Elaine Viets, author of two national bestselling mystery series, is our guest blogger today at Inkspot.
Publishers Weekly called Elaine's Dead-End Job series “wry social commentary.”
“Killer Cuts,” her new Dead-End Job mystery, is about the intimate relationship many women have with their stylists. Her Josie Marcus mystery shopper series is set in Elaine’s hometown, St. Louis.
Elaine has won the Agatha, Anthony and Lefty Awards.
Today she asks, "Is the book signing dead?"
I’ve finally unpacked from a book tour that started April 30 in Arlington, Virginia, and ended two weeks ago at Ponte Vedra, in northeast Florida.
I’m not the only author asking that question. Some say it’s already been answered. Here’s why:
Publishers are cutting back on book tours, even for successful authors.
Fewer bookstores are holding signings. They’re expensive. The stores have to spend money for publicity, signs and staff. When the books don’t sell, stores have the extra cost of returning and/or stripping stock.
Failed book signings cost us writers, too. If we only sell five or six books, it doesn’t pay for our gas and takes us away from the computer.
We know, unless we’re literary rock stars, like Charlaine Harris or Stephen King, we probably won’t draw a huge crowd. Readers can watch TV, see a movie, even sit by the pool. Why pay $25 for a hardcover or buy a paperback for $7, the price of a six-pack – when books and movies are free at the library?
As e-books grow in popularity, book signings may disappear. It’s hard to autograph an e-book.
Right. And computers created the paperless office. That’s why I can barely find my wheezing word processor under the manuscripts, first drafts and letters on my landfill of a desk.
Let’s not hold a funeral for book signings yet.
Yes, I gripe about signings. I’m discouraged if I get a poor turnout. But I’d miss them. I’m a part-time hermit. I need to get away from people while I write. For four to six months, I stare at the computer and live on canned tuna. It’s a sorry life when the cat is howling for my lunch.
But when the book is done, I emerge from my cave for five or six weeks. That’s when I meet readers and talk to the booksellers who hand-sell my novels.
For me, signings are a celebration. My fifth Dead-End Job mystery, “Murder Unleashed,” was my first hardcover. It was launched with a party at Bone Appetit, the Fort Lauderdale dog boutique where I’d researched this job. In St. Louis, at a benefit signing at Three Dog Bakery, we had a “Best Dressed Dog” contest. A Lab in a hula skirt won. Personally, all Labs do the hula when they wag their tails.
Murder by the Book, the independent Houston store, invited Caring Critters, a volunteer group who bring their dogs to hospitals and other institutions. This was the only book tour where half my makeup was licked off by the end of the signings.
You miss those experiences when you download an ebook.
Now signings are evolving into events with presold books.
Joanne Sinchuk, founder of Murder on the Beach in Delray Beach, Florida, has author luncheons. Joanne partners with two nearby restaurants for fixed-price lunches. A group of 20 or more – often a charity, literary or social club – makes reservations with Joanne. For $25 or $32, each person gets lunch and a paperback.
The group goes to lunch first. Then I join them for the author talk.
Another local indie, Well-Read Books, has a similar program. For $35, the readers get lunch and a signed copy of “Killer Cuts,” my latest hardback.
A traditional author luncheon eats half my day. The new ones take less of my time. I live half an hour from the stores. I show up after the lunch, give my talk, sign the books, then go home.
Some writers say it’s not worthwhile to sell 20 or 30 paperbacks. But I have eleven novels in my backlist, and these talks keep them moving. The mystery Joanne Sinchuk features most often, “Shop Till You Drop,” is now in its twelfth printing.
Photo is of Elaine and Lulu, the "Murder Unleashed" dog.