writing

When no one shows: A signing story

For the last several years, I’ve been going to Books in Boothbay. A local signing event in Boothbay, Maine. The first year I attended, it was an all-day affair. 9-4. Lunch was provided and about 40 Maine authors tucked in for a day of selling their books. The event is hosted by Sherman’s bookstore (of which there are several in Maine.) Authors don’t need to bring in books, as they arrange to have them ordered and brought to the location. All we need to do, as authors, is show up, talk to readers, and sign copies if they want to buy one. They even handle the sales. When the event is over, they take the unsold books and distributed them to their stores for consignment sales. No pack in or pack out. Talk about a breeze!

The first year I attended, they allowed us to have banners, display racks, swag, whatever.

My first year at Books in Boothbay

Then, COVID hit. No signing. Understandable. Last year, they held the event, but broke the event down into two times (to have fewer people in the room at once) and didn’t want us to bring any display materials or food (presumably for transmission issues.) We had to be masked and windows and doors were open. My display looked a little lackluster, honestly without my bells and whistles, but I was happy to comply.

That’s too many books, Danielle. Next year, do less, m’kay?

This year, the rules were the same. No banners, no swag, but bookmarks, and postcards were okay. I took another crack at it. They limited titles we could display to five. Smart. So, I tried to find five titles that might appeal to the summer beach crowd.

Still not as impressive as the first year, but better than the year prior.

Lunch was still provided for us in the form of a bagged lunch. I opted to try the second half of the signing 1-4 since I did the morning shift the year prior. One immediate downside of this choice? Lunch options were pulled pork or nothing. Ha. The hams, turkey, and veggie options were long gone by 12:30 when I arrived. But hey, at least now I know that I don’t like pulled pork, so that’s something. They did give us a lovely brownie though, so win.

Then, promptly at 1:00 PM, the authors munching their lunch on the lawn assembled for the second slot. We tucked ourselves into the folding metal chairs and waited. And waited. A handful of browsers trickled through as the afternoon dragged on, but no real rush of activity. I chatted with the authors on either side of me. Talked shop and life. Read a book I’d brought in case things were slow. Then, at 3:00 PM, I signed the copies on my table and went home at 3:30 as most everyone had left by that point.

During my time there, no one picked up a book from my table to buy. Does that mean I didn’t sell any? Not necessarily. See, my books were on display during the morning too, and they had some copies of titles by the checkout. So, maybe I sold some. I won’t know until I get a check sometime in the next few months.

Which begs the question: was it worth driving an hour and giving up an entire Saturday? Yeah. Of course. I mean, this is the gig. Signings are a gamble. They always have been. This particular day was a rare, gorgeous sunny day in Maine. Not a great day to be indoors. Maybe there wasn’t enough publicity for the event, I know I didn’t do much because I didn’t have time to make promo images for it (thanks day job). Then again, my Maine readers aren’t really that close to the Boothbay area, so I’m not sure it would have made a difference even if I had.

All that said, if they invite me to attend next year, will I go? Of course. At the end of the day, a signing is an opportunity. An opportunity to meet new readers, to get your name out there, to talk shop with other creatives, and to just be surrounded by books. They won’t all be packed. But they are almost always worth it.

Hope to see you again soon, Books in Boothbay!

Until next time,

Danielle/Dani Bannister, author and signer of nothing. ha

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