Shannon Hale is an author I’ve followed since I first started writing, partly because I adore her writing, but also because her blog gives me a taste of who she is. And from my stalking stand-point, I like her. She’s down to earth, funny, a devoted mother, and she writes posts like this.
Yes, my love for Ms. Hale is now secure. Because such tales of woe happen to every author, even award-winners and bestsellers. Get a group of authors together, and we’ll tell stories that make those naked-in-front-of-the-school nightmares seem appealing. So now I gleefully share with you one such event…
I wrote last year about my southern book tour for PRINCESS FOR HIRE. In many ways, I considered that tour a success. I didn’t sell a lot of books, but I met a lot of sellers, visited schools, and learned something about presenting myself as an author. Now I can point out the advantages, but during that week I felt like the biggest loser ever, and not in an NBC kind of way.
On this tour, I signed at a very respected, HUGE and busy independent bookstore. They’d made a flag of my cover, which hung over a desk and a few rows of chairs right by the children’s section. My publisher had provided a literary escort to drive me around to my events, and I’d even done my first TV interview that morning. Ten minutes before the reading, there were already three people seated, so I sat down to chat with them while I waited for the rest of crowd to come.
Which, of course, never happened.
The bookseller kept checking her watch and wandering around the store, trying to convince browsers to come listen to the author. None of them did. One "audience member" was really only sitting there because she was reading a mystery book. The remaining "fans" (yes, we use lots of quotation marks with stories like these) were two elderly ladies wearing lavish hats and a haze of floral perfume. I read to them, talked about getting published, and was almost done with the hour of humiliation when one nice woman smiled and said, "Oh, this is a children’s book? We came because we thought it was a pink woman’s novel. Can we still read it?"
YES. And do you have granddaughters? Goddaughters? WHO DO YOU KNOW WHO WILL READ THIS BOOK? I ended up selling them 2 books each, feeling very much like I was standing in their living room pushing vacuums or encyclopedias. A few minutes later, a friend of mine from high school mercifully showed up with a three neighborhood girls, so now we had someone to enter the teen giveaway basket the store was sponsoring. Yes, a basket, flag, not to mention literary escort, hotel, dinner, and car from my publisher. All for six books.
And my next tour stop? I sold ONE solitary copy of Princess for Hire. That wound is still too deep to discuss.
But that was my debut, so surely the next book would be a smash now that I was such a success. SURELY any store would let me at least sign stock of SEAN GRISWOLD’S HEAD, especially in my home town. I brought my book baby up to the counter, informing the manager I was a local author published with Bloomsbury. But, alas. Said manager said, "We don’t really do that, because it might not sell. And please don’t ask to do a signing. You’re just going to sit at an empty table anyway."
Of course, my mom was there. Blessedly, she did not tell that manager off. As far as I know.
I have more. We all do. But there are also wonderful stories of packed stores and appreciative schools, and a shoe store clerk who recognized me from my author photo and gushed about my book. It’s all part of the author schtick, and I’ve learned to…
expect little and appreciate a lot.
Also? Make friends in all major cities and bribe them to come to your events. Tiaras or candy are often good incentives.
Two approaching for THE ROYAL TREATMENT, out May 3!
(good segue, yes?)
May 7, 1 pm, Rainbow BN, Las Vegas, NV
May 21, 4 pm, The King’s English, Salt Lake City