Book Store Signings, Why I Love and Hate Them

by Gina Holmes

With the recent launch of my newest novel, Wings of Glass, it was time to hit the book store circuit again. The way I feel about doing book signings is akin to having a root canal. Sounds pretty harsh but I’m being honest.

Why do I hate them? I don’t have Karen Kingsbury’s success, so people aren’t exactly lining up around the corner to meet me or get my autograph. So, my two hours at the store is usually spent with people trying to avoid my author table and doing their best not to make eye contact with me.

I feel a lot like I’m standing on a street corner with a can, jingling change and hoping someone with drop a few coins in it. I feel like a beggar and that’s not a pleasant feeling.

I rarely sell more than a few books, 3 on a bad day, maybe 10 on a good one. Sometimes I’ve traveled half a day to get to the store so I can sell a couple of books and be bored out of my skull.

If they’re not productive, why do I do them?

Ah, because they ARE productive, even if they don’t look that way. The instant gratification is rarely there, but there are some long term benefits to consider:

* Signage. If you were to pay to have a poster of you and your book on the front of a bookstore, what do you think that might cost? I’m guessing quite a bit. If you’re doing a signing, it’s free. It’s said in publicity circles that a potential customer has to see a product 6 or 7 times before they’ll actually make the purchase. That free signage is one of those times, crossed off the list.

*Hobnobbing with bookstore owners and workers. Especially if it’s an indie store, I will leave a copy of my book with them with hopes they will read it, fall in love and hand sell it to their customers later.

*In order to pass my time, and have it be productive, I stand at the front of the store and hand everyone who looks like they might read my work, (mostly women), a promotional bookmark. I can’t tell you how many reluctantly accept the bookmark, read it while they’re shopping and then come back saying the book looked interesting and picked up a copy.

Many take the bookmark home and eventually look at it and order the book online.

Many who I meet and chat with whisper that they will go home and order the book on their kindle or e-reader. One the other day said she brought her bookmark home, realized I was a Christian author and ordered all 3 of my novels. She said she’s a fan for life now.

*Meeting people in person adds a personal connection for them and some of these people will grow to be die hard fans because they feel they know me now.

*Media coverage. When I do a bookstore signing, I contact local media and can sometimes get on local TV or radio before or after the fact. At the very least, I get a mention in their community section of their paper. Most who read it won’t come out to the signing, but will check out the book. Another one of those 6 exposures checked off the list.

If, like me, you’ve had some not-so-pleasant experiences at a book signing, know that it’s normal and to be expected. You’re not doing it for the sales that day. You’re looking at the bigger picture. The future sales, the online sales, the exposure. 
At one signing at a chain that’s now out of business, I showed up and found no signage anywhere letting people know I would be there. There was no table set up for me and when I asked for one, the staff acted annoyed, set out a child size desk with a couple of books and then walked away. 
I stood there for 2 hours, passing out my bookmarks and sold not a single book. At the end of my two hours, a woman came up to me and bought a book. When I thanked her, she said, “The only reason I’m buying this is because I feel sorry for you.”
Nice. Crossing Oceans was sitting on the CBA and ECPA bestsellers list at that time, and might have even been in the top ten on Amazon paid Kindle, so I didn’t feel as crummy as I could have I guess.
A good friend of mine took pity on another author he saw sitting alone at a table at a bookstore and he approached, feeling sorry for her and asked if her book was any good. She said, “I think so.” He bought one out of pity and realized the author was NYT bestseller Diana Gabaldon. That story makes me feel a little better, a little less alone and a little less pathetic. 
Speaking of shaking my can, let me do that here. If you haven’t picked up a copy of Wings of Glass, I hope you’ll consider it. I think it’s my finest work yet and maybe the most important book I’ll ever write. It tells the story of a young woman trapped in an abusive marriage and the two friends who open her eyes to the truth and lend her their backbones until she can find her own. I take on the issue of divorce within a Christian marriage, and the way the church (meaning us Christians) can sometimes let these women down by not asking the right questions. I think the book has the power to change lives. 
Crosswalk.com says: “Holmes’s previous novels (Crossing Oceans and Dry as Rain) were award winners and surely Wings of Glass will follow in their footsteps. Her characters are all fascinating mixtures of flaws and finer points—even the abusive Trent has us rooting for him on occasion. The touchy topic of spousal abuse—and how a Christian victim should respond—is handled in a clear-eyed fashion. Wings of Glass a not only good read, it could be an important one. Book clubs, especially, should consider adding Wings of Glass to their schedule since the discussion could potentially be life-changing for an abused (or abusive) group member.”