I threw a book signing and nobody came

The Oconee County Library was kind enough to invite me to come and sign books and give an author talk. If you missed it, you were not alone.

Rob Peecher and Melissa Bowden at Library book signing.

Rob Peecher and Melissa Bowden at Library book signing.

My first book signing and author talk was fabulous! Standing room only. People (my dad and son) lined up out the door because there wasn’t enough room for them. A couple I’ve never met showed up with copies of the book they’d already bought. One of my former reporters, Rebecca Rose, came from Atlanta for the book signing. It was really a great deal.

My second author talk was to a history class at Reinhardt University. College students don’t buy a lot of books, but they fill a room when they’re required to be there. My third talk was at Reinhardt’s library. Not a lot of people showed up voluntarily, but my friend Arthur Wayne Glowka rounded up a creative writing class, and the seats were filled.

Wednesday at the library – not so much.

Two women who are members of the Friends of the Library group were there to help sell books. They provided refreshments. My wife was there along with one of our sons, and my parents came. At 7 p.m. we were standing around waiting for someone else to come in. At 7:05 and 7:10 we were still waiting around. Melissa Bowden, one of the Library Friends (who bakes good brownies, by the way) fetched her husband John out of the library, and then Wesley Snipes (yes, THE Wesley Snipes who plays soccer with me!) came in. Wesley wore a tie, so I immediately felt under-dressed.

So yes, the people in the room with the last name Peecher outnumbered those in the room with other last names, but as anyone who has been around me since August will tell you, I’ll talk to everyone I can about the Jackson Speed novels.

And truthfully, I thought it went pretty well. Everyone asked questions when I was done, and the poor women with the Library Friends bought multiple books (I think they felt sorry for me) and Wesley bought one, too, so as far as sales go it was my most successful talk/signing to date (college students don’t buy books that aren’t on a syllabus somewhere, and most everyone who came to the first signing/talk already had a book).

I understand this is something that happens commonly to lesser known authors. Honestly, Wednesday night I was very disappointed with the lack of turnout. There are, I’m sure, lots of reasons for it (I was competing with the annual airing of the Charlie Brown Christmas Special, and it’s nearly impossible to compete with Peanuts) but after a couple of days I’ve become a little more circumspect about it.

I realize this is part of it. As an indie author desperately trying to promote a book, you jump at every chance you get to be in front of people with copies of your book. You have to do that. And sometimes there’s a Charlie Brown Special on the television, and no one is going to be there.

I remember many, many years ago when there were still book stores in the mall, I walked past a guy who had a table set up outside of Waldenbooks. He was selling signed copies of his book about the Civil War. I felt awful for him because he looked so lonely. I bought a book and gave it to my dad as a Christmas gift. The memory of that guy is why I drag Jean or at least one of the boys to all of my book signings. I may not sign books, but I won’t sit at a table by myself.

I did learn some lessons.

I didn’t do much to promote the book signing myself, thinking the library does these all the time and probably could promote it as well or better than I could. I won’t make that mistake again. Self-promotion absolutely must be the rallying cry of every indie author. If nothing else, you force a couple of your friends to go and ask them to bring someone.

I picked a time and date that was convenient for me during a busy time of the year, but I should have picked a time and date that might have inconvenienced me but been more convenient for people who might be willing to show up to an author talk and book signing if it wasn’t at 7 p.m. on a Wednesday.

If you want to guarantee a crowd, though, the best thing to do is get yourself invited to come talk to a college class.

Would I do a book signing at the Library again? Even though the turnout wasn’t spectacular, as an indie author you take any opportunity you can get. When “Jackson Speed and the Blood Tubs” comes out (January, I hope), I’d be thrilled to go back to the library.

Meanwhile, I found this video that made me feel a little better, and even if you’ve never experienced the disappointment of holding a book signing and author talk where nobody showed up, I expect you’ll enjoy it.

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