Saturday, February 27, 2010


Despite what I said below, I sometimes still do signings. I will especially do this if it is a GROUP signing. Why is this? Is it because I will sell heaps of books? No. It is because I like meeting my fellow authors and chatting with them for a while and I like meeting the people who buy my books and I like meeting the store folks who sell my books. I think group signings are fun! The pressure to worry about gathering a good group of people to show up is taken off of you when you do a group signing. I've also done some fun ones hosted by schools on the upper east side. They're very interesting. Wine is usually served as they are often "adult only" events and little trays of crackers and cheese are brought around. A mix of children's book authors and adult authors are thrown together. Last year I signed next to Kelly Klein who publish a photography book about horses and at another Caroline Kennedy sat at a table in front of me. I remember meeting a fabulous lady with a southern accent who wrote mystery suspense fiction (I wish I could remember her name!). I've had great conversations with these folks.

I've also done some great panel discussions. At some of these books aren't even sold. Why do I do it then? Is it for promotion? No! I do it because it can be fun and I enjoy the company of others.

Would you like to know why I'm doing a signing by myself this month despite what my opinions are? Because I have trouble saying no to things. I need to work on this. I have an autoimmune disease and am ill a lot and have enough trouble going to a part time job yet I still say yes when someone asks me to do a whole bunch of stuff that might add too much stress to my life.

It saddens me that people don't want to hear the truth about how publishing is. People who won't post their names and say things like they won't be buying my books and call me a "publishing diva," are going to silence all the people who have anything honest to say. I'm not a diva. Believe me. If I was then I don't think my publishers would want to work with me. I was a bookseller for many, many years until I got downgraded to being a cashier. I get insulted and treated like the bottom of the earth on a daily basis. I'm so far from a "diva" that it's scary. I just wanted to get a discussion going. But I apologize for offending anyone by telling the truth. I'm not sure what people want out of these blogs or why they read them. I guess what people want is for everything to be roses. The world isn't like that. But if you'd like to pretend it's that way then fine. I'd prefer to live in reality because at the end of the day it's my career and my life and I have to manage it the best I can. I've done a lot of signings and a lot of events and lot of other promotional things and I've learned what works and what doesn't. Next time I'll keep what works to myself.


MissA said...

I read your last post and this one and personally, I appreciate your honesty. I think you should keep posting your thoughts about the publishing industry and what does and does not work. I never knew about the dark-sdie of book signings where no one shows up but I would totally have that fear too and it would be rather embarrasing. But I don't think that's the author's fault, the bookstore should advertise the signing although if the author has a website he/she could post about it there.

I think a group signing would be so much fun, and I'm glad you've found a solution of sorts. And I have a terrible time of saying no to things as well, I'm working on it too.

Don't ever apologize for telling the truth. And honestly, I think you should just ignore the Anonymous comments because they didn't even have the courage to make up a name to post under.

Meghan McCarthy said...

thanks! You made me feel better.

Frank Dormer said...


I don't look at a lot of blogs, but I stop by this one. The reason I do is to read, or view, what you are thinking or working on. I may not always agree, but if someone were to pull off my socks and tickle my feet, I would admit that the business lines up quite as you describe it. Please keep posting.

who doesn't do book signings either...

Anonymous said...

I've heard words like "diva" and "prima donna" thrown around when people feel that authors and illustrators are not meeting their personal expectations of availability for any and all events, including requests for extensive travel [not reimbursed], donations of time or books or art. All professional artists ultimately learn to pick and choose what they can and cannot do for others, what makes sense for their career and time use and what doesn't, and even what just works for their personality types as well. In fact, all professionals do this, it is a part of every job.

However, unlike most other professions, I find that the majority of people are actually quite surprised to hear that we have work schedules and deadlines. I mean REALLY surprised, like they don't believe me. And that we are not rich. Do they ever wonder why even well known authors sometimes have teaching or other jobs? We cannot say yes to every request even if we wanted to, let alone even if it made sense and sometimes it really just doesn't. Really.

Steve Emond said...

I think positive or negative, it opens an interesting topic up for discussion. I'd love to know what other authors think of signings, and also what agents think of having their authors do these kind of things, or even what the bookstore owners or employees think of the signings.

Meghan McCarthy said...

So would I! If any of you have an opinion and can refrain from name calling, speak up!

meghan mc diva

Don Tate II said...

This business is made up of many facets -- doing the work, promoting, networking, book signing, school visits, etc. I like some things about the business more than others. Personally I'm not a big fan of signings period -- book stores or otherwise. For me, there's something uncomfortable about it, even on those rare occasions when I do have a long line of people. At signings I feel like a zoo animal on display, or something. I mean, people stand in long lines to see the bears.

I don't particularly like painting 16-hour days either, but do sometimes when I'm on deadline. It's part of the business.

I appreciate your honesty here. It's refreshing. Certainly wouldn't be any fun to read the blog if everything was always sugar coated.

Dan Santat said...

I've been to so many book signings where no one shows up I've pretty much given up on signings as well.

A few years back I was at a book signing with a book author for a book I had illustrated. Her books are loved by librarians and reviewers and her previous book had even won a Caldecott medal.


But then again, when I really think about it, who am I? You might know of me from *maybe* one book out of a dozen I've done? I still do them from time to time because I still get that feeling of 'maybe this signing won't be as horrible as the last'.

Nope. They usually suck.

Recently, I went to a Mo Willems signing and realized that I will probably never achieve that sort of status. The crowd reminded me of when David Sedaris or Dan Brown were in town. One thing I do realize though is that Mo has worked hard to where he's gotten and he has a chest full of awards to show for it and that is why he's where he is now. It's not that I work any less harder but, realistically, who am I? I'm just a hard working schlub who's trying to pay my bills and I get to paint pretty pictures and tell fun stories for a living. Put that into perspective of maybe 85% of this country who go to a job every day which they don't necessarily consider is their ideal profession and I think we as authors and illustrators still have it pretty good. At least we can say we have signings to go to! Of course, we all want to be of that rock star status and maybe one of us will get to that level. Grace is there, and I'm thrilled for her! She got to meet Al Roker on the Today show for gosh sakes, but that's still less than one percent of one percent of us. Those of us who are still hitting the pavement and hoping for such glory can still only hope and it's OK to grovel about about the misery of it from time to time. It's not always sunshine and rainbows! Heaven forbid anyone talk about the negative experiences of book publishing.

Anonymous said...

When you get published, you realize a LOT of things aren't the way you imagined, and book signings are certainly one of the things that are quite the mixed bag. Across the board, there are a lot of real let downs, reality checks and a lot of real difficulties, compared to the popular image of being a published author. It is a tough, tough field to make it in - not just to "break into", but to stay afloat in.

The one thing that is as good as anyone can possibly imagine beforehand is seeing a real book with your name on it, and seeing other people really enjoy it. That thrill is as good as can be imagined.

Looking back though, I think having the 'real info' about the other stuff all along would have been way better. It wouldn't have stopped me then, because it certainly doesn't stop me now, but it would have been easier to manage my expectations and plan better knowing the truth of what to expect.

Another thing that would be much better if the reality of publishing were more well known, is for us dealing with the expectations of OTHER people. It is something to be continually fielding questions from the general public along the lines of: "why don't you take a year off and travel?" or "you should move to an island while you finish this job!" Or, "are you going on a book tour?" Or, one of the worst: "I was just at [insert name of book store] and didn't see your book!!" in an alarmed tone as if I should grab the batphone and straighten it out.

alvinaling said...

I've loved the conversation this post and the previous one has started! I think this was one of the goals for this blog--to show how it is AFTER publication. Some people think it's "happily ever after" once you get a book contract, and it's not, of course. I give a book talk sometimes at conferences about "the realities of book publishing" and talk about things like the challenges of marketing and publicity, out of print books, professional jealousy, reviews, etc. It's actually kind of a depressing talk, but I think it's important to know these things if you're serious about publishing.

Anonymous said...

Alvina said... "It's actually kind of a depressing talk, but I think it's important to know these things if you're serious about publishing."

It is important! So much publishing info focuses on "breaking in", but little focuses on the actuality of being a productive published author who can manage the workload, scheduling, emotional challenges [bad customer review, no show author event etc] and so on - and build the body of work necessary for an actual sustained career. The holy grail is so not the contract. The contract only means you are at the bottom of another huge learning curve.

It is so helpful to be going through this and be able to read a blog that deals with the daily ups and downs of publishing life, from all these different angles/people. It is hard to be in a profession that the general public firmly believes is paradise on earth, while you struggle along at your desk with a big deadline or have a signing and only your housemates show up!

Thanks BRG's!

tammi sauer said...

I had a signing in which one kid showed up. But the two of us made the most of it. We read, we crafted, we tried not to focus on the fact I felt like a loser. Well, I tried not to focus on that anyway.

Silver lining of the experience? It was the only time 100% of my audience actually bought my book.