Sunday, December 8, 2013

Book Signings and Visions

Over the years, I have been to many book signings. Some have been small, some huge, some unbelievable. Back in the olden days, I worked for Crown Books. Then, authors were magical creatures. I would get a little giddy when someone came and offered to just sign her stock. Because, wow. She was an author. To me, she was a celebrity. Even if I'd never heard of her book. And back in those days, the late 80s and early 90s, publishers actually took their people on tours. From city to city. To meet their readers. O. My. Freaking. Giddy. Aunt. You mean, I said to my district manager (called the DM, or Dungeon Master), you mean I might meet... Nora Roberts?

Well, no. I didn't. She'd pop into the store in White flint. To shop. And I'd miss it. Dave from Berkeley would talk about how pleasant she was, how great she was to work with. And instead, I was stuck with Jay Leno, Brett Butler, Michael Moore, and Naomi Judd. Ok, ok. I did get my biggest absolute squeeing oh wow oh wow oh wow when our store hosted... (are you sitting down? diagnosed with vasovagal?) (Ready?) Yes. It's true. Julia Child. THE Julia Child. J.U.L.I.A. C.H.I.LD. Her. Tall. Funny. Cooks. A lot. Yeah. I met her. And it was amazing. And I have two cookbooks autographed by her. I do. Yes. Julia Child. And what struck me then, what I've kept with me always, is that the people around her, her publicists or whoever they were from the publisher, treated her exactly as they should. Like she was a National Treasure. They handled her the way I saw artifacts handled at the Smithsonian when I interned there during college. The other thing that struck me was her fans. Not the number, but the diversity. Young, old, every race and color, wealthy and modest. There was no pigeon holing a Julia Child fan. They are everyone. And they were legion. And she was gracious and kind to every single one of them.  It was a lesson for me. There is always room for graciousness when it comes to your fans and readers.

Not that I have any. Yet.

A few years ago, I attended the Literacy Signing at Romance Writers of America annual conference. It was in Orlando that year. Hot. Sticky. And you have never, ever seen the like of a book signing until you attend this one. Row after row of published authors, selling books to raise money for literacy charities in the States. It was amazing. And I nearly became legless with euphoria. Because Carole Mortimer was there. In Orlando. At RWA. Signing. I got my picture with her. I gushed. I had read her since I was 14. I could site plot lines and characters.  I mean, I'd been reading her since high school, if not junior high. And there she was. It was amazing. My reading tastes have changed, I have other authors that I read, but Carole Mortimer made me a romance reader. And she made me want to write romance. Getting the chance to meet her was like candy and pecans and champagne and creme brulee all rolled up in one.

Probably my next favorite book signing has been those for friends of mine, signing their first books. Leigh Duncan. Michelle Monkou. Heidi Betts. Kathryn Caskie. It is the greatest, proudest feeling watching them smile at a reader and ask her name. And then sign theirs.  On the title page. Awesome.

Oh, and I did get to meet Nora. Finally. At a writer event. She signed my well loved hard back copy of Honest Illusions. Funny. I don't re-read this one any more. There are other books by her that I turn to again and again - the trilogies, usually. But she was another one who taught me about graciousness. I've attended several author events at Turn the Page in Boonsboro, Maryland, the line is long. The store is packed. And she smiles and greets every reader as though she were the first person in the line. (instead of the 112th).

Tell me about your favorite book signing. Maybe you were signing a book or maybe you attended one of a favorite author? Will you go see the same author again and again? (but can't yet be construed to be a stalker?)  


  1. You have a fan, Mx! Me!! :)

    I remember my first time at a book-signing. It was RWA's Literacy signing in DC in 2000. OMG!! I was fan-girling before that became a noun or a verb. I still have the books my fave authors signed. Swoon.

    I had just found RWA. My people. It was a grand turning point from being "just a fan" to hooking up with my tribe. I remember riding down the elevator, heart beating a little fast, palms just a little sweaty, trying so hard to play it cool. I knew no one, but it clear I'd found my home.

  2. I totally get that, Keely! I still go all fan-girl, and I hope I always think of authors as magical celebs.

  3. Marjanna ~ Fun post. I also have experience as a bookseller at booksignings, having worked at Borders for many years. I think that's where I first started to understand that authors were just people like you and me.

    I don't have a particular signing that rises to the top as my favorite, however I love the energy surrounding signings. And, these days, I love supporting my favorite authors by meeting them and buying (another) copy of their books.

    Readers bring a lot of fun energy that I'm sure must be validating to authors. This reader energy is festive and contagious, even for those of us who are fellow fans.

    Thanks for sharing your experience with signings. Enjoyed the post! ;0)

  4. I am star-struck by writer celebrities too. I invited George Pelaconos to speak at an Arts Council event years ago and could barely talk when he said yes and then stumbled and drooled every time I interacted with him. He lives in my neighborhood and is a really nice guy and every time I see him I say "Hi, Geo-Geo-Geo-George." Were I ever to ask a favorite author to sign my book, I’d probably throw up. Not good.

  5. Good post, Mx. Shortly after I'd finished my first draft of my first novel, I was on a business trip with Mr. Christoff and he saw an announcement on the events board of the hotel in which we were staying. A nearby bookstore was hosting an author and he thought her name sounded familiar because maybe I'd mentioned her. Did I want to go?

    "Who is it?" I asked.

    "Sue Grafton."

    Heck, yeah, I wanted to go. I LOVED Sue Grafton. So I went to my first booksigning, while on a business trip, because Mr. Christoff thought I maybe, just maybe had mentioned the author.

    And she was wonderful. The line to see her wrapped around the store. And she walked along it before she sat to sign, thanking people for coming.

    When it was my turn, I mumbled about how I loved her books, how I was writing myself, and how Mr. Christoff had brought me to see her out of the blue. She said that called for a photo, got up from her table, came to our side, and posed for a few snaps with us.

    She really gave a little bit of herself to everyone who was there that day. And that's a great lesson to live by even if we aren't writers!