Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Bookstore Signings - The Good and the Bad

by Deb Baker

Some booksellers go out of their way to make an author feel welcome. They’re the ones who realize we’re traveling on our own buck, and that a good turnout will reap benefits for both of us.

You know you’re in trouble when:

The bookseller forgets you’re coming.
The store doesn’t have any of your books, or
They dig around in the storage room and produce some. This means they haven’t done squat before you walked in.
The posters and bag flyers you sent aren’t anywhere in sight.
There isn’t a table set up or a chair and there aren’t any available. You’ll be standing with your books in your arms for two hours.
They put another author by the door and set you up in the back room with the used stock.
They want to know if you brought all your friends to buy books.
You arrive for a Sunday signing in a downtown bookstore and everything else in town is closed for the day.
The only employee in the store is a college kid who leaves you in charge while he goes out for pizza.

Yup. It’s all happened to me.

On the bright side, many booksellers are excited to meet us, they have our books displayed in the window and around the counter, they’ve sold them for several weeks before we arrived and will continue to promote them after we leave, they appreciate the promo we sent and even added their own touch, they talk you up.

I’ve discovered that the store owners who do events routinely have the best turnouts. And a mystery talk goes over better than a plain old signing.

Here are my favorite bookstores in alphabetical order.

Books and Company – Oconomowoc, WI
Booked For Murder – Madison, WI
Book World – Escanaba, MI
Martha Merrell’s – Waukesha, WI
McLean & Eakin – Petoskey, MI
Novel Ideas – Baileys Harbor, MI
Poisoned Pen – Scottsdale, AZ
Well Read Coyote – Sedona, AZ

Now, of course, I still have plenty of states to visit. So add to my list. Who are your favorites?


Bill Cameron said...

Murder by the Book in Portland is awesome, as is Seattle Mystery Bookshop!

Joe Moore said...

Hey Deb,
Lynn Sholes and I have been at both kinds of stores, too. When it's the good ones--the ones that really care about authors and promotion, it's heaven. You're treated like celebs and it becomes so easy to make the event a success. The one's where you walk in and see the posters and banners announcing your signing. The one's where the audience chairs are already set up and the mic works. Where they announce your signing in the store and encourage everyone to come over and meet you.

The alternative is humbling and embarrassing. Those are the ones that make you wonder why the store is still in business. Do they even care? If they don't, why do they bother to have signings?

With each new book, we always go back to B&N on Miracle Mile in Coral Gables, FL. The events coordinator makes us feel like royalty. It's a pleasure being there. And we always sell lots of books because of it.

A successful signing event is a combination of the author's efforts AND the store's. Take out one of those two elements and it's a bust.

Mark Terry said...

I think Brian F is probably exasperated by me because I don't do many formal (if any) bookstore signings. There are very few indies in the area and I've done maybe a dozen bookstore events for other books and they were really not positive experiences. As a result, I've put my time, money and energy into drive-bys, mailings and other things.

The best 2 signings I've ever had: one was a mystery book fair where there were three mystery authors there, but the people who came were book buyers looking for mysteries; and a Rotary Club talk I gave in Clarkston, Michigan. Great group of people, a bunch of readers, and they hold their meeting in the evening (dinner time) instead of lunch, so they aren't in a rush to get back to work like the lunch meetings tend to be.

Worse signing: Wayne State University bookstore on a Friday afternoon in July (do not, under any circumstances, allow your publicist to set you up with a university bookstore signing on a Friday afternoon in July).

Deb Baker said...

Grocery stores aren't the best either. LOL! It seemed right at the time.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

The Mystery Book Store in Westwood, CA rocks! And I've heard great things about the other stores mentioned here.

I try to support the indies as much as possible, but sometimes I wonder where their heads are at. I'm planning a trip east in less than 6 weeks. For the past 2 months, my manager has been trying to set up book signings for the 10 days I'm there and we focused at first only on the indies in a gesture of solidarity. However, we're getting the cold shoulder, so we moved on to the chains. The only stores that have set up signings have been Barnes & Noble. One indie is "thinking" about ordering my books for a drive by.

My worst experience was at an out-of-state book signing with an indie whose owner personally told me over the phone she "had already received" my books for a scheduled small book festival and a signing after the festival at her store, "not to worry." When I got there, she had NONE and asked me if I'd brought any with me. It's the one and only time I've lost my cool with a bookstore owner.

Joe Moore said...

It's worth the extra time to send a confirmation email 30 days in advance of a signing, then call 7 days in advance. If you're traveling, call again a day before as well. Better to over confirm than show up and find out all you have is your good looks but no books.

Julia Buckley said...

Gee, your list of "it happened to me" is like a horror story!

But sometime you'll have to try Centuries and Sleuths in Chicagoland. Great store, great proprietor.

Candy Calvert said...

"Murder by the Book", in Houston--incredible turnout (along with LOTS of mail-order requests), fun staff, free tee-shirts, AND they serve wine!

And my home town independent, Read All About it Books in Boerne, TX--they're hosting a second launch party for MAI TAI to MURDER, and I couldn't be more tickled!

Joanna Campbell Slan said...


Here in St. Louis, we have a lot of great bookstores to choose from. I like Main Street Books in St. Charles and Big Sleep in St. Louis proper. Also Left Bank Books does a super job bringing in authors. And, Rose's Bookhouse has a devoted following.