Monday, April 10, 2006

The Booksigning Routine

I'm feeling quite accomplished today. It's not even noon and I've already done two loads of laundry and checked off most of the items on my to-do list. Of course, the remaining items are things like "write a book," so it's not as though the rest of the day is smooth sailing, but I have taken care of a few nagging little things that I tend to put off dealing with even though they usually just take an e-mail or a phone call.

A few more thoughts from last weekend's book festival -- Friday night at the reception, the entertainment was by a guy who writes non-fiction historical books about stuff like Billy the Kid and who writes and performs Western folk-type music (as in "we have both kinds of music, country and western"). He said he often writes songs inspired by his books, and then he performs them at book signings, which then results in a lot of sales. That sounds like a great idea. There are just a few problems: I don't play an instrument that allows me to sing at the same time, I don't write music, I think in 100,000 word (or more) chunks of words, so I don't write poetry that can be set to music, and then there's that weird stage fright thing. I can talk in front of any group, but if music is involved, I totally freeze. That was a big problem when I played oboe in high school band because it's a solo instrument.

I've also heard of authors who created a sort of staged reading play out of their books and had a cast of actors to perform it. I don't think my books really lend themselves to that sort of thing, and I don't know a lot of actors, so that's probably out. So far, my book signing routine has been to just sit behind a table, wear cute shoes and smile at people. But it seems like the book world is moving to more in the way of performance instead of the traditional booksigning, so you do readings, or give a talk, or something like that. My experience has been that people trickle in and out for signings, so I'm not sure I could draw enough of a crowd at any one time to not feel pathetic about facing a sea of empty chairs. On the other hand, I've found that whenever I speak about something, it tends to result in book sales. Maybe for the Austin signing I'll do an experiment and let them set me up to give a short talk and maybe a reading, followed by a signing, and we'll see if anyone actually shows up. If no one does, then we'll punt and go with a traditional sit behind the table and smile signing. I guess I'll have to talk to the people at the store and get a sense of what their customers might respond to.

Any thoughts from authors about what's worked for you, or from readers about what might get you to go to the store? (Or, if you're already in a store, what would draw your attention and get you to sit down and listen?) What would you like to see/hear from a favorite author (or even one you just kind of like)? Remember, I draw the line at singing, and most stores aren't set up for cooking demonstrations.

Now I guess I'd better get to work on that "write a book" item on my to-do list.

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