots of folks get very excited when they see the copy they have in their hand is signed. We also have a lot of signed material on the shelves at my day job, with the county library. You have to dig to find those.

My own library has lots of signed books and I have good memories from all the places where I picked up those books. Just check my LibraryThing catalog.

See you around the bookstores.

Melanie A. Howard said...

Well, Lyda, I have been going to book signings since I was knee high to a grasshopper. I have signed copies of books by many of my favorite authors, but not all, and that's just because as far as I know, they've never shown up in Minnesota.

Currently, I go to few actual official book signings. Mostly, I go to conferences, where there are authors signing. I like it better. I go to your book signings because they're fun, and if it wasn't such a pain to commute from Guatemala to the Mall of America, I guarantee I would have been there.

I don't know, I've just always seen book signings as something integral to being a REAL author. Ever since I went to the young author's conference when I was nine and there were REAL AUTHORS there signing books. Sometimes authors even came to our school library and you could buy signed copies of their books. I think it's difficult to describe the childhood awe of it. I am in the presence of the person who transported me to their wonderful little imaginary land. For me, this was tantamount to being in the presense of God, and there's still a little of that when I go to a signing.

Personally, I'd much rather be at a book signing for a person who I've read and whom I respect than to get an autograph from any Hollywood actor.


jpj said...

I've been to lots of signings when I worked at Odegards (way back in the day) but that was work.

I've been to three signings as a civilian: Harlan Ellison, Dan Simmons, and Terry Pratchett. All particular faves. I've skipped dozens and dozens of authors who's work I admire just because signings are such a weird vibe for me.

From my bookstore days, I know that you are right, mass market books are stripped and the covers returned. Trade PB and hardcovers have to be returned whole however. But I think a book with just an author's signature is still returnable. So signing the stock probably doesn't make a big difference.

A personalized signature is unreturnable, I believe. So if you sign the book, "To jpj, my hero and role model, in the hopes that someday I can be as wonderful a person as he is as he strides like a titan among the stars." It would probably be unreturnable.

Xochiquetzl said...

Darlin', I would totally show up if it wasn't such a drive.