3 Phases of Sparsely Attended Book Signings

Visiting authors at schools can feel like rock stars. Kids ask you to autograph books, papers, casts, t-shirts, skin. You speak to a captive, attentive audience because their teachers won't let them leave or fall asleep.

But bookstore appearances come with no such guarantees. Here I am, for example, at a recent book signing for a fundraiser, feeling some of Gail Gauthier's pain, watching customers sneak past with I-should-talk-to-that-lonely-Indian-lady expressions. At least Mo was nowhere in sight this time.

At an under-attended bookstore signing, I usually pass through three phases:

Phase one: Smile through clenched teeth, think of England, and count the minutes.

Phase two: Browse the bookstore, gather a bunch of interesting reads, and start to enjoy the unexpected solitude.

Phase three: Realize that the few people who buy a book or stop to chat are worth a thousand swords (LOTR-lingo for immensely valuable, if you're Tolkien averse), and that I'm actually having a wonderful time.

Take Janet Arden, for example, one of our stellar regional advisors in the New England Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators. Janet kindly arranged my appearance, but then went above and beyond the call of duty by showing up and bringing along her book-loving family. You should hear the chairman of the Janet Arden fan club (husband) rave about her writing.

Or Tatiana Burgos-Espinal, a hero who works for the North Shore Community Action Programs (the excellent organization hosting the fundraiser), whose daughter snapped this photo:
Or Paula Morin, book events person for the Peabody Barnes and Noble, who actually is a rock star -- she used to be the opening act for the Moody Blues and is a fine bluegrass singer-songwriter.
When it comes to bookstore events, a few book sales are sprinkles; people like these are the cupcakes and the icing.