Friday, February 26, 2010

book signings are a waste of time!

Yeah, that's what I'm saying... and I'm sticking to it! What I think sells books are 1) good reviews (like starred reviews and getting in big newspapers like the NYT, etc) 2) awards--this is a big one! Once you get on a state list, schools all over the state will buy your book! 3) school visits--you can reach a lot of kids within a short amount of time.

When you do a store signing, even a successful one, in my opinion, won't do much. So what if 40 people bought your book? Let's be honest--at least half of those sales were sales purchased by your friends! And if you're are a prolific author, you can't expect your friends to go to all of your signings and eventually you will find yourself at least once twiddling your fingers, sitting alone, in complete embarrassment! There's no worse feeling. And if you do a lot of bookstore signings this can happen more than once! Of course this is the bookstore's fault because they didn't advertise and let you do a signing when they don't have a built in story time audience, but what do they care for? They're not losing anything by having you sit there!

So my advice to all of you out there is just don't bother doing them. Group signings may work better... but even still, it's a drop in the bucket. If you have deadlines and are stressed out it's just not worth it! Save your energy for something else!

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I read the same opinion expressed on the Net by another author.

Is it any different if an author gives a booktalk at a store with a question and answer segment afterwards? That way, the customers can get into the book and have a personal brush with the author. I've gone to several and felt more inclined to buy the book after listening to the talk and asking a question or two. I think the author impacts a person harder this way and at best will gain a future purchaser of her books. Of course, it could work the other way. As for sales per se, I think it's negligible.

Anonymous said...

Are you okay? Your last handfull of posts all seem to be very negative.

Anonymous said...

I received an invite to some bookstore signings you are doing this March. Why did you say yes if you do not like it? Also, how would those bookstores feel reading this post? They are going out of their way to order your books and make sure you are represented in their stores. I think showing gratitude is better than showing attitude. You are way too young and too new in publishing to be a diva. Being a diva really sucks. Sign me up to not buy your books.

Anonymous said...

It is extremely difficult to make a living as a children's book author and/or illustrator. I believe the frustration that Meghan expresses is valid. One only has a limited amount of time in a day to make it all happen. It makes more sense to focus on the next book rather than spend time handselling books in bookstores. I do support the independents but I have never been convinced of the efficacy of author/illustrator appearances except for those at the top of the lists.

Libby Koponen said...

Meghan (and Anonymous 11:55), I absolutely agree. And I think lots of bookstore owners, do, too: at least, at a B&N with a really good children's department the manager gave me the same advice -- even though BOTM was selling well there. She said often quite famous authors came and just sat there! So, her advice was: don't bother.

Also what I think a lot of people don't realize is that doing these signings takes a lot of time and energy. If you are an author with another job, as most of us are, there are better uses for both....I guess it's differnent if it's your first book and you have the time and money to go on a book tour or something, but that's not the situation for most writers.

This is NOT to devalue the importance of bookstores--where would any of us be without them???? -- just that, for those of us who have jobs in addition to writing and (in some cases, like mine and Meghan's too) health issues as well, it's probably not the best use of energy....

I posted about this on acrowesnest.blogspot -- it was my turn there this week!

Anonymous said...

This is one of those best-kept-secrets of being an author. Signings take time [travel + being there], usually involve personal expense, and often don't sell enough books to make either of these things even remotely justified. Sure, there can be other reasons to do it, but as Meghan points out a school visit can be way more satisfying and effective in terms of connecting to readers. I have seen well known authors have very low turnouts, even at well publicized events in well populated areas. At best, signings are still unpredictable.

The problem with talking about this is that you get a lot of "I wish I had your problems" from the general public, because "doing a signing" seems the height of glamor and excitement. Rather then possibly the depths of 7th grade type flashbacks, while you sit alone, dressed up, next to a towering stack of books.

I recommend the hilarious and horrible book, "Mortification: Writers' Stories of Their Public Shame". It is a collection of bad experiences mostly involving public readings and signings. The ones that don't involve alcohol give a realistic view of how these things can go wrong no matter what. You can buy it used on amazon for 1¢, which tells you something about the interest level in non-glamorous stories of working in the arts.

Meghan said...

To the two anonymous folks -- "are you okay" and "Sign me up not to buy your books," I wish you would realize that I'm trying to start conversation here. I'm being the devil's advocate. I will now post why I DO do book store signings on occasion when I have the time. If you met me I think you would find (I hope) that I'm a nice person, easy going, and fun... and funny (at least to some people, obviously not you). If you are live in the Brooklyn area why don't you come to one of the group events where we're doing a panel discussion and see a bunch of us authors talk. Then you can decide, after meeting me in person, if you really find me such a disgusting individual. If you do, then there are other lovely ladies who will be there so you will not have wasted your time!

Meghan said...

I should also say that I really was speaking from experience. Doing bookstore signings may pump up your ego but it really won't help you sell many books... unless you go "on tour."

Meghan said...

I should add one more thing: I have been to some good bookstore signings and have gone home with a smile on my face... but the last few that I went to were so AWFUL that I wanted to cry. I haven't wanted to do one since! The bookstore didn't advertise AT ALL and didn't put up any signage in the store. The signing was on the second floor in the back and no one knew where it was! I went in and asked the guy at the main desk where I was supposed to go and he didn't know what I was talking about. He said "there's a signing today?" The 3 people who showed up were my friends. They said when they asked where it was no one could tell them either. I was really embarrassed. Because at my first few signings I made sure everyone I knew came, but after book number 7 and 8 and can't keep bugging everyone you know to come to every event--it isn't fair to them! I seem like a confident person but I was brutally made fun of in my earlier years, and when something like that happens, I just go right back to where I was.

Meghan said...

Okay, one more thing: I'm not a new author--I've been doing it for 10 years. Also, I've been working at a bookstore for 8. So a lot of what I'm saying is coming from the other side of the fence! I watched a Caldecott winner sell 5 books once at the store I worked at. Awful!

There are good small bookstores out there who get big crowds but those are the minorities. I apologize to those.