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...with some of this, but also disagree with quite a bit of it.  My main piece I'd disagree with (or, rather feel is not even really mentioned/addressed) is that most book signings require some sort of advance and repeated alerts to possibly interested folks.  In the past, usually it is only via luck - like listening to a show on the radio of an author being interviewed - that I even have a local book signing or author appearance put on my radar.  With many places that actors can come in my area (and the realization that only ONE place will be chosen), it's near impossible for normal folks to know where things will be going on and who will be in town.  I used to get the daily print edition of the Post, and that had a who/when/where area in the books section, but if I missed that back then (or don't read the print version), I'm way unlikely to see where any book reading might be. :(

IOW, if PUBLISHERS aren't pushing hard, and the old ways are dwindling, only by luck will most writers - new or established - be easily found when visiting my area.

Does Anyone Want to Come to My Book Signing? Please!

Years after she started writing her debut novel, Chelsea Banning settled into Pretty Good Books in Ashtabula, Ohio, on a Saturday in early December for her first author signing.

She waited with neatly stacked paperback copies of her book, “Of Crowns and Legends”—which she calls a King Arthur reimagining that takes place 20 years after his death. She had props, including a crown, a little statue of a knight kneeling and holding a pen, and pictures of friends dressed as her characters, in medieval garb.

The 33-year-old librarian in Girard, Ohio, whose real name is Chelsea Vandergrift Podgorny, was optimistic. Friends in the area said they wanted to stop by and have their books signed, and 37 people responded to the Facebook event listing that they would attend.

During her three-hour signing, just two people showed up.

The next morning, Ms. Banning tweeted to her roughly 100 followers that she was “pretty bummed about it…upset, honestly, and a little embarrassed.” She felt a little sheepish after writing the tweet and planned to remove it, she recalls in an interview. She didn’t want the no-shows to feel bad.

Then, Henry Winkler chimed in. Yes, The Fonz himself. 

“That is the beginning,” the star wrote, retweeting her post to his one million followers. “Then word gets out and they come!”

She isn’t sure how, but her online confession had gone viral and was ricocheting around the arts and literary world. Thousands were retweeting it, including big-name authors. She had exposed a truth of the publishing business. Lonely events are a rite of passage for authors.

“Join the club,” Margaret Atwood, author of “The Handmaid’s Tale” and many other books, responded. “I did a signing to which Nobody came, except a guy who wanted to buy some Scotch tape and thought I was the help. :)”

Stephen King—the king of horror himself—jumped in, writing, “Dear Chelsea Banning: When you do your next signing, let us know. We’ll let EVERYBODY know.”

In an interview, Mr. Winkler says Ms. Banning’s tweet struck a familiar chord. In 2003, he held an event at a book store promoting the first installment in the Hank Zipzer children’s book series he wrote with Lin Oliver. It was billed as a reading and a chance to meet Henry Winkler. Six people came. “It doesn’t get easier,” Mr. Winkler says. 

Pulitzer Prize-winner Junot Díaz says one person, a friend, attended his first reading as a published author. “I did a reading for my friend and the embarrassed booksellers and called it a win,” he says by email.

Jodi Picoult, who has sold millions of copies of her books, says once, at a signing at her hometown bookstore in Hanover, N.H., she sat alone until a wandering patron needed help finding the bathroom.

Paul Bogaards, who ran publicity campaigns for 30 years at publisher Alfred A. Knopf and now runs his own company, says the in-store author appearance is, in large part, a holdover from a time when they generated local-news coverage. As local news has shrunk, filling seats is harder. 

This hasn’t diminished the author’s desire to pitch books in the flesh, Mr. Bogaards says in an email, “if only for one person eating a Twix bar in the front row.”

...

Emily Powell, owner of Portland, Ore.’s Powell’s Books, which hosts many author events at its three locations, says some writers are such big draws Powell’s hosts their events at a concert venue. 

She says it isn’t uncommon for first-time authors to have inflated expectations for their first events.

“Even the phrase ‘author tour’ or ‘reading tour’ sounds so exciting,” she says. “And, of course, it can be a lot of drudgery.”

In October, Ms. Powell went to see a friend, Christopher M. Hood, read from his debut novel, “The Revivalists,” at one of her stores. The only people there were her employees.

Mr. Hood, who runs a creative-writing program at a high school in New York City, sees thinly attended events as paying dues, a way to connect, and didn’t expect to sell many books at the events in the first place.

“How many people come thinking: ‘well, I don’t know, what am I going to do with my evening? I guess I’ll go to Powell’s and hear this unknown writer and if I like what they have to say, I’ll pick up a copy of their book’?” he says. “That’s no one, basically.”

Ms. Banning, the author in Ohio, says she has since gained thousands of Twitter followers, held a packed signing at her library, received interest from literary agents and sold 7,000 books.

She has another signing coming up at Pretty Good Books. Stephen King has already tweeted about it.

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I recall going to a talk and book signing by Louse Penny with my parents.  She is now a NY Times #1 author and her current book tour has sold out events and attracts thousands.  But the event we went to was earlier in t he series and there were maybe a couple hundred people there.  During her talk she describes her career path from CBC broadcaster to a "late in life" author.  She mentioned how excited she was for her first book tour, and the publisher basically told her there wasn't one but if she wanted to do some events at her own expense, she could.  She also mentioned how there were some events where she hoped nobody would show up, because then she could just go home.  But if only 1 or 2 people showed up, she'd have to do the talk and it would be embarrassing for everyone involved.

I think I've been to 5 book events in my life. Two were ones that I looked up in order to take my parents.  One was for a skater and I found out about it from her social media since I followed her anyway.  The other two were "celebrities" I knew about and I just happened to see an ad for the event locally.

Nice that Chelsea got some attention, but I expect most relatively new authors don't get big turn outs.  Even for books I want to read, I'm likely to wait for a paperback or get them on my kindle with Amazon free credits rather than buy the hardcopy.

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16 minutes ago, Kirby said:

I recall going to a talk and book signing by Louse Penny with my parents.  She is now a NY Times #1 author and her current book tour has sold out events and attracts thousands.  But the event we went to was earlier in t he series and there were maybe a couple hundred people there.  During her talk she describes her career path from CBC broadcaster to a "late in life" author.  She mentioned how excited she was for her first book tour, and the publisher basically told her there wasn't one but if she wanted to do some events at her own expense, she could.  She also mentioned how there were some events where she hoped nobody would show up, because then she could just go home.  But if only 1 or 2 people showed up, she'd have to do the talk and it would be embarrassing for everyone involved.

I think I've been to 5 book events in my life. Two were ones that I looked up in order to take my parents.  One was for a skater and I found out about it from her social media since I followed her anyway.  The other two were "celebrities" I knew about and I just happened to see an ad for the event locally.

Nice that Chelsea got some attention, but I expect most relatively new authors don't get big turn outs.  Even for books I want to read, I'm likely to wait for a paperback or get them on my kindle with Amazon free credits rather than buy the hardcopy.

You're sort of the "norm", it seems.  

We luckily have a big annual event in DC at the Library of Congress (National Book Festival) and Politics & Prose is always having events (and livestreams and carried on CSPAN sometimes).  But it remains tough to sort out when and where and WHO is speaking. I think the easier answer is being on a ton of authors FB or IG or email lists, but that seems a pain. :dontknow:

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These days, just marketing any public event, is a big serious challenge these days....when the local newspaper, tv or radio station can no longer be relied on due to so much fragmentation of news sources online...and paywalls for some online established news sources, some tv broadcasts.

If you volunteered for any large local non-profit or national one, you will witness just how seriously challenging it can be.

And people gripe about govn't not telling them the latest change in xxxxx. Or people getting confused when rules change. (ie. covid restrictions)_ Think how hard it is for govn't with dollars ,to push through all their social media platforms PLUS get that message out ad naseum to tv, website (if anyone even looks at it) and on tv/radio. It's a huger effort than you can even imagine....  Then comes along misinformation twisted by 2nd, 3rd parties. :( 

So for the book signing events/promoting, a writer has to become their own self-promoter.  You can no longer rely on paid agent/publisher....if you were even lucky to get a publisher.  (vs. self-publishing)

 

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