Humility is showing up for a book signing and finding only two of twenty seats occupied. This, I’m afraid to say, has happened to me on more than one occasion—and repetitiveness does not ease the pain. It is, however, a reality of being a struggling author. As I slug away on my current manuscript, I’m debating whether I’ll submit myself to this kind of humiliation again.
Some years back, I did a book signing in which the only people who showed up were two high school students for an English class project. Because their assignment required them to take notes, they asked if I’d read an excerpt. This I did . . . while one of them loudly slapped their gum. Needless to say, they left without purchasing a copy.
On the plus side, they at least stayed awake. At another even some years later, as I sat talking with a small group of readers, a homeless guy entered the store, took a seat in the back row and promptly fell asleep.
Not as bad as talking to mostly empty seats—but still painful—is sitting at a table in a bookstore, surrounded by stacks of your books, waiting for someone to approach and buy a copy. I found myself in this situation last summer. One guy approached the table, picked up a book, flipped through its pages and asked me, “Did you write this?”
“Yes,” I said, smiling.
“What’s it about?” he asked.
I gave him an abbreviated plot synopsis, after which he asked me how long it took to write and countless other questions. For almost 45 minutes he grilled me on every aspect of the book before saying, “Well, I don’t have any money—but it sounds neat.”
I try to remain positive in such situations. After all, someone is taking the time to ask me about something I’ve written—but one can only take so much.
I recently went on Google to read about other authors who have endured similar experiences. By chance, I stumbled across this brilliant video by mystery writer Parnell Hall.